The article you are about to read is actually my second list of predictions for what I believe will be included in the Instagram algorithm. I had to completely delete my first one and start over because I realized I was coming at it entirely the wrong way. Let me explain.
This weekend, I read an Entrepreneur article that made a smart statement that we all keep comparing the impending Instagram algorithm to what Facebook is, yet Instagram does not distinguish between personal and business accounts like Facebook does. (Read that article here: Ignore the Uproar. The Instagram Algorithm Change is a Good Thing). However, I think it extends even further than that. Facebook is not only distinguishing between business pages and personal accounts, but all kinds of links out to domains of various credibility, live webcasts, video, photos, events… the list goes on! The Facebook landscape is certainly a complicated one, where Instagram has remained relatively simple.
No Need to Feel Threatened by “The Algorithm”
According to Instagram, the average user is missing 70% of their feed anyway. If we continue to rely on the chronological feed, people are (or will be) missing YOU a lot. You aren’t being seen by all of your followers right now anyway, you were just blissfully unaware of it. (At least I was! And personally, when I’m over here trying to build a profitable business, I do NOT believe that ignorance is bliss.)
At least with the algorithm, if something you post is truly remarkable, valuable and people are engaging with it… you could conceivably get bumped to the top of the news feed and actually be seen by MORE people instead of being buried and forgotten.
So, can you get excited by the prospect that you could actually be rewarded for good content by reaching more than 30% of your followers?
Would you embrace the algorithm if it meant that your posts were shown over your competitor’s, because you spend time optimizing and improving, while they’ve only relied on posting with more and more frequency and big, irrelevant hashtags?
Instagram’s algorithm is a real opportunity here.
With all that said, I’ll step off my soapbox and offer my predictions for what will be important ranking factors in the algorithm.
Unsurprisingly, I believe engagement will be the primary ranking factor for determining what gets bumped to the top of your feed. I’ll risk a little Facebook comparison here, but this is exactly what we see with Facebook page posts. Facebook posts that get likes, comments, shares and link clicks often will organically reach more people than posts that get little to no action.
I think the speed with which people engage will be a factor, which will mean that hashtags are still really important. You want to create posts that will ignite a flurry of likes and comments right away. You’ll also want to pay attention to your optimal posting times, and test it from time to time to ensure you post at the best time for your audience.
A heavy emphasis on engagement could mean that people try to “game” the system by just trying to use big hashtags that aren’t necessarily relevant to their post. That’s why I think relevance will also be a ranking factor. Instagram may try to compare the content of your post caption with what is in your hashtags, or they could look at the types of people interacting with your post to try to predict whether or not the hashtags you used really related to your post. I’m not going to get super techy about HOW they would do this… but search engine’s do this with website content… so I’m sure there are many ways that Instagram could apply a “relevance” score to each post.
While I’ve tried to focus above on what could positively impact your ranking, you know that there will also be some behaviors that are seen as obnoxious and will be penalized. We see this on Facebook with posts that contain overly sales-y language. If you have a Facebook page for your business and have ever posted something with words like “shop now” or “sale,” you’ve probably noticed that your organic reach was practically nil.
That said, you may want to pay attention to overly sales-y text on Instagram. At this point, I’m not saying NOT to do it, only to watch and see what happens to engagement on those types of posts and make decisions accordingly.
Over-posting may also be seen as trying to “game” the system… Instagram is trying to serve people more of what they WANT to see. Increasing your message frequency is the equivalent of shoving it down someone’s throat… so I would be really cautious here.
What do you think will be important ranking factors in Instagram’s new algorithm?
Molly Marshall teaches small business owners and online entrepreneurs how to systematically and simply grow a profitable online presence through social media. Get your FREE Instagram Strategy Guide now!