While the average engagement rate on Instagram seems to go down for most of us, more and more 'how to increase your engagement rate' - lists pop up all over the internet. All of us seemingly confused and looking for tips, tricks, and hacks on how to beat the Instagram algorithm.
But how to beat the algorithm without actually understanding it? In this blog, we hope to bring some clarity to our engagement questions. We explain what the engagement rate is, why it matters, and how the algorithm impacts how our Instagram posts perform. We believe that only with the right knowledge, we can actually work on increasing our engagement rate.
The engagement rate is the number of likes and comments on a post, divided by the number of followers and account has. So think, for instance, that you have 1000 followers. Your posts receive around 100 likes and comments per post. In that case, your engagement rate is 10%.
Most Instagram users seem to be very much focused on the number or followers of an account, while the engagement rate is actually way more important. More important, but harder to improve. There are many ways to gain many followers quickly , but gaining real and engaged followers that like to interact with your content is a lot harder. And as a brand, those kind of followers are the ones you want.
Gaining engagement can be challenging. Many Instagram managers create beautiful content, use 30 hashtags for each post, have some following, but still, only a few people get their posts posted. Why? Because the algorithm 'decided' that other posts were more relevant to people to see.
So what exactly is the algorithm? To be very short, it is a calculation made by Instagram that gets to see your posts on their feed. So instead of showing images from people you follow in chronological order, they are now shown by relevance.
The algorithm changes regularly. Sometimes changes are small. Did you notice that the commitment for most posts went down a few months ago? This could have been a change in Instagram's algorithm. What exactly changed is unclear, but many people have noticed it.
Sometimes, however, changes are bigger. In June 2018, for Instance, Instagram announced a change and explained which factors are tasks into account in this 'new' algorithm. The three main factors they mentioned were Connection, Interests, and Timing.
Probably the most important factor is a connection. Instagram simply shows you the posts from accounts you have the strongest connection with. According to Instagram, they aim to put content from friends and family members on top of people's feed.
How is this connection measured? Mostly by likes and comments in both directions, and by private messages and tags.
To be able to show up higher on the feed of your followers, you will have to engage with them. Don't be afraid to send people a private message, make sure you like your followers' posts, share comments that start a conversation, tag your connections in relevant posts, and make sure Instagram can notice a mutual connection between you and your followers. You will soon notice that posts from accounts you have been interacting with show up on top of your feed. And, of course, this will be the same the other way around.
Besides connection, Instagram determines which posts will fit your interests best. This is done by caption, hashtags, and possibly through image recognition.
Make sure you use clear images, clear captions, and hashtags that fit your niche or interest field. By making your posts easy to read by Instagram, it's easier for the algorithm to show your post to the right people.
And on top of creating clear posts, engaging with the right people helps as well. If the algorithm notices that people with a certain interest engage with your content, chances are good that you will be 'matched' with more people with the same interests.
Although the chronological feed is history, timing is still relevant. At the moment the algorithm considers mainly interest and connection, but still applies some timing in the feed too. Let's say a combination of all three factors is made.
To be noticed by your audience, you need to make sure to post when your followers and fans are online. Are you, for instance, posting when they are asleep? Then your post may have been visible on their timeline for a while but moved down already by the time they wake up.
There are general guidelines for good posting times, but we highly advise you to try out what works best for your audience. Every audience is different, and we believe that online activity is very hard to predict. You can find the best posting days in your Instagram Insights, or you can choose to use an app like WhenToPost to find the best posting times for your account.
Are you looking for some help growing your Instagram account? Or would you like to learn more about social media management in general? We would love to help you out.
Feel free to contact us for a FREE strategy call, so we can discuss what we can do for you.
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