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Understanding Instagram’s Algorithm for your Owned Media Strategy

Julia Cohen

Instagram is the fastest-growing social platform today. With the majority of users ranging between the ages of 18-24. In 2018, Instagram had 1 billion active accounts.

Brands are heavily invested in the social platform to reach a bigger audience and engage directly with clients and potential customers. With the vast traffic jamming Instagram, 200 million visitors view at least one business profile each day. More than 90 million pictures, videos, and live stories are shared daily, with the content being viewed by billions of Instagram users across the globe.

However, before you look at these numbers critically in order to inform your strategy you need to understand the Instagram algorithm. How do you get Instagram users attracted to your brand, how do you gain organic reach, be seen, be heard, and ultimately convert engagement into sales?

How to use the Instagram Algorithm to Propel Your Owned Media Strategy

How does the Instagram algorithm work?

In a nutshell, algorithms observe users’ actions and then apply this information to come up with accurate guesses on what these individuals would like to see on their pages in the future. If you, the brand owner, post relevant and engaging content that’s catchy to those users, then your posts will regularly appear on the explore pages of thousands of other Instagram users who the social media platform know would enjoy your content.

The goal here is to create quality content that wows your audience consistently. Post deliberate and thoughtful content that focuses on grabbing your audience’s attention. Engage with your followers regularly to understand what they would like to see on your branded page.

 

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1/9 Gucci announces MX, a curated selection across categories and collections designed by @alessandro_michele that defy traditional stereotypes, celebrating liberty and self-expression. MX is celebrated by artist @melekzertal in a specially commissioned comic strip ahead of the September launch of Issue 4 of @frankenstein_magazine—the Milan-based publication art directed the work. In this first illustration, the professor is quoted saying “Gender identity is not something static, instead it is dynamic and it is constituted by our daily behaviour and self-expression”. The professor wears a look from MX of a coat, denim pants and #GucciEyewear. MX is born from the 5-year creative vision of #AlessandroMichele’s collections which take shape in gender fluidity and freedom to express who you are. Discover MX, available exclusively on Gucci.com through link in bio.

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There are several ways to utilize a strategy to promote content on Instagram, and Instagram’s algorithm changes are unpredictable and inevitable since users are always looking for something new. You need to put in extra effort to acquire new followers every day, build relationships with other brands, and boost your Instagram brand recognition to increase your customer base and ultimately grow your sales organically.

Let’s get into the specifics of the Instagram algorithm and how using the right strategy will get you more followers and potential clients.

The Newsfeed

Instagram monitors what you like and engage with every time you log in. This means that it keeps tabs of users’ activities and creates an algorithm to predict what you may want to see based on your past likes and clicks. So next time you log in, Instagram predicts what you might like and presents these images/stories or videos on your newsfeed.

The Instagram algorithm determines users’ future content based on their past experiences. With this knowledge, you need a steady supply of content to attract users to your newsfeed and encourage more clicks and views for the algorithm to select your content for your followers automatically. It all starts with engaging the followers you already have, in order to reach more of your target audience – because, if your current followers engage with your posts, it’s more likely your content will become suggested on hashtag searches or explore pages. This means, you need to create truly engaging, unique, and shareworthy content that really reflects your brand – get creative and make sure your owned content actually adds-value to your users so that they are consistently wowed.

Engagement 

Instagram watches user engagement on all newsfeeds with activities like comments, tags, shares, and likes. If you have regular followers that often like your content, share, or comment on it, the social platform picks these activities and places them in the “important” category. Each time your top followers log in, they will always see your content and engage with it.

If you are a fashion brand and post content in the fashion niche, you likely want your content and brand to be pushed towards users who are interested in fashion and are likely to convert. Engagement is one way to do this as if a lot of your fashion-related content is highly engaged with, Instagram will consider you a ‘topical authority’ or expert in the field of fashion, and will, therefore, push your content towards accounts that are interested in this topic. Think about your consumer profiles, and what they would like to see on their feeds, and try and replicate this in your content planning and creative strategy.

Other Instagram tips include regular engagement with your followers; acknowledge them by replying to comments, DMs, and inquiries if you want more sales on Instagram.

So, hacking the Instagram algorithm for your brand should be a priority. Reply to comments on time, and have meaningful chats with your followers. Show them you’re available and that you care.

Hashtags and Facebook’s Machine Learning Algorithm

Hashtags are Instagram’s equivalent of the folders on your laptop. The platform uses hashtags to sort content so that when someone searches for something they are easily able to find what they are looking for. Instagram uses Facebook’s Machine Learning Algorithm, which includes image-recognition software, which informs the algorithm of the content in specific photos. Flick.tech shared that “Hashtags can actually help computer vision systems like Facebook’s image recognition software learn even more – through specific classification.” This means if you use descriptive hashtags that really reflect the type of content you post, Instagram’s algorithm will favor this, and push it to the top of people’s feeds or to the top posts section of a hashtag, meaning your content is more likely to be seen.

New releases

From Instagram Reels to Livestreaming to IGTV and even Stories, Instagram is constantly releasing new features and ways for users to interact on their platform. They do this for a reason, and if you take advantage of their new formats, the algorithm will favor your content, as it will register that you are utilizing their new releases. For example, when IGTV launched, users saw an upsurge in the engagement that they gained on video content (as much as increases of 70%), so diversifying your feed and trying out new ideas whether that be through a quick, engaging video on Reels or a long-form interview with a celebrity ambassador on IGTV. Provide your users with as many different types of content that you can, and signify to Instagram that you are taking advantage of their full range of features.

 

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A soft, winged eye with a glossy lip 👄 feat. @officialsheiks + @cocobaudelle

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Timing

Instagram works on real-time engagement because the platform has millions of visitors every waking minute, so timing is everything. If you have a business profile, it’s easy to monitor the analytics to factor the timing that works best for you.

By studying Instagram’s Analytics, you will get to know your followers’ geographical locations and the sequential number of likes, views, and engagement with your posted content. Once you understand these logistics, you can strategically post your products or services when most of your followers are online.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to the algorithm and your Owned Media strategy for Instagram is that engagement is everything. How well users respond to your content really determines who else gets to see it, so you need to put yourself in their shoes, and predict what your followers want to see before you post.

instagram algorithm strategy

Julia Cohen

Julia is a fashion writer and content creator based in London. She studied an MSc in Media and Communications at LSE, as well as Mandarin, Chinese, and has worked with various fashion and beauty brands within the UK.

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