Much t’do was made back when Instagram decided to go to an algorithmic feed, rather than a chronological one.
Remember – all those posts begging you to turn on post notifications for their feed so that they wouldn’t disappear forever into the insta-abyss 😱 Raise your hand if you posted that – come on, no one can actually see your hand raised…. And judge you.
I’m just kinda judging you. I know who you are. Yeah, so I did not post that. 😳
Here’s why – I love the engagement algorithm. Loved it when FB went to it and love it even more now that Insta does it too. Don’t be shy – you might just feel the same way, but probably feel SHAME and in the minority since everyone else is decrying how horrible it is.
Now – for a mediocre IG’er like myself, I’ve loved it. Because I actually ENGAGE in other accounts. Sure, if you’re lazy and don’t care to invest in other momtogs, then yes, you’ll hate it. You don’t engage. So, no one engages with you, so you fall off the feed. But I truly, genuinely, love watching your kids grow up. I love seeing how you stretch and improve as a photographer. So, I like. I comment. I want to. I enjoy it.
If you don’t, Insta might not be your jam.
For me – it’s been great. I engage with the people I enjoy, whose work inspires me. Some of them like/comment back, either because they like my stuff too, or maybe they’re just being nice and following the Law of Reciprocity. (You know – that principle that says that if someone consistently engages with your content on IG that you feel a compelling nudge to engage with theirs too.)
This attitude, I believe, has helped me on Instagram. I don’t have a humungous following, but my followers do increase steadily every day. I started posting regularly to Instagram in January 2016 when I began my 365 Project. In about February, I started realizing this whole “hub thing.” Then I figured out the whole “hashtag” thing. I went from maybe followers in the 100’s, to over 1000 – not quickly by any means – no. But consistently. A few here and there, every day.
What IS the Instagram Algorithm?
Well, if you’re new to Insta but have been on FB – it’s the same thing. Move on.
If you’re new to all of this or just curious if there’s any specifics, here’s what we know…
- It IS based on timing – most recent posts DO get shown in your feed. You will not see a post from 4 days ago.
- Engagement: The name of the game. How many likes and comments has your post generated? And more specifically, how much engagement occurred within the first hour? The first two hours? This is vital! This is why you don’t add time-sensitive hashtags the next day. Timing is everything.
- Previous interactions with the user. If it’s a user that you’ve engaged with in the past, Instagram thinks you might want to see their new posts too.
Here’s the thing – maybe there’s someone that you HAVE to follow. (Think: Mother-in-Law) If you unfollow them, it’d cause drama. But that doesn’t mean you have to see their posts. Just don’t like or comment on their posts when you see them. Soon, you just won’t see them anymore, voila!
If there’s a IG’er that you love and want to see more of – well, then, like and comment away! You’ll see more of their posts in the future. You’re telling IG that you want to see more posts like theirs in the future.
So, you want to beat the Instagram Algorithm, do ya?
Here are 10 different ways to try to increase engagement and make that little math equation work in your favor…
I’m sharing with you 8 “White Hat” ways, a “Black Hat*” and a “Grey Fedora.” What does that mean? White Hat means legit, above-board, ethical. Black Hat – probably shouldn’t do this. Grey – it’s a bit of a hack, you’re kinda tricking the algorithm, but it’s a widely accepted practice that no one would get mad at ya for.
1. Give them a reason to come back.
I’m going sub-bullets here. Serious stuff.
- ASK A QUESTION. Others call this a CTA – or a Call to Action. This works really well IF it’s a great question! If you’re asking a dull question, you might get crickets. Edit that caption and learn a lesson. Y’all….Stephanie Bryan does this better than ANYONE I know!! Check these out:
2. Provide a Before/After (if you’re an editing wiz) in your Stories. People love that!
3. Use your Insta-Story to show a quick snippet of an editing trick you used in this particular post.
Here’s what I know about momtogs on Instagram – they LOVE editing tips, shooting tips, before/afters. Do more of this.
