May 27, 2018
You know the Instagram algorithm is in full effect when even my husband is complaining about the way posts are ordered and the timeline (or lack thereof) of his own Instagram feed. If this man is noticing these issues, then you know every business who uses Instagram as a huge marketing tool are singing their own complaints, as well.
And, it is really freakin’ annoying. I’ve had my own complaint fests with clients and friends, but those of us using Instagram as a means of marketing our business need to get a few things through our brilliant brains, and quickly, too.
And, alright, I hate to burst your hopeful bubble, but if you think you’re about to read something like “post at 8am on Monday and Wednesday, and then post on Tuesday and Thursday at 8:23am, and use less emojis and be sure to comment back on at least ten different accounts a day” spiel, you’re not going to find that here.
Because let me be the first digital marketer & creative lady (surely I’m not the first here, but you get my drift, right partner?) to say: I have no clear idea of how the Instagram algorithm REALLY works.
I’ve got my ideas (like engaging with other accounts both on and off your own posts is a great step in the right direction), but I’m not sitting in a cubicle at Facebook (do they sit in cubicles there? gosh, i hope not) coding the algorithm for the day. And every other marketer, business owner, and friend and idol you’ve got out there most likely isn’t either (unless, hey, are you working on the app development team at Insta? wanna email me? cool, thanks, i like you. lots.). In truth, no one is going to be able to tell you a for sure, 100% step-by-step for hacking the algorithm, but there are a few things I think are key, both for the sake of your sanity and the health of your business.
So, my best tips for beating the Instagram algorithm are below. Read em, adopt em, and let the Insta bashers weep in their despair. You’re too busy making moves and selling things and enjoying ice cream and sunshine. Right? Riiiiiight!
Okay okay okay, here, do these things:
I feel very strongly about my first point here. Actually, I feel very strongly about all of my below points here, but this one is at the top for a reason.
There’s so much talk out there about how Instagram has changed (yes, it has), it’s no longer fun (beauty, or fun, is in the eye of the beholder. and not all parts of a job are always fun, are they now?), and how it’s purely a pay to play game (not true.) Google ‘instagram algorithm’ and you’re bound to find a hundred and fifty articles with nothing but complaints for the algorithm and the way Instagram seems to limit post reach these days. Jump in any Facebook group within your industry and you’re also guaranteed to find at least one group post and complaint fest a day.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend it’s not more difficult to market effectively on the app, but I am here to tell all of us it’s time to buck up and stop all the complaining. Unless you own Facebook and Instagram, you get literally no say in this (which is one reason you should not rely entirely on Instagram, people! More on that another time.). But you know what you DO get a say in? Your other marketing efforts. The content you DO create. That big ole wild brain inside your head that is capable of so many brilliant ideas and figuring out other ways to reach your customers besides one single app on their phones. The way you DO interact with your customers, whether within Instagram itself, through email newsletters, in your brick & mortar, etc.
The next time you’re feeling discouraged with your decreased reach or engagement or are tempted to join in on a huge Insta algorithm bash fest, save that energy and put it towards the things you can control (like the below).. Fear and frustration ain’t got no place around these parts, do they now?
Look, you’ve gotta stay ahead. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, my friends. Stay educated on the current trends (if you’re into trends, which in biz, sometimes you gotta be, right?). Never don’t have a current and future game plan for your business or your marketing (happens all too often, I know, but don’t yoouuuu know that’s where I come in?).
I know with all the things you need to do for your business on a daily basis it’s very easy to forget to plan ahead, to not know what your next step, marketing campaign, or big ole move will be. But that just isn’t gonna cut it anymore.
Start really paying attention to your customers and less to yourself. Like, REALLY pay attention to them. The more you do, the more you’ll begin to predict and get a feel of what they’re going to want before they even know it. Get to work creating that. Get to work MARKETING that, talking about it, putting it out there. Be a step ahead in your marketing and in your business AND be a step ahead of Instagram, because if Instagram shut down tomorrow, what would you do?
Like really, what would you do? Know ahead of time. Know now. Have a “i-really-hope-this-doesn’t-happen-but-if-it-does-we’re-okay” game plan. Simply reframing your mindset to be prepared for your next step can save you hours of make believe panic and, who knows, could finally bring you that great idea that will set you apart that you’ve been waiting on for so long. Stop relying solely on this one platform. Always have a next step.
