Is Instagram on its way to the graveyard of formerly effective marketing platforms?
If you do any kind of social media marketing, you’re probably aware that Instagram’s feed structure switched from chronological to algorithmic last year. This didn’t just affect the order that posts appear in but whether they even appear at all.
Many business owners who had been relying heavily on Instagram for their sales and marketing efforts freaked out after watching their average number of post likes drop from, say, 600 to 120 or less after the algorithm went into place. Instagram marketers have frantically been trying to “crack the code” ever since. I’ve even heard word on the street say that the Instagram algorithm is frequently being changed so that it can’t be “cracked”, but I think that may be an urban legend.
As someone who does a heavy amount of Instagram marketing, I say this: Even with the implementation of the almighty, mysterious algorithm gods, Instagram can still be a wonderful tool for marketing your business, BUT you need to know what you’re doing.
1) You may not really be able to “get around” the algorithm
Despite the inconsistency of the theories floating around, you should experiment and take note of what factors seem to make your reach better and which make it worse. For example, I’ve noticed that if I post something that gets a lot of traction (maybe a really nice photograph that followers can’t help but double tap, a meme that followers tag their friends in, a really meaningful and aesthetic quote graphic that people want to comment on), then the next post I publish also seems to have higher than usual traction.
A post that gets a lot of likes relative to its number of impressions will get a boost in exposure and more followers will start to see it. If it’s doing very well, it will even appear in the explore page of users who follow accounts that Instagram determines are similar to yours. If a post gets exceptionally high traction, then the next item you post will also have a higher-than-usual number of likes due to more exposure in your timeline (kind of like a reward from the man behind the Instagram curtain for posting quality content). That is… as long as you aren’t spam posting a bunch of posts back to back OR waiting too long in between. There seems to be a sweet spot on post frequency. I haven’t quite figured that out yet, though I seem to get best results posting once early in the morning and once late at night. If you have some insight on this, please share it in the comments.
2) Another topic to consider is how you are using Instagram for marketing.
For example, Instagram is great for bringing awareness to your lead magnet (a free eBook, checklist or guide, etc.) If your followers see that you have great Instagram content, they will be interested in learning more from you and when they see that you offer a valuable freebie, they’ll be happy to download it. People want to learn more from people that have proved to them that they have valuable information to share and will be happy to give you their email addresses even though they’re likely aware that they’re entering into a sales funnel of some sort.
I’ve personally found many great teachers and products via Instagram in this way. I’ve also had great success building my email list through the eBook I’ve been offering on IG. Instagram is also useful for driving followers to an item that is on special in your online store through a direct link provided they already have some kind of bond with your brand (hopefully you’ve been cultivating this bond through your IG profile over time).
Once you gain a decently sized following, Instagram is a great tool to communicate with your audience / market / readers / followers. I often take polls and ask questions through my IG posts and get some fantastic responses from followers that I can learn from. Not only is it nice to communicate with your followers, but interaction also helps increase your reach - especially responding to comments! Comments have more of an effect on your post ranking than likes, so encourage interaction in that comment section (both on your posts and on your followers' posts). If you’ve been actively interacting with users throughout the day, you will have better exposure in your followers’ feeds.
These tips are all based on my experience. In an effort not to exalt my own theories above the pool of those which didn’t hold water for me, I encourage you to test them out yourself and have your own experience.
What reasons do you like using Instagram for marketing? What are some factors you’ve noticed seem to affect your reach, for better or worse, since the algorithm was implemented? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.