People will remember you and want to visit your account. They’ll engage with your posts. “All good things. All good things.” (*Olaf)
4. Your “Link in profile” is actually compelling enough to click.
Again, Stephanie Bryan delivers – I actually want to click this:
One quick thing about your Link in Profile. Your latest family sesh probably won’t stir the masses to want to click. But it’s it’s something interesting, controversial…something you’ve learned or are going through regarding motherhood, photography, business…something like that – something provocative – that gets clicks. Tease it in your caption, and then tell your followers “to read more, click the link in profile.” For the love of all things, do not #linkinprofile – that is just highly wasteful. Who searches that? Who features that? #SRSLY
2. Use Trending Hashtags
Oh dear, here I go, biting off more than I can chew, but to nutshell this for you guys…. Insta took away the trending hashtags in the Discovery/Explore section. I was bummed about this. But only for a minute. That minute where I forgot that every single benign tag from #NationalSpaghettiDay to #ILoveMyBeagle got overrun with bare butts and boobs. Thank you, Instagram. Thank you.
So – since they robbed us of the ability to see trending hashtags, what’s a IG’er to do?
Well, there are work-arounds. First, you could use HubHack (holla!) and I’ll help you with this 😉
You could look up and use a tool like National Day Calendar, where you’ll see all the obscure holidays you’ve been missing out on. Need to celebrate today? Never fear, National Day Calendar is here! Photograph yourself celebrating, tag it, and voila! People are probably searching that trending tag.
There are apps – such as ritetag.com or hashtaggify.me that you can use. I’ve looked at these, they’re ok. Know of a better one? Let me know. But if I even bother with this, I go with the easiest for me, which is easy old twitter.com. On the left side of you home screen (and this is also available on the phone app – I do not use twitter, so I don’t have the phone app, but here’s a screenshot of my laptop…)
Along those same lines, think about searching (in Instagram’s search feature) under Tags, for: Holidays (sometimes the most little-known are the most intriguing), seasons, popular films, weather, days of the week, and so on.
Lastly on tags, when you search a hashtag that you like or use, or you’re considering using, Instagram will show you Related Hashtags. You just might discover a tag you weren’t aware of.
See that list across the top? Don’t forget to swipe to the left to see the rest (not in this post, silly – while on Insta!)
3. Use Video
Yup – either in your main feed but especially in your insta-story. I want to go ahead and plug Xanthe Berkeley’s video courses – she’s amazing. I have taken her class and I highly recommend it. (Currently this is NOT a affiliate link, but perhaps I should ask her…)
It’s no shock to you that both Facebook and it’s minion Instagram have fully embraced video and prioritize it whenever possible. Jump on that train.
Here’s a list I hope to grow (Ok, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t remember and find the others, but I’ll add them here)
As mentioned above, @xantheb
There’s also a circle of clickinmoms, I think, that post one video a month. I thought Anna of @seldabelda did videos, but in searching her feed, I didn’t find any…Huh. Know anyone crushing video? Comment below and tell me!
4. Show yo selfie
It’s true. *Good* self portraits do get a ton more engagement. I’ve experienced this first hand, and I think I’ve only posted like 2 pictures of myself. Ever. They get the best engagement.
Now, I’m not talking about the cheesy, cell phone selfie that everyone does. But if you can figure out a way to do this creatively, all the better.
The next few I’ll share with you aren’t all that revolutionary. But worth mentioning here in case you haven’t considered them. But wait – the last two are interesting and the last one, you won’t want to miss!
5. Post consistently.
Given that the algorithm measures past interactions with users, if you post 1-3 times per day, you’ll maximize the number of people you’ll reach and have the opportunity to engage with. I certainly see more engagement when I post consistently than when I take several days off (as I’ve done a lot recently!)
6. Engage with others.
So, this is definitely the route I’ve taken and I believe is huge. There aren’t any short cuts. If you don’t enjoy this, Instagram is probably not the best place for you. If you engage consistently with other people, they’ll most likely reciprocate and engage with you. If they don’t, no big deal. But more often than not, they will.
