As social media marketers are well aware, March 15, 2016 marked a significant day in the Instagram world, as the social network announced that it was changing its algorithm. Instead of showing photos in the usual chronological order, Instagram decided to switch things up and follow Facebook’s algorithm of ordering posts based on the viewer’s presumed level of interest.
This means that, essentially, it doesn’t matter how often you post about your brand—if your followers are not engaging with or showing interest in your content, your photos are likely to be pushed to the bottom of feeds. It’s survival of the fittest now, and brands that aren’t strategic or creative in their posting disappear in the noise.
If you’ve noticed a dip in your brand’s likes and engagement over the past year, this algorithm (and your strategy) is the likely culprit. So how can you make sure that your content continues to be seen? Follow our tips below and your brand will no longer suffer the consequences of this algorithm—instead, it will reap the benefits.
1. Post Unique, Quality Content
It may seem obvious, but this is now more crucial than ever. Brands can no longer get away with publishing subpar, unoriginal content. To be heard above all the other noise out there, it’s essential that you find a unique voice for your brand. How is your content different from everything else that’s out there? How does it differ from your competitors? Give this some serious thought. And whether that’s through jaw-dropping photos or thought-provoking captions, find a way to make your brand stand out.
Give your followers something that they will want to share. Show them something that will make them want to come back for more. A good rule of thumb is the following: every time you post a picture, put yourself in the shoes of your buyer persona(s) and ask: is this something that I would want to share if I were them?
2. Go Crazy on the Filters
The multitude of filters and editing features on Instagram make it so that nearly any photograph can go from mediocre to breathtaking with just a few screen taps.
The power of filters is undeniable. Researchers found that “filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on” than those without filters. So which filters are the most effective? They found that photos with a “warmer” temperature, higher contrast and higher exposure received the most engagement.
3. Connect With Your Audience
At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about. Responding to comments (even if it’s just saying something like “Thank you!”) is one simple way to make your brand appear more personable. To keep boosting your following, like (and comment on) pictures posted by your target audience and follow users that are following accounts similar to yours.
Many of the most successful brands on Instagram rely on visually captivating, compelling stories to connect with their audiences. Whether that’s by sharing a photo accompanied by an interesting and unique quotation; providing fascinating historical tidbits; or posting a behind-the-scenes glance at your company, there are numerous ways to tell stories on Instagram. Just be sure that the narrative is directly correlated with your brand’s values and mission.
User-generated content (UGC), which is reposted content from other users, is another popular form of storytelling.
One simple way to create UGC is by searching for a unique photo that relates to your brand, and, after asking the owner’s permission, reposting that photo—all the while of course giving credit to the user.
And of course, throwing UGC contests will undoubtedly get your fans excited and involved.
Let’s say your brand is a growing e-commerce clothing company. You could ask your followers to post a unique photo wearing or demonstrating an item of clothing from your brand, accompanied by a hashtag generated for that particular campaign. The reward? The best photo would not only be reposted to your brand’s Instagram account, but the winner would also receive a free item of clothing of their choice.
4. Be Consistent
According to Buffer, “major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram.” While posting frequently is important, you don’t want to bombard your users with content—after all, nothing is more annoying than a brand (or individual) that posts incessantly. Test to find the magic number that works for your brand—and post away.
Also make sure that you are consistent in the content that you post. Think about everything from the captions, the filters, the angles, the colors, the lighting…develop a unique visual identity, so that when users see your photos, they will immediately recognize your brand.
5. Don’t Forget About Hashtags
Using hashtags are an easy way to increase following. Not sure what hashtags to use? Think of basic keywords that relate to your brand and the product or service offered. If you are trying to target a specific region, consider using location-specific hashtags, as well.
Still stuck? The free online program, Webstagram, is a helpful resource. Simply enter in a hashtag related to your post and it will generate a list of popular, related hashtags, and the number of times that they’ve been used.
6. Check Out the Competition
Look at brands that are similar to yours, particularly those with high followings and engagement. Are they doing anything that you’re not? Examine the type of content that they are posting and how successful it is. Look at the frequency in which they post to get an idea of how much you should be posting. Finally, consider how they are engaging with followers.
Take note of what your successful competitors are doing and implement those techniques in your own brand strategy.
7. Reach Out to Influencers
To cheat a little bit, you can also get help from Instagram influencers (or individuals with high followings). A study by Nielsen found that 92% of consumers trust individuals over brands (even if they don’t personally know the individual).
Proceed with caution, however, and remember that it’s about quality, not quantity. An influencer may have three million followers, but if the majority of those followers do not fit your buyer persona, investing in that influencer will likely just be money down the drain. Also look at the influencer’s engagement rate. A user may have one million followers that fit your buyer persona, but if their posts are not generating many likes or comments, your money is not likely to go very far.
8. Determine What Is Successful and Why
Why might one of your posts generate 150 likes, while another gets 400 likes? Think about what content is successful and why. Is it the filters used? The hilarious caption that resonated with your audience? The unique perspective of the photograph?
Once you figure out why certain posts are more popular than others, you can continue to drive engagement by capitalizing on that knowledge.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is making your brand relatable and personable.
Bottom line: If you post high-quality, relevant content, while finding a way to connect with your users, the Instagram algorithm will reward you in the end, and your brand visibility will skyrocket.