Are you tired of talking about Instagram? I am too.
However, I did want to share a few things that have and have not been working for me lately on the app. It’s important to note that Instagram is not the only way to grow your online community/business and I’m still a firm believer that if you have a blog, it should be your number one.
My friend Chevy emailed me an article by The Pigeon Letters about the new algorithm changes that hit this month. I then saw that article being shared on IG Stories by several other people. It sparked the idea for me to touch on this topic myself, here on NM.
I, of course, can not confirm any of the information that I have read thus far. I can only share what I have personally noticed from testing out a few different things. I will say that I do believe the algorithm recently changed again. The first two weeks of January I saw a spike in engagement and then over this past week, that engagement cut down in half.
Before I continue, let me just share a friendly reminder. Regardless of these algorithm changes, please don’t allow it to slow you down. Continue to create and continue to share your content, regardless of the number of people seeing your posts. Try your best not to let it discourage you.
If you’d like to read more on this topic, then keep scrolling. I hope you find it helpful.Posting Less
Back when I was with an agency, they encouraged me to post at least 3 times a day, every day, in order to keep up visibility and consistency. I did that for a very long time. I’ll be honest. It was overwhelming for me and probably a bit overwhelming for my followers too.
I often found myself posting content “just to post it.” It felt forced. This was also back in the days where I tried to get super creative with flat lays and other miscellaneous shots, but those photos never performed well for me.
My how times have changed and so has the algorithm. I now only post 1-2 times and sometimes I don’t post every single day. If I am traveling and actually have a bunch of content that I want to share, then I will post more frequently. For my daily life though, I post way less static posts and a lot more on stories.
This will definitely be a personal preference, but I think the key here is to let it be natural. Don’t force the content and remember: quality over quantity.
I can’t say 100% that this has changed anything for me in terms of the algorithm, but I have personally found that posting less has increased my engagement in certain ways.
I have always tried to respond quickly to comments, especially when I’ve just posted a photo. I truly enjoy creating conversation and I believe this is an essential aspect of growing an online community.
Another rumor floating around is that immediate engagement, within the first hour of posting a photo, will help to increase visibility. Apparently, only 10% of your followers see your photo when you first post it, so that initial engagement you get can determine whether or not your photo will be shown to the rest of your followers.
While I can’t confirm this theory, I do have a feeling that there is some truth to it. Even if it’s not true, engaging with others is still a big piece of the Instagram pie. You can read more about my thoughts on that here.
In-The-Moment iPhone Shots
I’m a bit of a camera snob. I admit it. I got a little too spoiled with the quality of my DSLR and Olympus Pen, that I completely neglected using my iPhone for photos. I had the 6 for what felt like forever and just hated the camera. So I literally never used it.
DSLR photos are beautiful, but they are not always relatable. I did a poll on IG Stories about this and while the results were almost 50/50, iPhone ended up being the winner as the preferred device.
A few months ago, I upgraded to the X and the game changed for me. The quality is so great for a phone camera (that portrait mode though!) and it’s much easier for me to get those in-the-moment photos. I also use Lightroom to edit (maybe a post on this soon?) and the presets have improved and enhanced these pics even more.
Rumor has it that iPhone photos perform much better with the algorithm. I can’t say for sure that this is true, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that my iPhone shots have had much higher engagement lately. They definitely come across as more relatable and maybe even more carefree. A few examples are here, here and here, in case you’ve missed them.
I would post more of these, but the truth is that I’m not able to be out and about every day with someone to capture spontaneous moments as often as I would like. So, I aim to share a few iPhone pics a week mixed in with my DSLR photos. I think that’s a good balance.
Just remember, you can’t please everyone and you should still do what makes you happy. I love having this mix now!Engaging Captions
When my caption is engaging, I typically see way more interaction. A great thing to do is include a CTA (call to action) somewhere in it. When you ask a question, it shows that you are including your followers in the conversation. It shows that you want them to be involved.
