It’s no secret that the Instagram algorithm drives creators more than a little bit crazy. It is ever-changing, and as a creator, it can feel impossible to keep up. How do you put your account in the best position to thrive? How do you make sure that your content is reaching your audience? Do you need more Reels? More carousel posts? Should you be posting earlier in the day? Later? It often feels like a mystery that no one seems to know how to solve, and when your Instagram engagement is down, it’s easy to become discouraged that you’re never going to get it right.
But never fear! The Instagram algorithm isn’t your enemy–it’s a tool that you just have to learn to optimize to work for you, not against you. You don’t need to quit social media, you just need to rethink your content strategy. So today, I’m here to show you how I use the Instagram algorithm to my advantage and maintain my audience of 110K Instagram subscribers.
Ready to kick off your 2023 Instagram strategy? Let’s dive in.
What to Do When Your Instagram Engagement is Down?
WHAT IS THE ALGORITHM, ANYWAY?
If you’re new to the world of content creation, you may be a little confused when you hear the term “algorithm” thrown around left and right–usually spoken of with the dread of a worst enemy. But the algorithm isn’t strange or scary–it’s just a filter.
In the simplest of terms, the Instagram algorithm is the tool that curates your feed for you. It picks up on what you enjoy and what you don’t, and works to provide the best viewing experience for you as an Instagram user.
In other words, if you start liking a bunch of puppy photos on Instagram, your algorithm is going to start suggesting–you guessed it–puppy photos. Instagram’s goal is to keep you online and engaged, so they are going to do their best to make sure that your preferred content makes its way to you.
THE ALGORITHM: CREATOR EDITION
As a creator, you find yourself on the other end of the algorithm. You aren’t worried about what you’re receiving in your feed, you’re worried about the people receiving your content. Is it making its way to users’ feeds, or is it getting swallowed in the sea of content?
The truth of the matter is, there isn’t one almighty algorithm. The Instagram algorithm is made up of many smaller algorithms–algorithms for Reels, Stories, Feed Posts, etc.–that come together to create your user experience. But don’t worry! You don’t have to learn how to master all of the individual algorithms. You just need to understand one thing: how Instagram ranks content.
Understanding how Instagram ranks its content allows you to create content that your viewers will love, and that the algorithm will be sure to send their way. The more you’re able to use Instagram’s content ranking to your advantage, the more your audience will grow, and the more opportunities that will come with that for you as a creator! Understanding Instagram content ranking is truly the key to building the platform you want with the results you crave.
Sound good? We thought so. Keep reading to learn how it works.
HOW IT WORKS:
Instagram explained (yep, this is coming direct from the source!) that there are four key factors or “signals” that come into play when determining content ranking. Those signals–in order of importance!–are:
1. The Content
2. The Source Account
3. User Activity
4. User Interaction
Okay, okay, don’t stress, we’re going to break it down for you a little further.
1. THE CONTENT
It only makes sense to start with the content itself. Instagram pays attention to how popular a post is and acts accordingly. If a post is incredibly popular and receiving a high amount of likes–think Taylor Swift announcing her next album–it’s going to be prioritized in feeds as a whole over your next door neighbor posting the eighth photo of her cat this week.
Logistical info also comes into play here as well, such as the topic of the post, what kind of a post it is, where it was posted from, when it was posting, how long of a caption or video it is, etc. Instagram also tends to prioritize recent content, so you’re more likely to be prioritized in user feeds soon after posting than you would be several days later.
2. THE SOURCE ACCOUNT
That’s right–you! This is where Instagram takes into account the relationship other people have to you. If they engage with your content frequently, Instagram’s algorithm knows that they’ll probably want to see more from you, and thus your content will rank higher in their feed. The more connections Instagram finds between you and a user–if you comment on each others’ posts, have tagged each other before, spend a lot of time on each other’s pages, etc.–the more highly you’ll be ranked.
3. USER ACTIVITY
Like we’ve said, Instagram cares about the type of content you want to see. Have you ever wondered why a certain topic keeps making its way into your feed again and again? Maybe you get slow cooker recipes on the daily, despite not owning a slow cooker, or the algorithm seems to think you’re really into hiking. There’s a way to figure out what’s going on–and to change what’s being suggested to you.
