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I asked YOU to tell me what Instagram algorithm myths and rumors you have heard, and in this video/post I am looking at seven of them! I am either backing them up or disproving them with actual evidence to support my stance. Then, I’m providing a best practice for each Instagram algorithm “myth” to help you improve your Instagram results.


Instagram Algorithm Myths That Simply Aren’t True

Instagram Algorithm Myths

Myth #1: Instagram will only show your post to 10% of followers unless you pay to boost it.

I’m not sure where this came from, because anyone with access to their own Instagram analytics can confirm that this isn’t true. (Or maybe it is for you, and if that’s the case, don’t worry!! because we can boost that with the best practices that follow.)

When Instagram went to an algorithmic feed, it was because people were missing 70% of the posts in their feed anyway. They wanted to create an experience where you could the best content, even if you weren’t seeing it all.

After examining my own analytics and those of my clients, I can confirm that this “10% rule” isn’t true. It could be true that overall average reach is around 10%, but I can’t be sure. There are lots of research companies and social media analytics companies that help us to understand average Facebook page reach, and those numbers are pretty well known to be around a couple of percent, but I couldn’t find anything for Instagram.

However, an average is just an average. You can be more or less.

What we do know about reach is that engagement really matters. Getting quick engagement (a flurry of likes and comments soon after you post) tells Instagram that your post is interesting and worthy of reaching more people. Deep engagement (longer, meaningful comments and conversations back and forth) also signals to Instagram that your content is worth spreading.

While it is NOT true that Instagram only shows your post to 10% of your followers unless you pay to boost... what IS true is that engagement is key to maximizing your post reach. #Instagram #socialmedia Click To Tweet

The content I share on my own account that gets great engagement can often reach 2-3 times more people than posts that fall flat on the comment-front.

Best Practice: The best practice here is to pay close attention to what your audience responds to, and keep that type of content coming. Ask questions in your captions that create a starting point for a conversation in your comments. Then, you need to participate in that conversation!

Myth #2: You must respond to all comments within 24 hours or you’ll be dinged by the algorithm.

This Instagram algorithm myth is pretty specific, and any time a rumor is this specific, with a number attached, I am wary.

There is no way to confirm or deny that this exact factor is built in to the algorithm, but what we do know is that response time, in general, is important to Facebook (who owns Instagram.)

Facebook has made it clear that they don’t want businesses using their platforms to just push out content and self-promote. They want us to add value. They want us to engage. This has been a part of the Facebook marketing conversation for years, so this shouldn’t be new info.

We can look at things like the Facebook page “response time” ticker and make some assumptions about how important response time is on all platforms.

Best Practice: Respond to comments in a timely manner. Pay particular attention to your post comments in the few hours after you post, because that is when the majority of comments are left. However, I don’t think you need to sweat it if you miss a comment once in a while. It is not going to break you.

Myth #3: Switching to an Instagram business account negatively impacts you on Instagram.

This is one that is difficult to prove or disprove because personal accounts don’t get Instagram’s native analytics. With a business account you can actually see the number of unique people that saw your post (reach) and the overall number of times it was seen (impressions.)

We can’t look at one personal account and one business account side by side and say that definitively, yes, the personal account is reaching way more people.

On the one hand, we can look at what has happened to Facebook business pages and assume that Instagram business accounts will go the same way (as in, dwindling reach.)

But we can also examine what Facebook said in regards to algorithms on all of their platforms in early 2018. Mark Z. said that they would be favoring content that inspired connection and conversation, regardless of whether you were an individual, a business, or a group, and that they would implement these changes across all of their platforms.

This being said, maybe being a business isn’t as much of a curse as we think it is sometimes? Maybe we need to really, really, really examine the content we share and be honest with ourselves about how helpful, inspiring and genuine it is?

Best Practice: This is one of those “hacks” where people think they are effectively “hiding” from Instagram by staying a personal account, and trying to game the algorithm, but it most likely isn’t gaining you as much as you think. In the meantime, you are sacrificing valuable analytics, contact tools (email and phone), and access to advertising tools.

Ultimately, I think Instagram is smart enough to identify businesses whether they have a business account or not through examining your behaviors, the content you share, and other indicators like the link in your bio and the hashtags you use. We can underestimate the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to sniff this stuff out.

