Chances are, you’ve already heard about the 2016 Instagram update by now. Instagram announced a new algorithm not too long ago and bloggers everywhere had a wide array of reactions:
- Fits were thrown
- Pitchforks were drawn
- Tears were shed
- Petitions were formed
And I’ll be completely honest – my first instinct was frustration, too. I mean, Instagram has always been one of my best social media sites, and I’d been growing rather quickly. What if this Instagram algorithm change ruined all of that? I was seriously bummed for a minute.
Then I thought more about it – while everyone else is getting angry, you and I? We’re going to get a bit strategic up in here. Oh yeah.
Before we come up with strategies to game the new system – let me tell you why this algorithm change is a good thing:
- Change is inevitable, and the people who roll with it tend to benefit from it. While everyone else is throwing a fit? You and I are getting ahead of the curve and learning how to make the most of the Instagram Update.
- Sick of seeing pictures of your coworkers latte but can’t unfollow her without causing office drama? Just stop engaging. The Instagram algorithm change will be showing you pictures that it thinks you’ll enjoy.
- This is shaking everything up. Personally, I like a little bit of excitement in my life. Yeah, they say don’t mess with a good thing, but at the same time, this might make it better. We aren’t going to know until it’s in full swing – but let’s roll with the punches and come up with a plan.
- People will be pickier about sketchy automation. This might make for the (long overdue!) death of Instagress! (One an only hope.)
- It will discourage loop giveaways and other ‘get followers fast’ schemes that result in an unengaged audience and inflated stats.
The biggest myth I’ve been seeing about the Instagram Update:
The algorithm update is going to hurt the small blogger. Uh-uh girl, not to worry. Chances are that you’re going to come out ahead. You see, this update is all about engagement. And smaller bloggers tend to have higher engagement rates. If you only have 600 followers chances are that means you haven’t fallen into the allure of tactics like loop giveaways to grow your following.
And you know what that means?
Your audience is there because they want to be. Not because they think you’ll give them something, and not because they followed 35 bloggers in hopes of winning a purse and have been too lazy to unfollow. No, you followers are there because they think you’re awesome and they want to see what you’re posting. The power is in your hands here. You are going to have higher engagement rates and in turn you’ve got a much higher chance of being promoted to a broader audience.
I think a happy dance is in order for that one.
This isn’t a ‘rich get richer’ thing and that’s something I’m very excited about. Now companies will be forced to look at engagement before follower count – something that’s been a long time coming. Accounts with 50k followers used to be shown in 50k feeds, now they are only going to be shared to followers who care about the user and the content that they’re posting.
The honest Instagrammer is being rewarded in this new Instagram update. People who have aimed at growing the best following rather than the biggest following really aren’t going to see much change at all. You’ve put in the work to target your ideal audience, and you might not have 100k followers, but the followers you do have care about you – and that’s awesome.
With that said…
Hopefully you’re not completely bummed anymore, because together – we are going to kick some Instagram algorithm update booty. Despite everything that has changed one thing will always remain the same:
Engagement is everything.
No matter what changes that Instagram makes to their algorithm, I can guarantee that engagement will always be rewarded. With the algorithm, people who engage with your posts will see your posts.
So what does that mean?
We need to get people liking and commenting on your content so they will continue to see your content. There are a lot of different ways you can go about this – I’ll share my favorite methods with you:
- Engage with other users. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You get this advice all the time. But how often do you actually act on it? I am so guilty of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, thinking nice things about the picture to myself, and not acting on those thoughts. It only takes a few seconds to leave a nice comment – and that nice comment can convert to a new follower or new engagement on your posts.
- Use hashtags. I was recently reading an Instagram post by a big name blogger when my jaw hit the floor. She recommended ditching hashtags to focus on growing your ideal audience, and that advice couldn’t be more backward. Ideally, hashtags can be used to reach your ideal audience. Her idea was that hashtags are being spammed and over-polluted with images and users that have nothing to do with that hashtag, but if you use them correctly hashtags can only benefit you.
