How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2019

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The Instagram algorithm - chances are you've heard people complaining about, saying the changes have done them dirty, that they're struggling to keep up. You don't have to be one of those people. Algorithm changes can be annoying, especially if you've invested a lot of time into learning how it works, gearing the way you plan and share content around it, only for things to change.

But guess what? Life is about flexibility. You can be one of the people who sits around complaining and not taking action, battling it out with old methods on a new algorithm, or you can put in the extra half an hour to learn about how it works and shift your strategy to stay on top.

The thing is, algorithm changes are attempts to make the platform better, to get your content seen by the people who want to see it most. Used correctly it can be extremely powerful. And with the amount of people who like to stay situated in the 'sit around and complain' camp, making fast moves to capitalise on new changes and features can really set you apart and give you the competitive edge on Instagram.  


How To Rank Your Posts High in the Instagram Feed

Tip 1 - Early Likes Push Your Content Higher

The main content feed works by showing your new posts to a select group of your 'most engaged' followers - ie. the people the algorithm ranks as actually wanting to see your content. Engagement is counted by likes, comments, and DMs. If 'enough' people like it within the first few hours, the post is more likely to be pushed into the feeds of your other followers. There are a few ways to bump up likes on your post.

Call to Action

Quit waiting around for other people to do what you want. Go and get it. Actually ask your followers to like the post. You can do so as part of the caption, as well as adding a story in your timeline to ask your followers to go take a look at your latest post. Some people get all embarrassed about this, as though it's a faux pas (it's really not). But if you want to grow your business, get over it. You have to own what you want, not apologise for it or feel too embarrassed to even ask people to go look at your content. You deserve to be seen, so make it happen.

Hashtags 

I have a more in-depth post about hashtags here, including how to find and use them properly. Correct, targeted use of hashtags are a great way to supplement to growth on Instagram. These can serve a double-purpose because if you can get a high enough ratio of people liking your post in the early hours of it going live, there's a better chance it will rank highly for that hashtag as well as showing up in the chronological side of the hashtag feed. 

Engagement Groups

These are probably Instagram's best kept secret if you aren't in the know. Engagement groups usually function via Instagram DMs, Telegram, or WhatsApp and are usually geared around liking and/or commenting on other members's posts in order to mutually benefit engagement. They have been criticised as fostering 'fake' engagement, but the bottom line is: they work in order to eventually push your content to the people who actually matter.

Numbers of likes or comments don't actually matter so much as getting your content in front of the people you need to see it in order to convert to sales. Engagement groups help with that, and usually they are highly niche-oriented (for example, there are engagement groups for travel, fashion, luxury, family, etc.) and thus relevant to you and your content anyway. 

They can be a little hard to find, and some engagement groups can be very poorly run and disorganised. You can search places like Facebook for communities of people looking to organise new groups, or simply reach out to other users asking if they know of any groups or would like to start one. Alternatively, I can take care of that for you with my account management services ;)

Tip 2 - Use New Features Immediately

Whenever Instagram adds a new feature - use it straight away! This is especially relevant for stories because Instagram is constantly adding new features. Naturally, they want to promote their new features so anyone who uses them in their content will be pushed up higher in people's feeds. 

Tip 3 - Respond, Respond, Respond

Instagram highly favours accounts that actually interact with their followers. You are expected to engage with your followers just as much as your followers need to engage with your content. A lot of 'big' instagrammers started complaining their content was being 'hidden' or not shown high in the feed - it is no coincidence that they are the same people who never reply to comments, leave DMs unread, and generally just expect to be worshipped blindly without ever giving back. 

Be responsive and helpful at all times. Instagram, after all, is a venue of customer service and one of the most potent and easy ways to build loyalty and trust. If you are unresponsive there it will leave a bad taste in people's mouths - at the very least 'like' the comments that aren't response-worthy, and leave genuine responses on the rest. 

BONUS TIP: PLEASE STOP DOING THIS

Stop posting those "collage" or "mosaic" style posts, where one image is split up into multiple so that when you look at your Instagram feed page, multiple posts come together to form one larger image. I guess it looks cool (I say, reluctantly, as I personally think it looks silly and is overdone), but it will kill your engagement. You have to post each photo quickly one after the other, making it less likely that you will get a consistent number of likes on each photo. As a result, any new content you post will be pushed lower on the feed. It is only harming you, and for what? Jumping on the bandwagon of an overdone and tired trend? 

For some reason I see everyone from bigger brands to smaller accounts doing this and every time I want to scream, STOP! You used to be able to post that kind of thing but with the way the algorithm works today, you are only harming your account. Plus people are most likely to see your content in their homepage feed, it's super frustrating to be scrolling through and only see partial images or get a bunch that all look the same because they're meant to "go together". It's boring and not engaging at all. STOP!


Following these three basic rules makes it pretty easy to keep up stable engagement on Instagram! Being flexible and adaptable on the platform, as well as showing a genuine interest in engaging with the community is really all it takes.