The Blog

by Paul Balcerak

Instagram’s New Algorithm: 4 Ways to Prepare

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.07.16 PM Instagram announced last week that it’s switching to an algorithm-based feed. In other words, you’ll soon see posts that are ordered based on what Instagram thinks you’ll like, rather than the chronological order in which those posts were published.

In other, other words, just like Facebook.

Love it or hate it, this is Instagram’s new reality. Or at least it will be “in the coming months.” That means brand marketers have a little bit of time to tighten up their approach and get ready for the changes. Here are four things we’re focused on getting right before the new algorithm arrives.

1. Continue to post quality content

We don’t know exactly how the algorithm will work, but we know that, “the order of photos and videos in feeds will be based on the likelihood people will be interested in the content, their relationship with the person or business posting and the timeliness of the post.” It’s reasonable to assume that engagement—likes and comments on photos—will be a huge part of what drives content to the tops of people’s feeds. By far, the best way to do that is to post great content that people like. That takes time, especially on Instagram. Invest in the people and resources that can get it done.

2. Be strategic with hashtags

Instagram Search has improved a lot over the last year. Now, you can search keywords and get suggestions on popular hashtags. Figure out a handful of keywords that apply to your brand or products and turn those into hashtag categories. A beer brand, for instance, would obviously want to capture a few hashtags around the keyword “beer” (#beerporn, #beerme, #beergeek, etc.); but it would also want to think about beer-adjacent topics like events and activities (#baseballisback, #baseballlife, etc.) or food (#bbqseason, #bbqpit, #barbequeparty). We know that using a lot of hashtags helps increase reach and engagement significantly, so build up those categories as much as you can. And save yourself from typing too much by using your phones macros to auto-fill hashtags each time you post.

We know that using a lot of hashtags helps increase reach and engagement significantly, so build up those categories as much as you can. And save yourself from typing too much by using your phones macros to auto-fill hashtags each time you post.

3. Buy ads

If the stated reason for introducing an algorithm is to serve its users “more relevant” content, Instagram’s real reason for doing it is to charge brands money for preferred placements in people’s feeds. So do it! You competitors aren’t holding back on digital spending, and neither should you.

4. Respond to people’s comments—always

Interaction is one of the biggest ways an algorithm can assume a user is interested in another user or a piece of content. So don’t let comments on your photos go unanswered. Respond to as many as possible, and when you can, get a dialogue going to encourage more back-and-forth. One response to a comment is good; a conversation that goes on for hours or more is better. There’s also speculation that since Instagram likes are doled out so easily, comments will be particularly valuable to the algorithm.

Remember—there’s still time

We’re not exactly sure when this is going to happen—just that it will in the next couple or few months—which means you’ve got time to get your account in order. Don’t let it go to waste! C+F is on Instagram as @copacino.