Outsmarting the Algorithm

Algorithm – what does that word even mean? We’ve all heard of them but let’s be honest, unless a techie expert, you might struggle to explain or define. Simply put, an algorithm is just a fancy to-do list for a computer. Now don’t panic – they’re not something everyone suddenly needs to become the expert on (that’s our job). But it might be helpful to have some insight into the inner workings of the algorithm as well as some tips to help you outwit and out-manoeuvre its cunning code!

If we apply the to-do list analogy in the context of Instagram and Facebook, simply put it means the running order of our content gets prioritised based on our engagement. The more engaged we are with content, the higher up the to-do list it goes.

When did this fancy to-do listing all start?

You might be thinking ‘has Instagram and Facebook always been messing with my feed?’. Surprisingly, it’s only been since 2016 when Instagram announced they would prioritise ‘the moments you care about’. What this means in reality is the algorithm prioritises the posts you like and engage with, putting an end to their original reverse-chronological feed.

Two years later in 2018, Facebook made a similar pledge to ‘put friends and family first’ which is great news if you want to see your Aunty Anne’s cruise snaps, less so, if you’ve important marketing content to share. Once more Instagram announced algorithm changes which prioritised (shoved higher up the to-do list) ‘fresh, timely posts’.

Now the good thing about this ‘fresh and timely’ development is that it should have redressed the content balance but what marketers saw was a large decrease in their organic reach and they became sceptical of the algorithm changes. So much so in fact that Instagram opened up on Twitter (sharing the love) to explain that users’ activity determines what shows up in their feeds. So how each user interacts with the channel, determines what content they will be fed. Sounds quite simple.

Having now got to grips with the mystery that is, the algorithm, you might be wondering how you get your content prioritised further up the magical to-do list? Let us share some peachy expertise ensuring your content is always seen:

1) Scroll-stopping imagery

There’s no denying the most-liked content on Instagram is visually striking, bold and breathtaking imagery. So, with Instagram prioritising the content which users most engage with, you need to be posting pictures which will have people stopping in their tracks, saying an inner “wow” and hitting ‘like’ (or double tapping!). If your posts have a polished, professional look they will stand out as quality content.

2) Tell your story… with Instagram Stories

Word to the wise – Instagram Stories are huge! They are the most authentic and quick way to get in front of your audience, pushing you literally front and centre of your users’ stories feed. If they’re not firmly part of your social strategy, they really need to be. So instead of choosing to post on feed or story, choose BOTH to ensure your brand is seen from all areas of Instagram.

3) Video, video, video

If you read our previous blog, you’ll be fully up to speed on the importance and value of video. And although not explicitly stated, video has been the favoured content by Instagram in recent years – think stories and IGTV (Instagram TV). They’ve just announced IGTV will soon begin to appear in users’ feeds and not just the IGTV section – a clear sign Instagram wants to see more video content and something you need to seriously consider.

Of course, Facebook and Instagram want users to spend as long as possible engaging on the channel. So if you want rewarding for your content efforts, videos require people to linger longer and engage. Simps. They don’t have to be an epic cinema standard production – striking GIFS, short videos and Boomerangs are key content pieces for a balanced Instagram account, and the key to keeping your audience engaged all that little bit longer which sees your content further prioritised. We call that a peachy #winwin.

4) Caption it!

Your captions are vital to creating quality content. The salt to your vinegar, captions should complement those striking images. Use them as a way to get people talking and encourage interactions with question-based captions. All comments will give a positive signal.

to Instagram that people are interested in your content. The more interested they are, the more the algorithms will push your content – we’re going to call that the algorithm cycle of reciprocation!

5) Competitions

What better way to encourage engagement than with a competition that requires ‘tag and like’ to enter? Users have the opportunity to win a prize and you get good engagement stats, and possibly some user generated content – another peachy #winwin.

6) #Hashtags

This mini, slightly on the wonk version of noughts and crosses are the key to users easily searching for your content by aligning with their interests. They can now ‘follow’ hashtags which means content with hashtags that they’re interested in will be pushed into their feed regardless if they are following that account or not. But be wary and don’t go into a hashtag frenzy – up to 10 is a good number, 30+ will be deemed spam and your caption will be wiped.

7) It’s all about timing

It seems obvious but posting when your audience is most active will gain the most traction. Different brands will have different user activities so use Instagram’s free Insights tool to get to know your audience and when they are online most, then post when you know they are most likely to see it. They need to see it to engage and the more they engage, the more your content gets pushed up the fancy algorithm to-do list.

All set to start killing it on Instagram? Great stuff. If you need anymore peachy expertise on how you can ensure you have EVERY element of your content strategy working cohesively, then give us a shout.