- Avoid oversaturated hashtags. Instead of #OOTD try #OOTDWatch
- Use regional hashtags to connect with local bloggers (NYC Bloggers hit me up!)
- Create your own hashtag and encourage people to use it!
- Post regularly. If people are more likely to see your content if they engage with you, you have to give them something to engage with. Experts recommend posting 3-5 times a day, but for the non-super humans (like me!) try and aim for at least once every day.
- Engage with yourself. A method I’ve been using lately (and have seen a 40% increase in engagement with! Woot woot!) is commenting on each of my own posts twice immediately after posting. The first comment I paste all of my hashtags into (so they get hidden!) and in the second comment I tag all relevant brands. Now, I’m also tagging the brands in the picture itself, but to increase my chances of getting reposted I want them to get notified more than once. The new algorithm is going to be rewarding timeliness and how quickly posts start seeing engagement – so this trick will be even more beneficial once it’s completely rolled out.
Related Post: 6 Ways to Create a More Engaged Instagram Following
Quit the ‘get rich quick’ schemes.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Open up your Instagram right now and check a few mid-sized bloggers’ accounts. You’ll quickly see that at least a few of them will have an off-brand graphic posted and see in the caption that they’re teamed up with 34 other bloggers to give away a MacBook and Kate Spade Purse. It’s probably been liked 1000 times and their followers soared because of it.
So you might be shocked when I tell you that loop giveaways are hurting their brand and will hurt them even more if they continue to do them with the Instagram update.
- 99% of the time loop giveaways are untargeted. What this means is that they are giving away something everyone could either benefit from (or sell!). They are going to get 1000 new followers, but they’ll be lucky in 400 of them stick around and of those 400? Maybe 50 are actually in their target audience.
- Loop giveaways are OK if they are super niched. For a blog like mine I could team up with other business bloggers and give away something like a blog planner, a subscription to LeadPages, and a cute blogging-themed sweatshirt and that would be fine. It’s when you’re giving away random things with random people that you have a problem.
- Remember what we said about engagement? With the Instagram algorithm change, we can bet that engagement, in general, will be rewarded. If your like to follower ratio is terrible (have you ever seen a user with 15k followers and only 200 likes per picture?) Instagram is less likely to feature your images on the explore page or add you as a recommended user. Ouch.
- You look like you bought followers. Buying followers is sketchy and bad and I think 99% of bloggers are smart enough to not do it. Loop giveaways on the other hand? Tons of people do them and plenty of people don’t see a problem with them. Heck, when I was trying to get to 1000 followers I did two loop giveaways. Yeah, not something I’m proud of. But now I realize that they make you look like you bought followers. When people see an account with 20k followers and 150 likes per picture, the first thought that comes to mind is, ‘They bought their followers.” And when people think you bought followers your reputation in the blogging world is as good as ruined.
- On a related note – networks track your following numbers. When you jump 1k overnight they think that you bought followers, too. Some networks are even set up to be automatically pinged when a member sees suspicious growth meaning that you might be missing out on amazing brand partnerships if you host a loop giveaway because networks now think that you are sketchy and using dishonest growth methods.
Another ‘get rich quick’ scheme that is ultimately going to hurt users is the use of Instagress. If you didn’t already know about it, Instagress is an annoying program that automates awkward comments like ‘Great pic, heart eyes emoji.’ Yeah, it’s ugly. I won’t go too far in depth (as I already have a massive post on it) but I will say these two things:
- Using Instagress will ruin your feed. You want to see the pictures that your favorite users post, but instead, you’ll be stuck with seeing a bunch of random nonsense that you could care less with.
- Instagress is so 2015. Everyone was obsessed with it for a while and the early adopters saw great growth. But now? Everyone can tell when you’re using Instagress and are going to be pretty annoyed with the bland comments that you’re leaving. When you’re Instagressed you can basically guarantee that the user doesn’t actually care enough to engage with you.
Related Post: The problem with Instagress.
Make every picture perfect.