Have you been doing the exact same thing on Instagram that you were doing three years ago? And no, I don’t mean physically hitting that little + sign and then choosing your photo, uploading it, writing something clever and posting. I know you’re doing that much, silly.
Be honest, have you been approaching Instagram in 2018 the same way you were approaching it in 2016? If so, it’s time to rethink your strategy (or lack thereof). With a jillion (don’t quote me on that figure, okay) accounts on Instagram in the last two years alone, the app is crowded. That’s true. If you’ve been doing the same ole thing with the same ole type of photos, copy, and content for numerous years straight, chances are your audience is bored, you’re bored, and things aren’t moving at the fastest of paces, are they?
Start experimenting. Stop falling into the comfy routine of familiarity and play around with things. Instagram is an app. It’s not your entire business. It’s one channel of marketing your business, that’s all. If you can’t play and experiment here, then whoa nelly, where can you? Think of your audience and the content they’re truly craving. Think of the content YOU’RE truly craving. Is it what you’re currently producing? If not, then go out and experiment with a few new ideas, campaigns. strategies, and so forth. You’ll only know by trying.
Secondly,, get back to actively ENGAGING. Stop posting & ghosting, expecting to return to the app two hours later with 300 new likes, 16 new followers, and 5 new sales. That’s not going to happen if you’re approaching Instagram this way. Seriously, this thing is called ‘social’ media for a reason. You need to be social. When a brand and business actively responds to and engages with their audience, a connection is formed and keeps on forming with each interaction from then on, which brings me to my next point…
How often are you utilizing Instagram Stories? You know the saying/motto/way of business – people buy from people. We feel a deeper connection and loyalty to a business when we feel like we KNOW that business. As a small business owner, Stories are a great way for you to genuinely connect with your audience.
While I’m a huge fan of beautifully curated Instagram Stories & think they can be another twenty-first century art form themselves, there’s a lot less pressure to using Stories than a good old fashioned post in the feed. Hop on & simply say hello. Trust me, your audience wants to see your eyeballs and your face from time to time. We’re curious beings – let us see the person behind the business in a more relaxed and casual way than the fancy headshot on your website or in your feed. Take us along with you on your journey through the studio or shop for the day or the meeting at that cute coffee shop or whatever the heck your day looks like. Just hop on, talk to us, take a casual picture or two, and connect with your audience. Chances are, you may even find this casual avenue to be quite fun. Don’t say I didn’t warn you ahead of time.
Listen, Instagram is an app on your phone that you downloaded years ago. I highly doubt you’re Mark Zuckerberg reading this, so as I said before, Instagram is not your business.
Repeat that after me. Instagram is not your business.
Stop treating it like it is. Even for me, as a digital marketer who makes a living crafting successful Instagram photos, stories, campaigns, and more for other business owners, Instagram is not my business. Not at all. It’s not yours either.
It’s merely an app, a tool, a resource that you use to help market what you’re all about. It’s a form of digital, which hopefully turns into real life, connection with others. It’s an app on your phone. Do not give it all of the power in your business or in your life by making it more than it is.
Get off it daily. Don’t go to bed with it. Don’t wake up with it. Pay attention to the number of times you find yourself mindlessly opening that colorful little square camera icon up on your phone. Stop scrolling at all hours of the day. Go do your work. Get off of the app and go brainstorm five ways to inject new energy into your brand, five ways to market your brand off of Instagram, five ways to connect with your audience and customers that doesn’t involve the app. And if you’re thinking that’s impossible, let me tell you about this one clientfriend of mine that doesn’t even have an Instagram account, yet we drive thousands of dollars worth of sales from their online shop a week through various other marketing efforts. Now don’t tell me Instagram is the only way.
It’s one single (powerful, yes, but not the end all be all) app on your phone. Keep this fact front and center for a dose of reality when you need it.
Or maybe not quite, but you should feel a lot better about it by now. And if not, that’s probably above my pay grade and is something your therapist needs to help you work through. Which seriously, “Instagram distress” is probably at the top of a lot of therapists session list these days, so I’m not even kidding when I say this. But for real, please stop freaking out about the Instagram algorithm. Go do these above mentioned things and fly forth in the freedom and wisdom that comes with being smarter and more compassionate and caring and well rounded than any dang algorithm out there.
Until next time,