1. Find your optimal posting times
Even though Instagram uses an algorithmic timeline now, optimal posting times are still relevant as timing is a factor in the algorithm.
Posting at the right times can help generate an initial round of engagement on your posts which can, in turn, prompt the Instagram algorithm to push your posts higher on your followers’ feed.
Instagram Expert, Sue B. Zimmerman, suggests posting when the majority of your audience is online:
It may take time to get a long-term understanding of your followers’ activity, but it’s important to make sure you’re posting when the majority of your audience is online.
If you are using an Instagram Business Profile, you can check your Instagram Insights to find out when your followers are most active by the day of the week and the time of the day.
2. Experiment with videos
Several studies have found that photos tend to get more overall engagement (i.e. likes and comments) than videos on Instagram. On first look, it might seem that photos are better than videos for engagement — and it could well be!
On closer examination, we might draw a different conclusion. News Whip studied the Instagram accounts of 31 news publishers and made an interesting discovery. While photos, on average, get more likes (and overall engagement) than videos, videos generate more comments than photos. In fact, videos, on average, received more than twice the amount of comments than photos!
It is not certain if the Instagram algorithm values likes and comments equally or one more than another. But since commenting requires more effort from a user than liking, it’s possible that the algorithm values comments more than likes and would rank posts with more comments higher than posts with more likes.
Last year, Instagram found that the video watch time on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent over a six-month period. At this growth rate, it could be great to experiment with videos to see if it increases your engagement and organic reach on Instagram.
3. Host contests or ask questions to encourage engagement
Asking questions or calling for an action is one of the fun ways to encourage your followers to interact with your Instagram posts. We found that hosting a giveaway contest is an effective way to engage our followers.
Some of the call-to-actions we have tried are:
- Enter to win by sharing your favorite emoji party combo in the comments below 🎉
- To enter, simply tag a friend below who you would “Vote” for as your favorite marketer and you’ll both be entered to win!
- To enter tag a friend below who you know is rocking it on social media! 🎸
- What’s on your reading list this week? 📚 Drop your book suggestions below for a chance to win a free book of your choice from the Buffer team! ❤
While giveaway contests usually generate more comments than usual posts, we try to give it a few months in between each contest to keep things fun and exciting.
4. Curate user-generated content
Curating user-generated content can encourage those users to engage with and share those content. Since the Instagram algorithm considers users’ relationships when ranking content on their feed, building relationships with your users through Instagram might also help your content rank higher on their feeds.
Apart from organic reach, Crowdtap found that user-generated content is 35 percent more memorable and 50 percent more trusted than traditional media and other non-user-generated content. This makes user-generated content a valuable strategy to try.
5. Tell Instagram Stories
In our State of Social Media 2016 report, we found that while 63 percent of marketers surveyed use Instagram, only 16 percent have created Instagram Stories. There’s a great opportunity to stand out before it gets too crowded!
Instagram Stories take a prominent position on the Instagram app — above the feed. This allows you to stay on top of your followers’ feed and grab more of their attention. If your followers view your Stories regularly, it could possibly even help your Instagram posts rank higher on their feeds.
It’s worth noting that the Stories are also ranked by an algorithm; possibly one very similar to the feed algorithm. Spend the time to craft great Stories to help them rank better.
6. Go live on Instagram
A similar “trick” is to go live on Instagram. When you use live video, you will appear right at the front of the Stories feed, assuming no one else is live at the same time. The “LIVE” logo also makes your profile photo more prominent in the Instagram app.
Social Media Examiner found that the more they went live on Facebook, the more their non-live content received exposure. Michael Stelzner said that one reason might be their brand is in front of their fans more often so the fans might go to their Page to see their content more — even if the fans don’t watch the live video.
This effect could play out on Instagram, too. Seeing your logo at the top of their feed might encourage your followers to check out your Instagram profile.
From our State of Social Media 2016 report, we concluded that live video has yet to hit mass adoption as only 27 percent of marketers surveyed had created live video content. While the percentage might be higher today, I believe live videos aren’t mainstream yet. So it’s another perfect way to stand out and deliver great content!
7. Use Instagram ads
This might sound a little counter-intuitive but Instagram ads can be an effective way to grow your organic reach.
If you have an Instagram Business Profile, you can promote your existing posts from within the Instagram app. (Here’s how!) By boosting an existing post and selecting the appropriate target audience, you can drive more engagement to the post and help it rank better on your followers’ feed. The paid reach can eventually help to drive organic reach!
So which post should you promote?
Here’s a quick way to pick a good post to promote:
- Go to your Instagram Insights on the mobile app (tap on the profile tab and then the bar chart icon).
- Tap “See More” under the “Top Posts” section.
- Tap on “Impressions” at the top (a pop-up should apply to let you adjust your stats filters).
- For the first filter, you can choose “All”, “Photos”, or “Videos” according to your preference.
- For the second filter, select “Engagement”.
- For the third filter, select “7 days”.
- You will see your top posts by engagement for the last seven days. From there, you can pick a post to promote.
As these posts have received the most engagement from your followers, they would likely also resonate with the people you promote to (assuming you have targeted people like your followers).
8. Post less
When explaining social media algorithms, Michael Stelzner encouraged marketers to re-think your posting strategy.
Rethink is the keyword here. Rethink your posting strategy on social media – Less is actually more!
Sue B. Zimmerman also gave a similar advice for marketers who want to overcome the Instagram algorithm.
If you truly want to connect with your audience, it’s better to share one fabulous photo instead of 20 mediocre images. So next time, before you hit post, take a moment and consider how this content contributes to your brand, and does it effectively encourage engagement from your followers.
I believe this is about the allocation of your resources and time. Instead of publishing 20 posts a week, use the same resources and time for just one or two posts and make them great.
Quality content that is relevant to your followers has a higher chance of eliciting a positive response from your followers. In turn, this can help your posts rank higher on your followers’ feed.