Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Instagram’s forever changing algorithm. If you have noticed a significant decrease in your impressions, engagement, and number of new followers over the last few months to a year, we can almost guarantee that it is because of Instagram’s 2021 algorithm. The changes made to the algorithm affect everyone who uses the platform but especially brands organic reach and that’s a big bite to chew for digital advertising. Lucky for you, Red Shark Digital Marketing Agency Raleigh could be known as the Social Media Guru of North Carolina in that we have cracked the latest algorithm and have a handful of tips, tricks, and rules to maximize your organic reach. Let’s begin!
Timeline of Instagram’s Algorithm
Instagram officially launched in October of 2010–what a time to be alive. The app was available exclusively to Apple users to apply filters to their images and share with their inner social circle. In its first week alone Instagram gained over 100,000 users and by the end of 2010, the app had already hit 1 million downloads. During this time of simplicity, Instagram used no algorithm other than sorting posts chronologically. January of 2011, hashtags were integrated for easier searching and sorting of content. May of 2013 photo tagging was added to the app, and a month later video content was enabled allowing users to 15 second clips. We made it to 2015 where Instagram advertising takes off and is now used by brands globally. In this time of success and enjoyment, no one was prepared for what Instagram had coming.
In March of 2016, Instagram’s main feed was totally remodeled and was now to be sorted through an algorithm rather than chronological order. Elbows were thrown as users and brands were now competing to rank higher by uploading the “best” content. This meant that the post that ranked higher was more relevant, more interesting, and more interactive for users.
We have come a long way from 2017 algorithm status, allowing for edits and improvements to be made over the past four years. Present day, Instagram’s algorithm works to keep users on their app as long as possible by favoring accounts who keep their followers engaged and active. This is where an experienced digital marketing agency Raleigh, such as Red Shark Digital saves the day.
How the 2021 Instagram Algorithm Works in Digital Marketing
To put it simply, the Instagram algorithm decides which content gets seen as soon as a user opens the app–but we already knew that. Many are in support of pleading for the app to return to reverse-chronological order, however, Instagram says that before the algorithm was implemented in 2016, 70% of posts were missed by users on a regular basis. To combat this ghost posting, Instagram utilizes ranking signals to sort content with the algorithm.
- Relationship- Does the user interact with your page frequently?
- Interest- Does the user typically engage with this type of post?
- Timeliness- Was it posted recently?
- Frequency- How often does the user check Instagram?
- Following- How many people does the user follow?
- Session Time- How long does the user spend on Instagram per day?
So what does this all mean? Are you expected to sit on Instagram day and night, posting, interacting and searching just to boost your reach? No! Follow along as digital marketing agency Raleigh, Red Shark Digital, walks you through eight foolproof strategies to find your rhythm and outsmart Instagram’s algorithm.
How to Hack the 2021 Instagram Algorithm for Digital Marketing
- High-Quality Content. As avid IG users, we are all aware that higher quality photos receive more likes, comments, shares and saves. In the eyes of the Instagram algorithm Gods, the more engagement an image has, the better the content, the higher it ranks. So choose the images with bold colors and interesting content like breathtaking views or mouthwatering food; anything that’ll make your followers smash that heart. Read more about visual content in our 5 Reason why visual content matters blog.
- Embrace What’s New. While they might not be the latest and greatest features, IGTV, Stories, Carousels and especially Reels boost your reach. Notice we said, Reels (with an S.) Posting one reel probably won’t skyrocket your success, but continuously posting a variety of engaging content is what will improve your organic reach overall. Check out our digital advertising agency profile here to see the kind of content we post:
- Stick to the Story. If it doesn’t take you longer to find the best interactive sticker to put on your IG story, did you even upload a quality post? Instagram story stickers are extremely helpful in encouraging audience engagement. Just think of all of the times you were flipping through stories and answered a poll or slid the emoji dial just because it enticed you to! The more engagement your story posts get, the higher they’ll be boosted by the algorithm.
- Create Conversation Through Captions and Comments. To do this, start with the base: the caption. Posting a captivating caption along with a scroll stopping image is key when sharing content. Captions can and should include questions or stories, emojis, CTAs, hashtags (well get to these later.) Terms like “double tap”, “tag a friend”, and other similar actions are helpful as well.
- Cross Promote Content. Not only does this mean you are posting more content, but you are sharing your posts on different elements of IG, allowing for a variety of viewers to see it! One person may find your post from a hashtag, while another saw it through a story, and another saw it on their feed. The options are endless, so get to gassing yourself up! If you don’t have the confidence in cross posting content for your brand properly, don’t worry, the digital advertising agency pros at Red Shark Digital have your back!
- Don’t Ignore Your DMs. “But DMs are private, how do they have anything to do with boosting my reach?” Similar to likes and comments, direct messages are a big indicator for the algorithm. As a business, regularly invite your audience to ask questions or share stories through DMs, this then bumps your posts higher up on their feed. Once you respond, (you should always be responding) this tells Instagram that you are an active user and are posting content that users want to interact with.
- Have no Fear, Hashtags are Here. Ole reliable, as stated before, the hashtag has been used to sort and search content since 2011. Hashtags are free to use, extremely beneficial when executed properly, and add a little flair and fun to your content! Do some research within your niche and find precise, accurate and thoughtful hashtags to describe what your post is about rather than using #picoftheday along with millions of other users.
- Get Out There and Giveaway. Scrolling through business pages, it’s very likely that you’ll see a giveaway or contest of some sort, and it’s even more likely that it is among the most popular and engaged with posts on the page. Giveaways and contests are GOLD when it comes to boosting your engagement. Asking your followers to tag three friends, comment hashtags, share your posts, or like specific pages for a prize is a small price to pay for what these types of posts can do for your place in the algorithm.
Are You Ready to Post Like a Professional?
If you focus on building connections with your audience and producing great content, you don’t need to worry about Instagram updates and Instagram algorithm changes. Take advantage of the platform’s latest and greatest features and, rather than shy away from the new rules of the algorithm, tackle them head-on. If you do find yourself struggling to reset your content strategy, Red Shark Digital Marketing Agency Raleigh will gladly help you.