Instagram has increasingly become an excellent tool for surfacing content, creating brand awareness and driving new business, whether you’re building organic followers or using the platform for paid advertising campaigns.
But getting the best results means really understanding how Instagram surfaces content to users, and ensuring that your content is created, set up and tagged correctly to attract your target audience effectively.
Before we expand on the above, it’s useful to understand more about the different sections on Instagram and how they work to serve users content from people they already follow, and help them discover new content and accounts.
Instagram’s top executive Adam Mosseri recently shared some insights into the platform’s recommendation algorithms and how they surface content into user’s main feed, stories, reels and explore sections, with key points as follows: each section of the app has its own algorithm that ranks content based on how people use them.
- The Feed and Stories algorithm rank content by ‘most recent first’ – if you follow an account, the most recent posts from that account will feature in your Feed and Stories section.
- The Explore section ranks content on a separate feed from accounts that a user doesn’t follow, but tries to match that content with similar accounts that a user follows, giving them an opportunity to discover more content and accounts that they may be interested in.
The key ‘signals’ that Instagram uses to achieve the above include:
- Whether a user has engaged with a post (commented, liked, saved) or tapped on the profile photo associated with the post
- How long a user spends on a post
- Information about post content (who created it, previous posts, tags)
- Information about a user (what accounts they follow, how they interact with accounts, other activity on Instagram)
Instagram ranks these signals in order of importance as follows:
- Search text: The text a user enters in the search bar is Instagram’s most important ranking signal. It will first try to match the text with relevant usernames, bios, captions, hashtags and places.
- User’s activity: What accounts does a user follow, what posts have they viewed, and how did interacted with accounts in the past. Instagram usually shows accounts and hashtags you follow or visit higher than those you don’t.
- User engagement: When there are a lot of potential results, Instagram will look at engagement signals. These include the number of clicks, likes, shares and follows for a particular account, hashtag or place.
Using this knowledge to grow audiences and create valuable content and campaigns
As a content creator, you can use Instagram to highlight your products or services in a truly authentic way by creating posts that are visually appealing and demonstrate your product or service in action.
You will need to be creative and unique to stand out from competitors and other engaging content, but apart from that, there are some pretty clear guidelines from Instagram to help you ensure your content is as visible as possible.
- Ensure you use a relevant username and profile name – text is the most important ranking signal and having a username and profile name that matches what you do will help you appear more easily in search.
- Use relevant keywords and locations in your profile biography – like general SEO, the more relevant keywords you include, the better your chances of being found. And including your location works on much the same principle if that’s relevant to your business.
- Tag your content correctly – in all your posts make sure you research and use all the relevant keywords and hashtags in your caption text.