Hero pattern
May 17 2016

It’s coming: The new Instagram algorithm

  • Deloitte Digital
Instagram recently announced it will roll out a new algorithm. How will it work? And what does that mean for your social media strategy?

The gist

Instagram recently announced it will roll out a new algorithm that will show you images based on what Instagram thinks you’ll find most interesting. Meaning, you can say goodbye to the chronological newsfeed order we’ve all come to know and love.

How will it work?

Instagram’s new algorithm will show posts based on a user’s activity (whose posts you engage with most) and the number of social engagements a post receives (likes or comments). Basically, the more popular your posts are, the more likely they will be shown in your followers’ feeds.

Is this good news or bad news?

While it’s not surprising Instagram is rolling out an algorithm much like its parent company Facebook, it’s hard to say how this will play out for users on Instagram. Unlike Facebook, Instagram does not separate pages for individuals and brands – a profile is simply a profile. In theory, this means it should be an equal playing field whether you’re a business or a person. (Read: Instagram won’t immediately be asking for money from brands to get more exposure.)

But, at the end of the day, Instagram is a business and they need to bring home the bacon, too. Brands should be prepared to open up their wallets as the Instagram algorithm rolls out.

When is this happening?

Unclear. Instagram says it’s still in the testing process, so it could be weeks or months.

Should I be freaking out or what?

Fear not! We still have time before the new algorithm kicks in, so take full advantage of the chronological newsfeed while you still can. Now’s the time to get the extra boost of engagement you need to stay ahead of the game. Here are a few ideas:

1. Content really is everything. You are at the mercy of your content, so you might as well put in the extra effort to make it something worth engaging with. Focus on creating strikingly beautiful pictures, hop into an industry topic and post a relevant meme or quote, take your followers behind-the-scenes to give them that special level of exclusivity.

No matter what, before you post ask yourself: is this something that would make me want to like or comment? If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

2. Start a dialogue. Instagram is a two-way road. I repeat, Instagram is a two-way road. If your followers take the time to leave you a comment, give them some love back with a response. Even it’s just a simple “thank you.” People want to be acknowledged and your comment section is the perfect place to strike that balance.

3. Hashtags. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, hashtags will not be going anywhere despite the new algorithm. Hashtags are an easy way to give your post a little extra visibility and seamlessly join a conversation people are already engaged in. Think: #throwbackthursday, #womancrushwednesday, #shoesdaytuesday, or something more relevant to your brand. If you’re hosting a campaign or contest, make sure to champion it with a unique hashtag.

Don’t want to clog your witty caption with a bunch of hashtags? Understandable. Instead, leave a comment on your photo with your waterfall of hashtags. Pro-tip: write it first in Notes (iOS) or a similar app, and enter down a few spaces using the period symbol. Then, copy and paste into your comments section. Voila!

4. Ask your followers to do something. Your Instagram caption is just as important as the ‘gram itself. Captions that include a call-to-action, such as “tag a friend,” “double tap if you agree,” and “leave a comment” are more likely to encourage a viewer to engage. Turns out, it’s not just trolls who want to leave their opinions on social. Just ask your audience!

5. Buddy up and regram. Do you follow someone you admire on Instagram? Chances are yes. Show them some love and regram one of their posts. Giving them some extra limelight in front of your followers may encourage them to return the favor to you, thus exposing you to a new audience and potential new followers.

6. Trial and error. A very scientific method, trial and error is often the best way to see what works and what doesn’t. Try mixing up your posting times to see when your followers are more likely to be online. Play with different captions (try emojis) to add some new flare and see how users react. A little trial and error goes a long way in shaping your marketing strategy.

7. Break open the wallet. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Although Instagram currently doesn’t offer the ability to boost a post (only sponsored ads are available) it’s likely that Instagram will mimic a Facebook paid media approach and allow users to boost an individual post.

Are you excited about the new Instagram algorithm? Leave a comment or tweet me your thoughts!

Laura Anderson is a senior community manager at the Deloitte Digital studio, Deloitte Consulting LLP in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. She recently graduated with a Master of Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington. Follow her on Twitter at @laanderson.