Instagram is one of the most popular social networks right now, with over 500 million daily active users. However, it’s also the platform that makes both brands and individual users work hard for popularity and quality followers.
The fact that you can’t just post a link to your most recent blog post or site makes it more difficult to run a campaign. The fact that Instagram is a visual content platform (images and videos), makes brands and companies invest real effort and thought into what they create.
This is especially true starting with 2016 when Instagram developers introduced a new ranking algorithm that ditched the reverse chronological feed approach.
Factors the Matter for Ranking in the Instagram Feed
Nowadays, each user’s feed is personalized based on personal preferences and behaviour. The new algorithm uses machine learning to study how users interact with their feed. As a result, even if two users were to follow the exact same accounts, they’d still get different feeds!
According to Instagram representatives, here are the main factors that matter for ranking high on the platform:
- Interest – Here is where machine learning kicks in, as the algorithm analyses users’ past behaviour on similar content and predicts if what you shared will be of interest to them and to what degree.
- Timeliness – More recent posts have priority over old ones. Also, a user will first see the posts that were created in the time frame from the last time they logged in and the present moment.
- Relationship – If Instagram establishes there’s a strong connection between two accounts, it will be more likely to display each other’s content on their feed. In plain words, if people interact with your posts through comments, likes, tags, and so on, there’s a good chance they’ll see your content even more.
Of course, there are other factors that shape a users’ feed, such as how often he/she uses the app, the number of accounts they follow, and the amount of time spent scrolling. All these influences the way each feed is shaped, so it’s difficult to put together a fail-proof recipe for success. All we know for sure is that Instagram doesn’t want to make it a popularity contest (according to one of their spokesmen).
While the new algorithm may sound confusing at first, at a closer look you’ll see that it’s actually advantageous for brands and individuals committed to creating high-quality content. Moreover, according to a study performed by Instagram, with the reverse chronological approach users missed 70% of the posts that would show up on their feed!
Now, they get to see about 90% of their friend’s posts, which is a huge improvement.
Why Should You Care About Stories?
If you haven’t tried it yet, you’ve been missing out!
The Stories section was first introduced in 2016 (after the new algorithm) and continues to receive updates and functionalities as people seem to love it!
Stories came as a response to Snapchat and offer users the possibility to play with images and videos that are different than the regular posts.
First, a story will disappear after 24 hours since it was posted (unless saved), which is why the stories a user gets to see are fresh and up to date. Also, content creators can enhance their stories with stickers, text, drawings, emoticons, and all sorts of cool stuff.
The initial purpose of this feature was to allow people to share their story of the day with friends and family without creating any additional posts in the feed. Still, when brands and celebrities discovered it, the section became the perfect way to share with fans and customers without bombarding them with images and promotional materials.
Nowadays, ranking high in your followers’ Stories feed is the place to be as it will keep your brand in front of possible customers or partners. If your story pops up every time someone opens the app, it’s a clear sign they enjoy your content and are excited about hearing from you.
How to Rank Higher on Stories Feed
Create High-Quality Content
There is no way around this!
If your content is relatable and followers find it interesting and entertaining, they will create engagement, which in time leads to a higher ranking.
The factor that seems to matter the most to the machine learning algorithm is interest. Interest is translated in the interest shown by users for the content you create through comments, likes, shares, and watching your stories.
Of course, high-quality content doesn’t come by easily, but here are some ideas that may jump-start your inspiration:
- Images with more depth of field or the ones with a dominant colour (blue for instance) are more likely to be remarked and liked.
- Be bold in the elements you use in your stories – since these elements are overlaid on images or videos, it’s best to make them as easy to see as possible. For this, use bold fonts and keep things simple. Also, a good idea is to drive engagement with polls and questions.
It’s also about the way you interact with the followers that show interest. Do you reply to their comments? Do you like and share their posts as well? Is there a relationship between the two accounts?
Moreover, if you find a story you like and consider relevant, do you share it or send an appreciative message to the creator?
Social media, in general, is all about building relationships with your followers and your competitors. So, be fair and appreciate the content that makes your heart beat a little faster; after all, you know the effort behind a high-quality post or story!
Live Streaming Can Be A Good Idea
Live streaming is mostly something we tend to see from celebrities’ accounts or personal brands from sections like travelling, cooking, healthy lifestyle, and more.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to try it as a company brand from time to time!
Right now, Instagram tries to get users accustomed to the idea of live videos or videos in long format (the new IGTV feature), and you can use this to your advantage. For instance, every time you’re live, followers will be notified through a message at the top of the app and your story will be catapulted to the top of the feed.
Know the Difference Between Stories and Regular Posts
One big mistake is to think about stories as you would about regular posts. This section is intended to let your followers see the human side of your brand or the less polished version of yourself.
Let’s take the Instagram account of a movie celebrity as an example. On their feed, you’ll usually find images from movie premieres, conferences, and other events where they look on point and extremely presentable.
Well, on their Stories feed, they have the chance to show that they’re regular people by sharing a glimpse of their life at home, at the gym, or on set. They’re no longer wearing professional makeup and their clothes may not be as styled, but their followers are going to love them even more for this.
The same goes for a brand or a company. Footage from behind the scene of a highly-polished campaign, images with the employees sharing a meal, or anything else that lets the user see that you’re working hard to create the best possible product or service.
Make use of Hashtags and Geotags
Both features are amazing in gaining new followers by allowing them to discover your account. Geotags are great for local campaigns while hashtags work at a global level, but you need to use them wisely.
There are lots of reasons why Instagram is the platform to be right now, but the one that stands out is the engaging and interesting content that’s keeping the community alive. Sadly, there are still people out there who don’t quite grasp how the platform could be good for their business.
Truth be told, the platform is not for everyone, but if you do want to try it, be prepared to work hard for your goals. However, we’re sure you’re going to have a lot of fun while doing so!
About the author: Callum Mundine is the head of marketing at Warble Media. They are a boutique website design and digital marketing agency based in Dubbo, NSW, Australia.