How does the new Instagram algorithm work and how can I make it work to my advantage?
Instagram has more than 500 million daily active users, and many brands are recognizing the need to have a presence on the platform. However, as the user database grows, so does the wisdom of the engineers behind Instagram, who continually change the platform’s algorithm. To be successful in this ever-changing climate, it’s important to have a strategy for what and when you’ll post and whom to target.
So, what exactly are these changes and what do they mean for brands paying influencers for sponsored content?
Know the top ranking signals
Ever scroll through your feed and notice you haven’t seen one of your friend’s or your favorite local influencer’s posts in a while? Even if they just posted something a few hours ago? This is because that individual may not be optimizing all of the features the platform offers, which is why their content gets overpowered by those who do.
Instagram rewards influencers who keep their followers engaged and on the social platform the most: The longer a user stays on, the more ads they will be exposed to. So, when selecting influencers to partner with your brand, here are the top “ranking signals” to look for.
- Relationship: How do you know this person and how often are you responding to their posts?
Is the influencer responding to comments and direct messages? Are they encouraging their followers to have notifications enabled for their account? Are they sharing their followers’ content on their stories? These are all important questions to ask because the algorithm recognizes when followers and influencers are “close.”
PRO TIP: I recommend going to the individual’s page and clicking on the “Tagged” tab to see how often their content has been reposted and tagged by others. This is a great indicator of their impact (e.g. engagement).
- Interest: This is Instagram predicting how much you’ll care about a post.
Because Instagram uses image recognition to assess the user’s past behavior (e.g. what type of content are they frequently “liking”), choose influencers who have a niche. For example, users who like latte art are more likely to see latte art at the top of their feed.
If you are a food-related company and the influencer identifies as a “foodie,” this is likely a good choice for you to promote your brand. If you are a beauty company but the influencer shares travel content, then this is probably the wrong person to partner with.
Because your Instagram feed is personalized to you and is based on what you “like,” the content you engage with the least will show up lower in your feed.
- Timeliness: How long ago was this photo posted?
Posting at peak times is just as important as knowing your audience and when they open the app the most. On average, the best time to post on Instagram is between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. CDT. However, the level of engagement you get can change dramatically depending on what day of the week you post. The best day to post on Instagram is Thursday, not just at 3 p.m. CDT, but at 5 a.m., 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. CDT as well.
PRO TIP: The more an influencer responds to comments within the first hour of posting, the greater the chances they will be rewarded with a higher engagement rate and a better post frequency on their followers’ feeds.
Fine-tuning your marketing strategy
Since many influencers have expressed seeing a huge drop in their engagement levels for their posts due to Instagram now favoring engagement over chronological order, it’s crucial to check the influencer’s engagement first – the higher the engagement, the more likely their posts and stories will be prioritized.
Partner with influencers with both large and small audiences. Influencers with smaller audiences (a.k.a. micro influencers) can provide many strategic benefits. They’re more affordable, enthusiastic and eager to promote your brand and its mission. Plus, their followers are often more engaged!
Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask the influencer to share their analytics. This can be a great way to see the ROI on your behalf. And you can use the metrics for internal reporting and gathering insights.
Finally, be sure to emphasize authenticity when collaborating with influencers. The content should feel natural and appropriate from the influencer to keep their audiences interested and engaged. So, next time you are selecting your partnerships, look past the cohesive, pretty feeds or large audience numbers and take the time to dive deep into the analytics to ensure you’re selecting the best influencers for your brand.