How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm in 2020: 5 Tips To Improve Engagement on Instagram

This post was updated 14.1.

Improving engagement on Instagram is crucial for reaching your target audience and getting your message across. This is because the algorithm works by favoring content users interact with and pushes such content higher in their feed. 

There are a few things you can do to make sure your content is engaging and thus reaches more people. 

From this article you’ll get 5 tips on how to increase your Instagram engagement in order to keep (and grow) your audience.

Focus on creating unique content

Photo by Steve Daniel

To improve your Instagram engagement, you have to create highly differentiated content. You have to bring value to your audience that nobody else can provide. If there are many users creating content very similar to yours, it is harder for you to stand out and be remembered.

Brainstorm what kind of content your audience might be interested in. It might be tips, something inspirational or funny. Most importantly, use high quality, eye-appealing visuals for your Instagram account.

Pick one or several content categories and focus your efforts there.

Have a personalized touch to the content you post. It might be pictures of your unique products or anything else that makes you stand out from the crowd.

It is crucial to be unique and compelling within your content category. Otherwise, there is no reason for the Instagram algorithm to prioritize your posts over others’.

Find out how to capture your audience’s attention

Experiment with your content strategy to find out what captures your audience’s attention the best.

Below is the list of what to consider when deciding your Instagram strategy.

Always post when your audience is the most active on Instagram

Post when most of your followers are online. This way, you will get more initial engagement, and the algorithm will push your posts higher in the feed. 

You can find out when your audience is the most active using the ‘Insights’ feature of your Instagram account. To access this feature, you will need to be using a ‘business’ account on Instagram. You can switch your account from personal to business in the settings tab.

Make your content engaging

You can do that by using a variety of different formats, leveraging hashtags, humorous captions, posing challenges or questions to your followers, etc.

One great example of how to do this is a Call to Action (CTA). Some of the most popular Instagram Call to Action formulas include “double-tap if….”, “tag your friend who…”, “comment your favorite…” etc.

Use the ‘insights’ feature and tools like Hootsuite or Later to keep an eye on the engagement statistics. These utilities will help you to find out if your techniques are working.

Photo by Toa Heftiba

Diversify your content

Different users might prefer different types of content.

In addition to your regular posts, try publishing stories and videos. By doing that, you will appeal to as many users as possible, increasing your reach.

Choose your optimal posting frequency

When choosing posting frequency, keep in mind that you should be able to maintain it. Posting several times a day and then suddenly dropping to just one post a week will negatively affect your audience engagement. You will notice a drop in followers as well as a decrease in engagement per post.

You don’t need to make 3 posts per day to improve your Instagram engagement. Consistency, not quantity, is the key to the stable growth of your follower base.

Once you’ve identified the best content strategy – expand on it. Figure out the behavior patterns of your followers, and think about how you can use them to create more engaging content.

Keep experimenting with your content strategy to maximize your Instagram engagement. 

Use hashtags to get discovered

Use hashtags to increase your reach and find new people interested in your content. 

Find out what kind of hashtags are popular within your content category and utilize them. 

Use the most popular ones, together with smaller, niche ones. Popular hashtags will allow you to maintain a high potential reach, while smaller ones reduce the competition.

Avoid using too many hashtags, as it may seem spammy behavior by your followers. 6-7 hashtags per post will be enough.

Interact with your community to build relationships

Photo by Tim Marshall

It is crucial to interact with your community and build relationships, to maximize your engagement potential. 

Like and comment on posts of other users, reply to comments they leave on your posts, tag and DM them when it’s relevant. 

Such behavior encourages other users to interact with you more often. Once they start commenting on your posts, DMing, and tagging you, you will fall into their “friends and family” category. This means that the Instagram algorithm will push your content higher in the feed of these users.

You don’t need a big community to have it active and engaged. For Instagram accounts with fewer followers, it is even easier to build longer-lasting, more trustful relationships with their audiences. 

In fact, this is one of the reasons which made Instagram micro-influencers with smaller communities more popular among advertisers. 

Conclusion

The key to increasing engagement on Instagram is giving your audience something nobody else can provide. 

Take time with your content, think creatively, and produce content that is different. Build relationships with your audience and forge your image on Instagram. 

Be your unique self, and you will find a niche in this global network.

To see how these tips work on practice and to get more insights into Instagram – you can have a look at our case studies.

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How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?

As we explained in our blog post about the algorithm’s history, it’s here to stay. Therefore, it is important to know exactly how the Instagram algorithm works, in order to make the most out of your Instagram account.