On your Instagram, go to the Menu in the upper right corner and select “Manage Interests”. This will show you all of the topics that Instagram believes you like and want to see more of. From here, you can edit them, removing topics that you’re not interested in and adding topics that you’d like to see more of.
As a creator, this isn’t something that you have much control over from your audience, but it does mean that if users are interested in Instagram accounts similar to yours, your work is more likely to make its way into their feed.
4. USER INTERACTION
Similar to Source Account: Instagram pays attention to interactions which could be a huge reason why your Instagram engagement is down. If you ever wonder why you’re getting a post in your feed, select the three dots in the upper right corner of the post and click “Why you’re seeing this post”. Instagram will give you their logic, whether it’s how many times you’ve liked a user’s content in the past or a history of liking similar content.
Okay, now you have a better idea of what you’re working with. But how do you use it to your advantage?
Read on to find out!
10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR INSTAGRAM ENGAGEMENT
If your account has been feeling dead in the water, never fear–I’ve got ten ways to pick your Instagram engagement right back up again. If your Instagram engagement is down lately, I’m here to help you turn it around.
1. Reels Reels Reels!
You’re tired of hearing it, but it’s still true–Reels are vitally important to upping your page’s engagement and growth. Instagram has stated that their goal for Reels is for users to be entertained, so engage your followers and they’ll engage right back. Reels are the most commonly sent type of post, which means you have the best chance for a far reach.
Think of ways that you can provide value through Reels, and aim for Reels that viewers will watch all the way through–maybe even more than once. Audio that loops is great for this.
2. Carousels Are Back
That’s right–while Reels are still hugely important, Instagram is also prioritizing static photos again, specifically Carousel posts. This makes sense–users are going to spend more time scrolling through a Carousel than they would looking at a single image.
Think about creating Carousels with text that your audience has to swipe all the way through to read, or promising something fun at the end of the Carousel in the caption.
3. Want Engagement? Engage!
If you want to boost your engagement, know that it starts with you. Your followers follow you because they care about you, so engaging with them in your comments and DMs is wildly important. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but even just spending a small chunk of time each day responding to DMs and comments will boost your engagement rates. Likewise, be the follower you want to have! As you scroll through your own home feed, comment on posts that stick out to you. Not only could this bring people back to your own page, it shows that you’re genuine, and that you want to celebrate and uplift others.
Whether you’re engaging with other accounts or responding to comments and DMs on your own, remember to be authentic and not spammy with it. Aim for thoughtful replies, and use 4+ words instead of just a few quick emojis.
4. Stay on Trend
Trends are trends for a reason–people want to see them. By acting fast and jumping on trends as you see them to begin to emerge, you can get at the forefront of what may become incredibly popular, and you may have a much better reach than usual. Trends are a great way to make the algorithm your friend–don’t be a hipster, get on board!
5. Be Personal
People want to know the person behind the screen. The more invested they are in you, the more likely they are to engage with your content regularly. A creator with a strong relationship with their audience is a creator whose content will skyrocket. Plus, brands will be more eager to work with you because they’ll know that your audience is ready to jump on board with your recommendations!
6. Create for Sharing
Create content that’s easily sharable–posts that make people want to act, whether that’s something funny that made them laugh that their friends NEED to see, an inspiring quote that they’re excited to repost, or tips that rock their world. By adding value to your followers’ lives, they’ll want to then add that value to the lives of their friends–and they’ll do so by passing your content along, whether that’s in a DM or by sharing it on their story.
7. Make Stories Fun!
Instagram stories are a great, informal way to get your audience engaged and on board. Ask questions, play games, host polls. Give them a reason to get involved!
It’s called social media for a reason–Instagram is all about building connections with others. By collaborating with other creators, you both expand your reach to people who might not have found your account otherwise. Instagram’s new Collaborative Post feature makes this easier than ever, and the algorithm always loves when Instagram users jump on board with new features.
9. Maintain Recognizable Branding
You want your followers to recognize you, and maintaining a feed aesthetic is a key way to make this happen and increase your reach and engagement. Not an aesthetic queen just yet? Check out some of the best aesthetic photo editing app recommendations for the easiest ideas on how to jump in and create the feed of your dreams.
10. Consistency is Key
At the end of the day, you have to keep showing up. Instagram growth isn’t always going to happen overnight. By showing up on the app regularly with content that your audience will care about, you’ll gain their trust and, over time, have consistent engagement that builds the platform you want to have.