Ah ha! Definitive proof that the Instagram algorithm doesn’t hate you came this week from the man himself, Adam Mosseri, who has assured us there are no shadowbans and there’s not a one size fits all ‘algorithm’.
If you’ve not caught it yet, you can check out the algorithm unravelling here.
For me, the really important thing to take away and to understand is that the whole point of ‘the algorithm’ is that it learns about the user and how they interact with content in order to serve them – hopefully – more of the content they want to see (or, in my case, they can’t help but click, which is presumably why I’m doomed to have my explore page flooded with pictures of celebrities who *may* have had plastic surgery).
So let’s break it down a bit.
Personally, I think this is the easiest one and I expect you’re already familiar with at least some of the ways we can boost story views through encouraging engagement. Instagram will analyse the way your audience interact with your Stories to make an assessment of how valuable those Stories are; how likely people are to want to see them. If your audience are actively engaging with your content then they are likely to be shown more of them. If on the other hand they are just clicking through without even really watching them for more than a second a frame, you’re going to fall further down the queue and fewer people will see your content. So it follows then that you story views will improve the more people are engaging with them and / or watching them through to the end. You can encourage this by using engagement stickers, encouraging your audience to DM you or making the content accessible with captions. On the flip side, avoid posting really long Stories or posting too many frames in a 24 hour period.
Remember when your feed was chronological? No? Well it used to be. Everyone got bees in bonnets when it changed, but we have all since grown used to it. Your followers are more likely to see your posts if they interact with you. Similarly, if a post is performing well, its more likely to be pushed out to more followers (so that early engagement matters, at least to a degree). Now, although Mr M doesn’t say this in his video, I’m pretty sure Instagram also prioritises people saved in your phone, as whenever I add a new contact (and keep in mind I have a lot of creators’ phone numbers on my phone), they suddenly appear in my feed more often. This would make sense as clearly having the phone number suggests a real relationship with that person. So just get all your followers to give you their phone number (joking, don’t do that, it’s weird and a huge privacy issue 😂). What you could do though, is suggest your followers add you to Favourites. “not seeing my posts? don’t forget to add me to Favourites!”
The Reels feed is a bit TikToky basically. You will see a lot of videos by creators you don’t follow. Therefore, Reels remains a great way for creators to reach a new audience and be discovered. Well, there’s no surprise news in how Reels are fed to us: Instagram analyses the content you’re interested in and then feeds you Reels that other people, sharing similar interests to you, have interacted with. It’s why you can end up going viral in ‘the wrong’ place too. In assessing how people interact with your Reel, Instagram will analyse how long they watch the Reel (which is why shorter or looping videos can be better) and as well as the usual engagement, whether people are sharing your video (and although not mentioned in Adam’s video, presumably saving too). These interactions will see your content pushed out to more people and will also see that your videos are served to those users who have interacted before. It’s also one of the reasons that follows are generally down; because people are being served the content they enjoy without needing to follow. Like I said; more TikToky.
Obviously hitting the Explore page is great, but remember there is no one Explore page – it’s different for everyone. But by keeping to your niche, Instagram will learn the sort of content you put out and it will serve it to people who are interested in the niche within which you operate. Simples!
And finally, let’s touch on..
I can’t count the number of times I have tried to explain to people what the idea of Instagram shadowbanning makes no sense, but in short it goes like this: why would a business, which makes its money largely through content creators, actively suppress or ‘punish’ those content creators that it needs for that business to survive? It wouldn’t and it doesn’t. The thing Adam doesn’t go on to say though, is that if reach is down, you need to look objectively at your content. Is it really as good as you think? Is it saveable? Are people sharing it? Is it just “Hi guys! How was your day? What did you get up to?” which literally no one (other than maybe your mum) wants to answer. Reach can be down for other reasons too – like half term, for example – but creators have always been too quick to blame the algorithm when chances are it just might not have been their best content.
So I think this is a really timely reminder to always have your ideal follower at front of mind. Is your content serving them? Or are you still just scrapbooking? Are you creating content for your audience (be it the one you have or the one you seek) or are you creating content for you?
TEST. AND. TWEAK.
I know I harp on about this a lot, but it is important because one size doesn’t fit all. Try something out. How does it land? Do carousels do well for you? Microblogs? How to Reels? When are your audience most active? Try things. Be mindful of the performance. Adjust accordingly. Test. And. Tweak.
Keep on top of your insights. Which posts are getting saved? Which aren’t? What does this tell you? What are your audience asking you in the comments? What is their feedback? Who is engaging? Is it just other creators or is it the wider public?
And a final point which is what was mentioned in Adam’s video about ‘original content’. All this means is that you should be creating your own content, as opposed to posting memes or sharing ‘inspo’. I don’t read this to mean repurposing your content is a bad idea, but when I talk about repurposing, I mean going to your bank of content and editing what you have into something new – not literally posting the exact same Reel you put up a week ago.
Enjoy creating your content. Love what you do. But remember, you are a business and you need to track your metrics, create for your audience and be willing to be objective. I promise you that if you do this, you WILL see results.
Final thought: none of what went into that video was news (which frankly, for me, is a relief as someone who trains you in strategy) but having it set out very eloquently by the boss man himself really brings clarity and I hope will give you pause for thought as you plan your content for the second half of this year.
I’d love to know your thoughts!