How To Work With The Algorithm, Not Against It

Is ‘algorithm’ a four letter word to you? There is so much out there about “beating the algorithm”. That sentiment alone makes it seem like it is us against the algorithm. When we see engagement numbers drop, we blame the algorithm. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The algorithm exists for a reason, and it isn’t going anywhere. Let’s talk about what you need to know about the algorithm and how to work with it instead of trying to beat it or fight it.

Why The Algorithm Matters

Do you even remember the days of the chronological feed? People always throw a fit when social networks switch from a chronological feed to one that uses machine learning. We don’t want someone or something else telling us what we want to see on social media. But chronological feeds aren’t as great as you think. The Instagram creators account reports that “since switching to a ranked feed, the average post is now seen by 50% more followers than it did with the chronological model.”

The algorithm ensures that users see content they’re most likely to be interested in, and that means business accounts get more targeted audiences. As a business, it is essential that you are creating engaging, timely and relevant content for your audience. When you do that, the algorithm will actually work in your favor, helping get your content in front of more people.

Side note: similarly, this is why you also shouldn’t be afraid of people unfollowing you. Your follower count doesn’t matter if those people aren’t engaging with your content. You want a higher concentration of engaged followers. So look at unfollowers as a good thing. A way to boost your engagement rate.

What The Algorithm Cares About

If you want to work with the algorithm, you need to know what it looks for.

Interest: how much someone cares about your content.

Timeliness: how recent is the post? Instagram wants to show users posts that are recent and, consequently, more relevant.

Relationship: what accounts does a user frequently interact with?

How To Use These Factors To Work With The Algorithm

So how do these factors relate to your strategy and your business? To work with the algorithm, consider these best practices:

  • Post at the best times for your business: when is your audience most active on the app? Check your Insight to find out and post your content a little bit before they are most active, so that when they open the app your content is relevant AND timely.
  • Focus on real engagement: Add calls to action to every post. Engage with other accounts. Respond to every comment. Respond to peoples’ stories.
  • Create connections: Mix in personal content so people feel like they get to know you. Start conversations in the DMs. Show your face. People want to connect with people.
  • Embrace new features (within reason): Instagram is a business. They want people to spend as much time as possible on the app. That means that when they release new features, they want you to use them. Instagram makes newer features more prominent in the app, but that doesn’t mean it automatically favors any specific post type. It gives prime location to new features—like Stories at the top of the screen, or the Reels icon taking center stage on the home screen menu. But remember, new features are great and you should explore how to leverage them for your business. But it doesn’t mean you should abandon your existing strategy and put all your eggs in one basket.

What are your feelings about the algorithm?

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