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Instagram Algorithm Changes: The Good, The Bad, The Unknown

You’ve probably noticed some changes in your social media feeds the last few months. Maybe you’re seeing less of your friends’ posts, and more random articles or animal videos. (Sorry, The Dodo, we love you, but you were not our maid of honor). Maybe the posts are all out of order (honestly, a #SundayFunday brunch pic that pops up on a Tuesday is just plain cruel). Or maybe you are wondering about the new Stories features…

The only constant when it comes to social media is change. And while usually Facebook is the big culprit when it comes to rolling out new features that confound the masses, this time Instagram is the platform everyone’s complaining about. Not that the complaints aren’t valid: Its latest algorithm changes have resulted in losses of followers and less engagement – it’s slowed down building follower count; and it’s definitely resulted in fewer people seeing your posts.

Video: The first installment of our new series "Social Drinking" with yours truly Eileen Loh and the Imaginal Social Team, featuring special guests Peggy Olson and a bottle (or two) of champagne.  

 

CRACKING DOWN ON GHOSTS

Fake profiles are rampant on social media and Instagram is eliminating fake accounts and bots with a vengeance. We have seen follower count and engagement be affected with most accounts. Despite the drop in numbers, we think this is a good change. Bots don’t get their hair done or buy products.

The new algorithm is intended to encourage and reward REAL connections and interactions.

Needless to say – never pay for engagement or followers.

 

FOLLOW THE DATA

It’s tempting to make big changes to your social media strategy when you see the numbers dropping.

Though this has been unfolding over a period of months, these algorithm changes are still so new it’s not entirely clear yet what their permanent effects will be.

There’s a lot of info out there and relatively little of it is confirmed.

Our prime directive in this situation: Let data rule the day.

We’ve long said goodbye to the days when follower count was the sole factor for determining Instagram success. As we all know now, it’s quality over quantity. Find followers that will engage with your content.

We’ve long used KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure how our content performs, and lately we’re monitoring those insights like helicopter moms at a climbing wall birthday party.

Engagement is, and has been, one of the most reliable measurements across the board. Are people interacting with your content? Do your posts motivate them to click, react, share, comment? If so, you’re doing something right.

Facebook and Instagram have good built-in Insights to track data, and you can also invest in a third-party software to dive deeper. (We use Sprout.) 

 

Here are some of the data points we monitor:

• Which top influencers have interacted with content

• Which type of posts perform the best

• Which hashtags generate the most engagement

• What times of the day are best to post

• How many users click through to the brand’s website

• What posts have the most organic and viral reach and impact

 

NEW FEATURES

Content may be king, but storytelling is queen. As social feeds become more crowded, it takes innovation and creativity to cut through the noise. Instagram has just rolled out a new feature to help do that: InstaStories.

People are now scrolling through the Stories before they move onto their main feed. We love InstaStories because they’re authentic, real, and FUN FUN FUN! They create mini narratives in an innovative way. GIFs were added to InstaStories last week. Who doesn’t want a dancing dog to pop into their life? Nobody, that’s who.  

We find Instastories are a great way to revive engagement.

Currently, and FINALLY - Instagram is beta-testing a Regramming feature. (#yasss #finally #tookyalongenough).

 

CONTINUE WITH INSTAGRAM BEST PRACTICES

It pays, literally, to be strategic with your social media. Help your content show up in more feeds by including geotags with every post, and Instastory. And, use at least 11 hashtags. Studies show that posts with 11 or more hashtags get the most engagement. In our experience, we find local hashtags are the ones that bring in new clients. We recommend spending some time researching great local hashtags in your area, and then share them with your entire team.

We are still accessing new best practices that will help us leverage the new algorithm - but for now, we are doubling down on methods that drive engagement. Since the new algorithm is favoring authentic connections, we are investing more time in commenting and responding to comments with more than just an emoji.

And, we’re not letting up on content: we’re continuing to post consistently and frequently (at least once a day).

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Some of these recent changes in Instagram remind us of what happened with Facebook’s algorithm in 2014.  We predict that by the end of the year, before Christmas, brands will have to boost their content on Instagram in order to get engagement. So, get your budgets ready.

At the end of the day, the things that were most important to social media success in 2008 are still important today. That is: be genuine, be consistent, be genuine, be interactive, be genuine, be constructive, be genuine, be informative, be genuine, be genuine, be genuine.

Oh, and use dancing dog GIFs. Whenever possible.

 

 Dancing Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

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