The bottom line is, if you are a business, I think you should have a business account.

Myth #4: You are penalized or “shadowbanned” by using the same hashtags repeatedly.

We often like to look at two posts side by side:

  • Similar visual content
  • Posted at the same time of day
  • Same call to action in the caption
  • Same hashtags
  • Etc.

We look at these two posts that seem similar in every way, but when they perform wildly different, we blame hashtag fatigue.

However, we can’t say that for certain because there are so many factors in determining post performance.

For instance, assuming everything is the same… maybe the posting time was great for the first day, but it’s not the ideal time the next day. Maybe the content on day one resonated with your audience well, but the content on day two was just something they didn’t really care about, etc. That’s what makes this SO hard.

There was a time in mid to late 2017 where evidence did seem to suggest that this could be true… but remember that algorithms are being tweaked ALL the time… not just when an official announcement is made.

Best Practice: The name of the game is relevance when using hashtags. Make sure your hashtags accurately relate to your account and the content of that post. You can use 30 per post and there are just so many ways to research new hashtags, so you shouldn’t run out of ideas! Have 2-3 groups of 30 hashtags that you can use. Or have 20-25 that you use on every post, and then always change up the last 5-10.

Myth #5: If you put your hashtags in the comments, instead of your caption, you will be shadowbanned.

Just no. They work both places. Do whatever you want.

Best Practice: Put your hashtags in your comment or in your caption. You are fine.

Myth #6: The more views you get on Stories, the more you reach your main feed posts get.

Looking at the data of my own feed, as well as my clients, I haven’t been able to find an obvious correlation between Story views and main feed views.

However, when I look at people that engage with my posts and watch my Stories, there is a huge overlap… but what this really tells me is that these are my most engaged fans.

Stories are a great, additional way to engage and be found on Instagram, so I firmly believe that if you are serious about marketing on Instagram, you should leverage ALL the tools available to you. This includes being active on Instagram Stories.

Best Practice: Use Stories regularly. If it feels overwhelming to you, start small by just trying to post on Stories once a day..

Myth #7: You are penalized if you go in and edit your caption after posting it.

I know you are coming here for a straight answer to these Instagram algorithm myths, but… the answer is I really don’t know.

There are a lot of people that complain loudly about this one, and they swear that Instagram suppresses your post because editing immediately after posting is a spammy-looking behavior. They think you could be trying to switch out hashtags to game the algorithm… or you could be waiting until the post kind of picks up in the feed, then swapping out the caption with something else.

I mean sure, that kind of makes sense… but these types of explanations make Instagram’s technology sound really dumb. Like the computers and algorithms/machine learning can’t sense the difference between a completely new group of hashtags being added to a post, or someone adding a period or a comma or changing one letter in a word so it isn’t misspelled.

I don’t think this is true at all.

Another explanation I found on a blog was that when you go in and change something and then save, it’s basically like you are posting anew… so it disrupts your flow of engagement.

This seems a little less conspiracy theory to me, but I’m still not sold.

I will say that a couple of weeks ago I posted something with a mistake and I went in to fix it. That post reached about half the amount of people as normal, BUT at the risk of sounding like a broken record… there are so many factors that determine post performance.

The image itself was quite different than what I normally post, so I also wonder if people just didn’t recognize me in their feed and didn’t engage with it because it was so unexpected. That is TOTALLY possible too.

Best Practice: Proof read, proof read, proof read. Proof read when you are done writing your caption, proof it again when you are uploading it in to your scheduling tool, and  proofread again as you are posting it just to be sure. And if you catch a mistake later, maybe don’t worry about it so much! If you are worried about it, feel free to wait until the engagement on that post has died down before you go in and edit the caption.

Which of these Instagram algorithm myths had you fooled? Do you have any others that need to be investigated?

Instagram algorithm myths that just aren't true

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 2019 Instagram Strategy Guide now!

Get your FREE 2019 Instagram Guide

Learn what's working now to build your brand, authority, and credibility on Instagram in 2019.

Get your FREE 2019 Instagram Guide

Learn what's working now to build your brand, authority, and credibility on Instagram in 2019.

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