This can be something as simple as asking for their recommendations or wanting them to share a story with you. I do this often and I personally love it. It’s always interesting to get different perspectives or to learn new things about the people following me.
I’m also really big on sharing quotes. My quotes are always the most saved photos on my feed! I sometimes have my funny moments too where I’m feeling a little witty and those also tend to perform well for me.
It’s been fun experimenting with different caption ideas, but asking questions definitely helps. Of course not every one is going to take the time to answer it, but for the most part, I’ve been able to create some pretty great conversations and connections with those that do.
These are definitely not as effective as they used to be. You’ve probably come across the word “Shadowban” at some point over the last year or so. I definitely think I’m on that list.
I used to write a comment underneath my photo that had 20 hashtags or so, thinking that this would be a great way to use the max amount of tags without coming across spammy in my caption. Well, I was wrong.
I quickly learned that my photos were not actually appearing in any of the tags that were not included in my caption. So now, I don’t focus on these as much. I generally include 3-5 hashtags in my caption that relate to the content.
Apparently, using the same tags over and over can flag your account as spam, so make sure to mix them up. I try to use some with less posts and some with more. For example, a tag like #winterfashion has 2.4 million posts. A tag like #beret has 300K. I’ve read from multiple online sources to focus on using a combination of the two as it can help to increase visibility.
I have mixed feelings on this.
Towards the end of last year, I had a meeting and it was recommended that I test out promoting my posts. Over the last several weeks, I have been paying to promote some of my photos a few times a week. You are only able to do this if you are a business account.
While it doesn’t feel fair to have to pay on an app that was initially created for free use, I also try to look at this as investing in my content. I’ve played around with different dollar amounts from as little as $5 to as high as $40. I have not seen a huge improvement here, but it has increased my reach and visibility a little bit on the app.
I think in order to see a significant difference with engagement, you would need to pay a lot more per post. I am very curious if any of you have paid to promote on the app before and would love your feedback on this.
Here’s a few more observations.
When you start following someone, several of their posts will appear at the top of your feed one right after the other and then moving forward, you will see their content every day. Has anyone else noticed this?
I think in general, the best way to see content from those you follow is to engage and interact with them as often as you can. I always make sure to visit profiles and catch up on stories of those I love to ensure their photos will appear more often in my feed.
My own personal engagement continues to reach a mix of highs and lows, so I have definitely not cracked the code. However, these are some of the things that I’ve been paying closer attention to. What’s been working for you? I hope you’ll chat with me below!
This is such an imformtaive post. Instagrams algorithm has been driving me insane the past few months, to the point where I’m discouraged at posting anything. Thank you!
Thanks for reading Nicky! It drives me insane too, lol. I can relate to feeling discouraged. We all work really hard on our content and the people choosing to follow us should be able to see it. I hope you don’t stop posting!
I paid to promote a post once and didn’t see anything dramatic when it came to engagement, though the analytics claim the post reached more people… I’m curious if there’s a magic $ number for boosting…
Same. What I don’t understand is that it shows a wide range of how many people it will reach for a specified dollar amount, but mine always seems to reach the lower number. Not surprised though. I feel like you would have to pay at least $100 every time to see a real increase and I don’t plan on doing that.
I’m wondering if I need to cut down to 3-5 hashtags but it’s so hard to try that when I’m used to doing 20ish in a separate comment. Bla I also agree that we have to do what makes sense for us- no way I’m going to post more than once a day. On a rareeee occasion 2x a day but that almost never happens because I need to stay sane haha. But I’ve been thinking about adding quotes to my feed and I think I may just start doing that every once in a while. Loved the post!
I would try that and see how it works for you. I have been hearing and reading up on the shadowbox for over a year now. I still continued to put hashtags in a comment hoping that maybe it would still work, but it never did, so this year I just stopped it altogether. I think if posting more than once a day, definitely spread those posts out. Like on the chance I end up with 2, I’ll make sure one is morning and the second is at night. I’ve typically only been doing once a day now though. I feel you on needing to stay sane! lol Definitely add some quotes! I know our audiences might be different, but mine really loves them. Even if they don’t always comment, I see them saving! So that means it’s resonating with them in some way. xo
Hi Naty, thank you for your detailed perspective!! I was torn between iPhone X or getting an actual camera. I now lean towards iPhoneX. I travel a lot for work & personal. I’ve come up with a few hacks to take self-spontaneous pics. Happy to share them with you in case you want to mention them in your next post.