Instagram just made it super easy to flip between accounts which means it’s simpler than ever to be picky about what you post. Love a picture but it’s not on brand? Switch over to a personal account and share it there. If you’re using your Instagram account to help build you brand you need to make sure that you’re only sharing the best of the best.
That means that your pictures are clear and in focus, cohesive with one another, and something that your audience wants and expects from you. Doesn’t fit? Not a problem. Post it on your secondary account and move on.
Related Post: How to Theme Your Instagram Account.
Because Instagram is now going to be highlighting engaging photos first – before you post ask yourself, ‘Will my audience like this?‘
It might seem intuitive. But just because you love something, doesn’t mean that your audience will. Take me for example:
My Instagram is very fashion and lifestyle based and directed towards my audience over at Mostly Morgan rather than my audience here, as Instagram isn’t the greatest platform for business bloggers. I post a lot of fashion there, along with pretty lifestyle photos like cupcakes, flowers, and lattes (#basic, amirite?). Something you might not know about me is that I love cooking. With that said, I wouldn’t start sharing a ton of pictures of veggie burgers or buddha bowls because that’s not what my audience wants or expects from me. Now, that might be a bad example because I never actually take pictures of my food, but if I did I’d instead just post them to a personal account (or even create a niche Instagram for vegetarian food pictures!)
Everytime you post an off brand picture you risk your audience not engaging. One skipped picture might be no big deal in the algorithm, but to really kick butt we want your audience to like every picture of yours that they see. So give them what they want and what they followed you for.
Engage with your competition’s audience.
Really, I use the word competition loosely (community over competition, please!). Really we just want to engage with comments on pictures that other influencers in your niche share.
This was a good tactic for growth before the algorithm change, and will continue to be so after.
This is something you have to do carefully, though. Of course, we don’t want to be spammy or seem like we’re trying to steal somebody else’s thunder (because we’re totally not) but we’re just borrowing their audience for a hot second.
So how can you go about this tactfully?
Your best bet is going to a bigger influencer’s account, someone who gets at least 15 to 20 comments on each picture, and naturally engage with a comment on their latest.
For example: If someone posts a picture of their morning coffee and a scone and then geotags the location a commentor may mention that they love that cafe. If you’ve been you can say something like, ‘Me too! It’s my favorite – what do you recommend getting there? I’m looking to shake up my order!’
Another option is…
In the fashion blogging niche, a big name blogger might post a picture in an 800 dollar skirt. A commentor might mention that they have one just like it from Forever 21. You can reply to their comment with something like, “No way! When did you get it? Do you think it’ll still be in stock?”
These little comments might seem simple and like they don’t carry too much weight – but each of those engagements will add up and slowly you’ll begin creating a community. Some people will reply, some people might even follow you, but one thing that we can guarantee is that people will be seeing your name. The more you engage on other feeds, the more somebody else’s audience will see you. If people start to recognize your name? Chances are they’ll check you out. And if you post good content? Chances are they’ll follow.
But before we go any further, repeat after me:
“I will not spam other users.”
This tactic can go real bad, real quick. We want to be authentic and engaging, and if you don’t have anything to say then don’t force it. This method gets easier over time, and only really works if you’re engaging with users who post pictures that you relate to and want to engage with.
Let’s kick some 2016 Instagram Update booty.
Hopefully now you realize that this update is not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of Instagram. It’s a minor bump in the road that we are going to use to our advantage.
Plenty of bloggers are going to spend their time boycotting Instagram and drafting petitions, but you and I are going forth and getting scientific with the Instagram Update.
A tip I haven’t mentioned yet? Play around with it. Experiment. The funny thing about algorithms is that eventually they become tailored to the individual user. In other words, the things that work perfectly for me might not be the best course of action for you.
Mess around with when you’re publishing and what hashtags you are using. Try tagging different brands and accounts and engaging with them. If you are doing the same thing to every picture every day then you will hit a plateau. The best thing that you can do is to get brave and try things out at least once.
What was your original reaction to the 2016 Instagram Update? How do you feel about it now? (Better, I hope!)