In this article, you will learn what factors the Instagram algorithm takes into account when building the feed so you can maximize the engagement on your posts.

The main principle behind how Instagram’s algorithm works

Your Instagram feed is unique, personalized based on the posts you like and interact with. The algorithm uses machine learning to predict the posts you will like the most, based on your past engagement. Even if you follow the same accounts as someone else, you will not see the same content. 

It is important to understand that Instagram’s main goal is to increase the time spent on the platform. The algorithm is built to identify and deliver the most appealing content, keeping users around for as long as possible. 

Instagram is of course doing this in order to make a profit. Instagram makes money by selling advertisement, so more time on the app means more views on ads.

Factors affecting the Instagram algorithm

Photo by Georgia de Lotz

In early 2019, Instagram tweeted that what shows up in your feed is largely determined by the posts and account with which you engage the most. 

This is in tune with what the company had said earlier. In June 2018, Instagram set up a press presentation to explain in more detail how the algorithm exactly works. 

During that presentation the Instagram product lead Julian Gutman explained, that there are three main factors which determine the order of your Instagram feed:

  1. Interest. The algorithm predicts your potential interest in a post, considering your past behavior on similar content. 
  2. Timeliness. The time when the post was shared also influences its placement in the feed – with priority given to more recent posts. 
  3. Relationship. Posts shared by people you frequently interact with (liking, commenting, tagging or DMing) are pushed to the top of your feed. 

In addition to these main factors, three other features influence post rankings:

  1. Frequency. The Instagram algorithm looks at how often you open the app. It adjusts to show you what it considers to be the best posts uploaded since your last visit. 
  2. Following. The number of people you follow also influences your feed. The more people you follow, the bigger is the pool of posts for the algorithm to choose from. So you will generally see less content from any individual accounts. 
  3. Usage. How much time you spend on the app also determines how many posts you are seeing at the top of your feed. As you continue to browse, you will eventually see all of the content posted by the accounts you follow.

Download our case study to learn the power of Instagram influencer marketing

Find out how Krups, a German electronics manufacturer, reached 5 million people with micro-influencer marketing on Instagram.


Frequently asked questions about the algorithm

Photo by Emily Morter

The rumors and guesses surrounding the Instagram algorithm keep on popping up. Below we’ve answered the four most popular questions about its functionality. 

Is Instagram “shadowbanning” users for using repetitive hashtags?

Shadowbanning refers to purposely hiding a user’s content from public view on social media so that the user isn’t notified about it. 

Getting shadowbanned on Instagram means your posts and stories will only be seen by your existing followers. Others are not able to find your content via hashtags.

When the algorithm was first released, many Instagram users claimed to be shadowbanned if they repeated the same hashtags too often.

In February 2019, Instagram released a statement admitting that there was a technical issue with hashtags, but they never claimed it to be a pre-made feature.

Therefore, although Instagram didn’t openly admit that shadowbanning exists, there is a possibility that the algorithm does limit the visibility of accounts that display spammy behavior. 

In order to avoid being potentially shadowbanned, make sure that you do not use unreliable automated posting tools or bots, and that you’re not using broken or unrelated hashtags.

Does posting more hurt your performance?

No. Posting more often will not directly hurt your account’s performance in the feed. 

However, if you post several times in a row, there is a high likelihood that another account’s content will be placed in between your posts. In this case, your posts will be pushed lower in the feed, effectively lowering the engagement per post.

On top of that, posting too frequently may seem spammy by your followers. And if your followers think you post too much, they’ll start to engage less, or worse: unfollow you.

Does Instagram limit the reach of your posts?

No, it doesn’t. Instagram disproved this myth in their tweet.

The Instagram algorithm pushes up posts which it finds the most interesting to you. But if you keep scrolling down the feed, you will see all the photos of accounts you follow.

Does the algorithm favor specific kinds of content?

There are many theories about the algorithm favoring specific post formats in order to promote Instagram’s latest innovations. 

However, this is just an urban legend.

Instagram’s feed ranking method does not favor users who use Stories, Live, or other special features of the app. Furthermore, feed ranking does not favor the photo or video format uniformly. 

However, different content types might be more engaging to the users than others.

As people’s feeds are sorted based on what kind of content they engage with most, it is important for you to know what content types are the most engaging to your audience.

If your audience responds the best to videos, you should create them often.

Conclusion

Now that you know the basics of how the Instagram algorithm works, the next step is to use it to your advantage.

Instagram continuously states that the only way to increase your engagement is to create high-quality content. 

Exactly how to do that you can learn from our next blog post:

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