7. Share at peak times.
So, probably not at 3am because your kid’s sick and you’re up anyway and you got some editing done. Yeah, don’t do that. I’ve been checking my analytics and my engagement is pretty consistent between 9am-9pm. It’s not too bad after 6am, but I do try to post between 9am-9pm. If you’re in the states and you post at 3am because you happen to be awake, most of your audience will not be awake, you’ll not have great initial engagement and once people start waking up, Insta won’t show your post to a lot of people, assuming it’s not that great, because it’s initial engagement wasn’t too hot. So – resist that urge to post.
8. Turn on notifications for accounts that you definitely want engagement with.
The more you engage with someone’s account, the more they’ll notice you and potentially engage with yours. And, given the engagement, Instagram will pick up on the fact that you enjoy this user’s photos and will be sure to push more of them to you. That works for me. I engage with posts I enjoy. I pass over posts I don’t. Instagram gives me more of what I like. Sounds good.
How to Turn on Post Notifications?
To be notified when your favorite account posts? Click on any post by that account OR their main gallery screen. Tap the the “…” better known as “three little dots” or points of ellipses in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Here, you’ll have several options, such as: Block User, Report, Hide Your Story (if this is someone who you don’t want to see your stories, if those are more personal), Copy Profile URL, Share this Profile, Send Message, and Turn On Post Notifications.
In order for this to work, you’ll need to go under your Instagram app settings on your phone. From your main phone home screen (not Instagram) tap on Settings (on and iPhone, this looks like a grey gear icon), then scroll down until you see Instagram. Then tap Notifications, and move the switch to turn them on.
(Why I turned this off: It kills your phone battery. Use notifications sparingly. Unless you have an endless supply of phone batteries. I used to have notifications on for a bunch of things. But even all night long, as I slept, my phone screen kept popping on to notify me that people had posted, and my battery just got crushed! Now, even if they’re set to OFF, you’ll still get notifications while you’re using Instagram. You can also turn them on while you’re actively on your phone anyway. But otherwise, I’d probably be sure to turn them off.)
9. BlackHat: Hack the ‘rithm like a teenager. By using poor Kendall Jenner.
Ok, so I read this article and have heard about this all over – the Kendall Effect. And I tried it, somewhat for fun, but mostly for experimenting if it actually “worked.” Yeah, it sorta does. But it’s not great. I won’t recreate the wheel and regurgitate what the article so perfectly explains. But I can tell you, I engaged and received only about 20% of the engagement back. I was not willing to leave a comment myself, but commented on others with the hopes of reciprocation. The next time I post, I’ll try to remember to screen record what I do, so y’all can watch it unfold in real time. It’s kinda funny, actually. But do I recommend this? Nah. If you want a more of a hack to beat the algorithm, I bring you Number 10.
10. Gray Hat: Engagement Groups – Create a Community Engagement Agreement
Why do I say, Gray Hat? Well, because it’s not 100% above board, but close. It’s not ridiculous like putting comment codes on some poor girl’s instagram feed. But it does require a bit of management and it’s not at all 100% honest.
However, I do strive to create engagement groups with HubHack members for people you would genuinely engage with anyway. We just systemitize it and put rules in place to ensure that everyone is treated fairly.
That’s right – with your HubHack monthly membership, you can join an engagement group.
I’ve participated in an engagement group for several months now and I actually have enjoyed it so much. I feel like I’ve learned a ton from our members and definitely saw the benefits of rapid and early engagement. And I really like our members – I enjoy their posts and genuinely interact with them.
For a full post on engagement groups – including How to Start and Engagement Group and what exactly to expect when participating in one, check out the blog post.
Well, that’s it – 10 ways to beat the Insta-lgorithm.
What do you think? Any tips you care to share? Want to join an Engagement Group? Send me a message. You’ll need to subscribe to HubHack and then we’ll get you connected into a group.
Don’t forget – check out my article on Instagram Pods / Engagement Groups including how to start one, rules and best practices, etc.
I’m a family photographer in Gwinnett County, Georgia.