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What is the Instagram Algorithm and why does it matter?

Instagram is a growing social media channel that allows individuals and businesses to expand their brand through the sharing of visual content and showcasing their products and services. The brains behind the platform are aware of how quickly their app is growing, and are constantly making changes to how the platform works and the way that content is positioned in front of users.

One of the biggest challenges that many small businesses, bloggers and start-ups face when it comes to marketing their own content online via Instagram is the Instagram Algorithm.

What is the Instagram Algorithm?

Originally, when Instagram was in its early years, users posts were displayed on timelines chronologically. For a long time it was easy to determine at what times of the day users should post to capture the attention of their followers, gain the most engagement, and potentially convert the most leads.

As the platform grew, so did the potential for advertising revenue to be generated. The platform was purchased by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion and quickly Instagram saw the introduction of strong advertising features to monetise on the platform’s increasing success.

Sometime in 2016, the Instagram algorithm was introduced. This changed user timelines, and displayed posts in an order of posts that were deemed ‘most relevant’ to their interests. Conveniently, the only way businesses could guarantee their posts were seen by their audience was to pay Instagram for advert placements.

According to an Instagram spokesperson, the Instagram algorithm judges 7 factors to determine how ‘relevant’ a post is to followers and where it will appear on their feed. This algorithm combines post engagement, the relationship between the poster and the audience, how long people spend viewing your post, the time you posted, the type of content, if people have searched for your account recently, and how many shares a post has received to determine when a post shows on users feeds.

What does this mean and why does it matter?

In an increasingly digital world social media is a stronger driver of website traffic, lead generation, customer acquisition and sales. The medium has for a long time been considered as a relatively ‘free’ driver of traffic as there are no set up costs and no monthly fees.

This was perfect for SMEs, who are more likely to have smaller marketing budgets, as it provided them with a platform to communicate directly with their audiences by building their follower counts.

However, large followings are no longer a guarantee of success. These followers need to be part of an engaged community of followers who continue to interact with your brand.

Without engagement, this means your marketing messages will be shown less frequently and could not even appear on your followers feeds at all!

This leaves marketers with two options – either beat the Instagram algorithm or pay for adverts on the platform to guarantee a return on investment.

SMEs may not have the same budgets as many large corporations and conglomerates who can dedicate entire departments to increasing follower engagements and can pay for their posts to appear on users feeds more easily through promoted content. As a result, small businesses and their organic social media marketing strategy are in danger of suffering.

Considering many chose to dedicate time to social media marketing because of the low costs involved with the platforms, paying for advertising placements on Instagram is not something that many SMEs are willing to invest in. However, in the always-on world that we live in, compromising media presence is not something that is worth the risk when there are a few simple actions that can be taken to prevent this from happening.

How do I combat it?

The key thing when planning organic content is ensuring that this is optimized for the Instagram algorithm.

Is your call-to-action in your caption strong enough? Did you use the right combination of hashtags? Are you posting at the best possible times? Is your Instagram feed attractive upon first glance? Did you engage with users leaving comments on your post?

Upon creating content, you should always consider your past successes and also your past failures. There is no defined rule-book on how to beat the Instagram algorithm, particularly because the company have never explicitly how strongly each of the 7 factors that determine it contributes to the algorithm, but there are actions all social media marketers can take to combat it.

Generating a strategy and forward planning your social media content for Instagram is the key to not only generating enquiries and sales but also creating a platform that your company can be proud of.

At Fantastic Media, we can assist with your social content planning and scheduling across all platforms, to ensure that the right people are seeing your marketing messages and as a result, increase your ROI.

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