Making the most of Instagram’s new algorithm

Regardless of your organization’s social media budget or the size of its follower base, promoting engaging content on the visual platform is crucial for today’s marketer. Follow these guidelines.

Instagram’s new algorithm sorts your feed by the moments you care about most.

That filter, which was announced March 15 and will be implemented in the “coming months,” comes as no surprise; Instagram’s parent, Facebook, has mastered its own algorithm for making money.

Facebook seeks to increase Instagram’s revenue in the same way. For the Instagram community, the change in user experience will take a gradual readjustment, one that undoubtedly will be met with resistance. Brand managers must rethink their Instagram strategies or suffer the consequences of a social media plan tailored to a soon-to-be outdated reality.

Inevitably, promoted posts will benefit from this update the most. Moreover, Instagram users miss, on average, 70 percent of their feed’s content. By featuring popular content and the accounts with which a user regularly engages, the people at Instagram hope to improve the user experience and thereby keep users on the app longer—both per session and over the long term.

Brands will be affected by these shifts in different ways. Your organization’s new strategy will depend upon your available social media budget and the size of your existing follower base. Follow the guidelines below to determine and establish your most beneficial approach:

Large brands, big budgets, developed follower base

Objective: Promote away

If you’re at a large organization that’s been promoting posts on Instagram, this change won’t affect you much. If anything, the algorithm will probably give your paid posts a boost.

Your promoted content should be geared toward follower acquisition and brand awareness. Is your content enticing and educational at a quick glance? Will visitors be able to absorb the problem your brand solves or the value you offer?

Focus on making your posts relevant to the users you hope to convert. If you’re new to promoting content on Instagram, this algorithm presents the perfect breeding ground for your paid initiatives.

Mid-size brands, limited budget, growing follower base

Objective: Promote strategic content judiciously

Your brand might not have a large enough budget to promote posts at will, but there is a significant opportunity to create and identify posts worth promoting. Pay attention to posts that closely align with your social media objectives.

Perhaps your organization is running a contest, has just launched a project or has achieved a major milestone. Big news deserves extended reach.

When you promote exciting content, the engagement it generates will add credibility to your post. Focus first and foremost on producing engaging content; then promote it with purpose.

Small brands, no budget, undeveloped follower base

Objective: Drive the engagement of organic posts, and gain followers strategically

Don’t fret if your organization can’t play in the promoted post game. If your followers regularly interact with your content, you will be rewarded with continued exposure.

You’ll also want to focus on high-quality, visually appealing content. Think quality over quantity—a few detailed, highly creative posts are more valuable than spur-of-the-moment posts for the sake of frequency alone.

Drive engagement by asking questions and encouraging users to tag a friend in their comments. You can gain followers by pushing new users to your Instagram account through external channels, using relevant hashtags, following relevant users and prompting influential users to feature you in their posts.

Big opportunities don’t surface overnight; plan to build and nurture those key relationships over time.

Follow the relevancy trail

Twitter announced its first ever algorithm just recently; Facebook is tweaking its algorithms all the time. Major social media channels are taking advantage of the value that relevant content produces for both their revenue streams and their efforts to retain and expand an active user base.

Millennials, in particular, have developed high expectations for personalized content based on their interests and behavior. If you don’t produce engaging content, users who are following a plethora of accounts might encounter your posts rarely, if at all.

Social media algorithms punish those who fail to keep up.

A version of this article first appeared on Shift Communications.

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