How To Ensure Instagram Works in Your Favour


More often than not, when discussing how Instagram works, you tend to hear about ‘the algorithm’ and you’d be right to. There are multiple algorithms working away in the background though so even though it’s considered ‘one’, it’s made up of hundreds of thousands of variables that all work together to determine who sees your content and what you see too.

When there are significant changes made, these affect everyone who uses the platform with no exceptions. The biggest change to date occurred when Instagram removed the reverse-chronological feed in 2016 and since then there has been continual rumours about how it all works so we thought we’d give a few pointers to ensure your Instagram marketing strategy is working in your favour. Here, we’ve gathered the most up-to-date information for you:

Timing Matters

First and foremost, Instagram will probably never go back to being reverse-chronological. Having said that, it does prioritise ‘timeliness’. This Summer, Instagram invited press to their HQ in San Francisco, where their team explained how it works using ‘ranking signals’ to decide how to arrange each individual user’s feed. Here are the top three:

  • Real Relationships

You’ll probably notice you see your favourite people and brands more so than others. Instagram’s algorithm prioritises content from accounts that users interact with a lot. If you often leave comments on your posts, or if they have notifications enabled for your account, or you DM each other, or you tag each other in your posts, then the algorithm recognises that the two of you are ‘close’.

According to Instagram, this method allows users to see 90% of posts from their friends and family. Before the shift, Instagram estimated that people missed 50% of those important posts, and 70% of their feed overall.

  • Interests are Noted

The algorithm is also clever enough to predict which posts are important to users based on their previous behaviour. Image recognition technology is used here too in order to assess the content of a photo. Like plants? You’ll probably be seeing a few of them!

  • Understanding Your Audience

For brands, the recency ranking signal means that paying attention to your audience’s behaviour, and posting when they’re online, is key. This is their way of encouraging you to set up as a business and use the Insights functionality more.

Our top tips to make Instagram work in your favour

1. Post more often

If you’re wanting to gain more brand exposure and increase enquiries/sales through Instagram and have the capacity to increase quality and quantity over both your feed and stories, then go for it.

Once upon a time it was deemed risky to post more than once a day for being seen as that brand. But since the algorithm now automatically breaks up multiple photos to diversify what content people are served, your audience may not even consciously register the increase. And if you’re posting great content on a regular basis, they’ll probably like it too. Win win!

Using an Instagram scheduling tool also makes life much easier to plan out your content in advance. We recommend using Hopper HQ.

2. Post when your audience is looking

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again but reverse-chronological isn’t coming back however, because the Instagram prefers showcasing recent posts, brands need to pay attention to when their audiences are online through analytics. If the majority of them are in another hemisphere, don’t post when they’re fast asleep! You can use the free Insights tool on Instagram but again, we prefer more advanced analytics that we gather for clients through Hopper.

3. Post video content

Instagram doesn’t prioritise video unless your audience prioritises video. So for example if you’re someone who never pauses to watch videos, you will see far fewer of them on your feed than someone who does. It’s worth starting to though as video consumption on the gram increased by a staggering 80% over 2018.

Posting videos, whether they are Live, on IGTV or as a Story, will also naturally increase the time your audience spends on your account, which can in turn lead to increased engagement.

4. Be social

Write compelling captions, chat with people in the comments, ask questions. Like other people’s posts, comment on them. You need to put the time in to do so on a daily basis. We recommend spending at least 30 minutes. Instagram will promote your posts to users who have a relationship with you already. So build those relationships up authentically.

5. Competition Time

It’s an oldie but a goodie! One of the fastest and most legitimate ways to give your engagement a nice boost is to run a competition looping in other brands in true alignment with yours. A simple giveaway that features your flagship product or service may well cement you in your audience’s good graces, grow your followers, and lift your engagement to the point where Instagram can’t help but take notice as to what you’re doing.

6. Use clever hashtags

Hashtag misuse is the fastest ticket to making your brand look desperate, salesy and no one wants that. Use niche tags without over a million uses, and also use them genuinely clarify what you’re actually posting about.

Remember the purpose of a hashtag is to make your post accessible to people who may not necessarily follow you, but who have an interest in what you have to say. We like to keep our posts as tidy as possible with a caption only and run them in the comment below. After a week or two, you can then delete them altogether if you wish as Instagram won’t be serving the content anymore. People will only engage when they land on your page and have a scroll.

7. Encourage people to turn on notifications

We don’t mean every two minutes, but if you’re delivering great blog content regularly or have interesting content going up on your IGTV then done the right way, this can also really help Instagram to recognise your brand’s importance to your community. When people have notifications turned on they will also be significantly more likely to see more content from you overall.

8. Make your posts look the part

There’s one unwritten rule on Instagram and that’s to not post bad photos. From the very get go, the powers that be have said time and time again that the only way to lift your content’s feed ranking is to produce great content.

If your engagement is going down, perhaps look at getting a photographer to help out. Or learn how to edit yourself. There are a plethora of free apps available now to do this. Again, using a scheduling tool allows you to take a step back and look at your feed as a whole. How does all your content sit together? The best feeds have a complimentary variety of subjects and compositions that are evenly spaced out.

A final note: Instagram’s primary goal is to maximise the time users spend on the platform. Because the longer you stay scrolling in the app, the more ads you will see. Therefore, accounts that help Instagram ultimately achieve that goal of keeping people engaged, are rewarded.