If you’re a reader of this blog and have seen my Stories, you’ll know that this post was a long time coming. The outrage against the latest update has sent virtually untouched platforms like Vero soaring into relevancy. But how many people are truly so frustrated that they’d be willing to start from scratch on a foreign app? If you’re still as invested in your Instagram account as I am, because it is still a remarkably effective marketing tool, then read on about how to deal with the 2018 Instagram algorithm and how I’ve changed my strategy to cope with it.
Since my last series on the 2017 Instagram algorithm and looking at why engagement rates have dropped, I have switched to a business account. I was whole-heartedly against it until a month ago when I realised that I needed all the tools I had available to figure out the mystery of the new algorithm and anyway, my engagement was so abysmal there was nothing to lose. This brings me to point number one and for me, the most important in dispelling frustrating and absurd rumours:
Look at your data excessively
One of the most surprising things I found happened when I shared some insights into how to get onto the Explore page (I’ll get onto that part next). I got endless DM’s asking how I knew I even reached that much desired spot. The answer is, look at your data. If you have Insights, the sources of traffic is listed. If Explore isn’t on there, either it didn’t reach that point or it was such a small number in comparison to others that it wasn’t singled out on the list. If you want to constructively find answers to do better, try to find a pattern using your stats. After all, algorithms aren’t meant to be completely random. And don’t assume that what’s necessarily best for one person is the same for you – my audience is incredibly international so things like posting times and subject matter differs a lot to most of my UK blogger friends. For example, I’m told that I should be posting at 3pm UK time when my audience is most active, probably because it’s factoring in my US and Asian followers. However, I get better engagement at 9pm so I alternate to find a sweet spot.
How to get seen on Explore
The case of smaller following larger % of new accounts viewing your post is still true and a lot of people think that means you have to get to the Explore page. This is not true. Perhaps one of the responses to the shadow ban craze is the option to follow hashtags (quite a big fan of this actually) and how Insights shows you how many clicks you got from using them. Then there’s location – if you travel quite a lot or feature places to visit, this can be an incredibly lucrative way to get views. I’ve had the same number of impressions and actions taken on an image that was on Explore as I have had with these other sources.
Okay so you probably still want to know how to get seen on Explore. The most I know is that images that perform consistently well are more likely to be boosted. I shared this snippet on my Stories but I’ll elaborate further in case you missed it. I posted an image that did will at first and managed to keep momentum for hours and only then did I see that Explore popped up as a source. How do I know? I tracked that image like a complete freak with nothing better to do but you know, it got us to where we are with this post. The image I posted the following day went to Explore within two hours, even though it wasn’t received as strongly as the last one. And this keeps happening, although I chose the pictures with the most differing subjects to compare and prove this point.
Yes you need to peak, but you also have to sustain
To me this is one of the most critical differences from the 2017 change. After the first one, people clocked onto the fact they needed a lot of engagement in the first few minutes of their post. Cue comment groups and buying automated likes. Even the accounts I followed and suspected of the latter suffered with the latest hit. It’s no longer good enough to get say, 200 likes in 45 minutes (which previously, would have landed me on the Explore page) because now, we’re going to have to sustain that momentum. How?
- Reply to comments on your own posts ASAP
- Engage with others properly and they’ll most likely check you out
- Pay for promoted posts on the more promising images – there’s a reason my first series was named Pay To Play!
I know this all sounds terribly banal but you know, you could just keep buying likes – but surely that’s going to get more expensive and when will it stop? There is just no shortcut.
A lot of Instagrammers have told me that they didn’t believe the rumour that to do well overall, you had to get a lot of engagement in the first hour. They had seen the opposite and said that it was a few hours after they had posted that they really saw an uptick. This theory here tests well against both ideas and I’ve seen it take place on my own posts.
An extended shelf-life
Personally, I’ve found that my posts have a longer shelf-life of about a week. Previously with the last algorithm, after three to four days likes and comments would peter out. But after seeing people complain about being shown days-old pictures on their Home page, it explained why I saw likes building on my older photos. The silver lining to this and perhaps a jumping point for anyone’s Instagram strategy is to play the long game. I know this is a cliche but instead of focusing on sporadic, gorgeous photos, invest in a content plan as opposed to a theme with slapped on presets. Like, why do you think accounts that focus on beautiful facades like @crazycatladyldn or @london.food (sorry guys, hope you don’t mind the shoutouts) have great and consistent engagement? What this means is that your feed should tell a realistic story about where you’ve been, what you’re doing and if you’re a fashion or beauty blogger, what you wore during that time. Think @songofstyle’s Fashion Month coverage.
For me, I’m no longer worried about reposting outfits or the same place again and again, because you know what, in real life you do return to beautiful sites and of course you wear your favourite pieces endlessly.
What about iPhone only?
Finally, my last point is this: There’s no need to turn to ‘iPhone only’, which a lot of people have opted to try. If that’s not what you’re used to then don’t switch it up for no other reason, after all the allure is the spontaneity and authenticity that it evokes and that’s exactly what the story of your feed should be, phone camera or not.
Zara dress | Saint Laurent leather jacket and bag | Gucci boots