Hi Teresa! Thank you so much for reading! The X really does have a great camera, both the regular mode and portrait. Also, with all these editing apps, you can edit and enhance those even more to your liking. It’s actually crazy that the X was way more expensive than my small Olympus Pen. I would also recommend a small mirrorless camera like that if you didn’t want to go to DSLR route. It’s great for traveling with built in wifi so that you can transfer images directly to your phone. And yes, please share those hacks! I tend to do a lot of traveling alone so that would be great!
what great info! thank you… and a lightroom post would be welcomed for sure 🙂
Aw yay! I am no Lightroom pro, still learning more each day, but I would love to share what I know so far and how much presets have helped with the editing process. Thanks for reading girl! xo
Hi, lovely post. Posting less has worked for me as I get more engagement when I don’t bombard my Instagram, I post every two days depending on my content. Also realised the hashtag thing, I used to put mine in a comment below my picture. What do you think about pods though?
Thank you! I agree – I think that with the new algorithm posting more can actually lower your visibility instead of increasing it. To be honest, I don’t think that comment pods are the way to go. I tried a few out the beginning of last year and they just weren’t for me. I understand the concept of them, but the comments always felt forced and not genuine. That’s when I really started to put way more focus into my captions and creating conversation. I’m constantly engaging with others too as often as I can and they typically tend to return the love on their own which is great! I recently read that pods can actually end up hurting your account and causing you to get shadowbanned. I can’t confirm that, but overall they just don’t seem like the best idea, in my opinion.
In all honesty I’m so tired of this whole algorithm thing too. However, as content creators, this app sadly plays a role when it comes to growth and even brand collabs. Now I actually noticed a spike in my following at the beginning of the year, I was excited because I thought that maybe I was finally getting a hang of this app but I guess not because well recent posts have not been getting as much engagement. Sigh, in the past I paid for advertising and it wasn’t worth it at all. I even find that Facebook ads work more. Now as for posting less, well I post once a day and not every day. Mostly according to stats, my engagement is later at night, so I stick to that. Also call to actions are the way to go, I try to get my readers attention in the first few line but writing less and focusing on a story with a good CTA. I genuinely love engaging with people so I really miss the old days of Instagram. As for the hashtag tip, I was unsure before but this is like the 5th or so time that I’m reading about this so I guess it’s time to change and trim down my hashtags while posting within the post. The app seems to be more trouble than its worth most days.
I’m right there with you Sarah! Interesting that you saw the spike too. I had felt the same that maybe they were increasing visibility for all of us and then literally within a day it just cut down in half again. I think what frustrates me the most is lack of consistency with reach and engagement. You just never know how a post will perform. I notice story views change quite frequently too as I’ve read there is an algorithm with them too. I actually post a lot on stories though and that’s a great way to still connect with your followers. Definitely keep it up with the CTAs and genuinely engaging like you do now. Try trimming down the hashtags and see if that makes any difference for you. I wish we could crack the code!
Thank you for this because the algorithm has made me a bit discouraged so I’m grateful you shared this.
I also noticed that whenever I put hashtags in my photo and then I immediately connect with other people in that hashtag, I seem to get a lot more responses on that photo AND my other photos. So that’s a tip too.
Thank you soo much for this post cause I learned a lot and I’ll definitely implement them!
I tried a few sponsored posts when they first started and recently. I haven’t seen any type of engagement difference. I’ve been super discouraged lately because just like you, the first two weeks were great, and then all of the sudden I lost a significant amount of followers and it’s every day so I’ve been focusing more on my blog. Unfortunately a lot of brands look at your Instagram following and mine is extremely low. Thanks for all the information!