First, I think we all need to take a collective deep breath....ready?....inhale...exhale. Done? Okay great. Now, let's get to work.
Over the past several weeks, ever since Instagram posted this news release letting the world know about it's upcoming algorithm update, there's been general moaning and outcry from the masses. Now, I can't say I fully support this update, as I think it's monetarily driven and it's the beginning of more changes to come (most likely involving paying to get your posts to the top of feeds - i.e. Facebook style post boosts), however, Facebook and Instagram are businesses, and as such, they, like any smart business, will evolve and change in pace with technology, as well as think with their wallets.
Instead of crying about it, what can creative and small business owners and marketers do, not only to adapt to these changes, but to use them to get ahead? You'll be surprised that many of the answers to this question are tactics that if you aren't already doing, you're probably doing it wrong anyway.
But I'm getting ahead of myself! There's a 99.9% chance you already know exactly what the new update is and what it may mean for small businesses, but I will explain for the .1% who does not. Previous to this update, Instagram's news feed was chronological. This means that all of the posts that you saw on your home feed were time-ordered by most recently posted. Now, somewhat like the "Explore Posts" feature under the search tab, which lists posts based on what it thinks you may find interesting from people you don't already directly follow, the new update will change your home feed so that posts are ordered according to "the likelihood you'll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post."
Alright, so that's that. Now, what does this mean for small and creative businesses? Well, small businesses who have just started building up their following on Instagram may become concerned that all those followers they worked so hard to get may now no longer get their posts as easily as they once did. Or, maybe they haven't built up a following yet and are concerned they won't make it onto anyone's news feeds because they are so new. These, among several other concerns, are the cause of many a restless night for small business owners and marketers who've previously been using the media platform to help grow their business. "What now?!" they yell, fists raised to the Instagram powers-that-be. Well, let's get down to it.
1. CREATE STRATEGIC CONTENT
Yes, that's right. My number one piece of advice may be obvious, but the amount of people (and trust me, I am guilty of this from time to time) who post just to post is more frequent than you may think. Be INTENTIONAL about what you are posting. Make sure you have catchy, professional-looking imagery that is relevant to you and your business. It is better to post one fantastic image, than five "meh" images. Before you post that picture of your cat or last night's dinner, ask yourself - is this something that would make me say "WOW that's dope" and make me want to like and comment on it if I saw it on someone else's feed? If not, you may want to rethink your content strategy. So remember, people are following you because they think what you post is interesting to them. Give them what they want and what makes sense for your business.
photography © Landino Photo // Mackler Studios
2. INCREASE YOUR ENGAGEMENT
I think this will be the biggest way to keep up with Instagram's algorithm update. The posts that show up at the top of your feed will be based on what you've ENGAGED with in the past and you want your followers to do the same. How can you do this? ASK FOR IT! Calls to action, people! Post an image and ask for the likes, ask people to comment. You can do this in many ways: "double tap if this made you smile", "tag someone who does this", "comment if you'd wear this" and the list goes on and on...get creative! Another way to increase engagement is to respond to comments on your post. People want to know you're paying attention, and that you appreciate when they take the time to engage. A third way to increase engagement, and to make other people aware of your account and brand, is to search out relevant posts and comment on them! That's right, use other's accounts to make yourself known! Like a photo? Say so! Like it so much that you think your followers would appreciate it as well? Repost it! (With a credit to the owner of the image, of course...we don't encourage theft up in here).
credit :: Pinterest
3. TRACK AND ANALYZE YOUR RESULTS
Find out what your audience enjoys the most about your account. Look through your posts...which seem to get the most attention? What is that posts' theme? When did you post it? Make sure you are keeping track of what is important and relevant to your followers! I like Jasmine Star's homework assignment for the hustlin' entrepreneur. If you know what your audience is looking for from you, it makes your job a hell of a lot easier, and it also helps keep your audience engaged and intrigued. So don't just blindly post, cross your fingers and hope that like tally keeps growing...invest some time into discovering the who, what, and when of your posts!
credit:: Jasmine Star
4. DEVELOP YOUR HASHTAG STRATEGY
I have to admit, I love my hashtags. It's the best way to get your post seen by the largest amount of people (including those not currently following you) in the shortest amount of time. I find myself browsing through hashtags regularly, and each time I do, I almost always find an awesome account I've never come across before that I then decide to follow. Do some research; become aware of what your "competitors" are using, search through Instagram and find hashtags that are relevant to you and your business (hint: the larger the amount of posts to a specific hashtag, the higher probability more people use and see the posts on this hashtag), and make the most of the 30 hashtags Instagram allows you to use. Two more tips: 1. Post hashtags in a separate comment so that it comes across less spam-y and 2. Use the notes app in your phone where you KEEP ALL YOUR SAVED HASHTAGS OF CHOICE. Make a section of 5 lines of one period or asterisk per line and when you go to post your hashtags, first copy the 5 lines of periods or asterisks and paste into the comment, then go back and copy your hashtags and paste them below the periods or asterisks and then hit send! It keeps your hashtags hidden, and gives you a bit of a cleaner looking post.
5. REALIZE THIS UPDATE MAY ACTUALLY BE...A GOOD THING? WHAT? DID I SAY THAT?
Okay, so that may not be an actual piece of advice per se, but perhaps...just maybe...thinking positively has more of an effect than you know. "But Danielle, you said at the beginning of your post you don't fully support this update!" you think to yourself, smirking at my lack of consistency. Well, I'm actually not being inconsistent. There are parts of this update I don't agree with, like the foreshadowing to pay-per-boost I see coming, or the necessity social media businesses feel to all assimilate to each other; the differences in the social medias are what a lot of us enjoy about having different platforms. HOWEVER, have you ever stopped to think that maybe this update will weed out those followers who don't actually add any value? If your followers aren't engaging with you, following you, want to see what you're up to...then they probably aren't worth your time. Think beyond the numbers. We've all seen accounts with 30K followers who get the same amount of likes as someone with 300 followers...why? Because there's a good chance most of their followers don't actually CARE about what they're posting...or they're spam accounts...or any number of reasons. This update will mean that your posts will be seen by those who have engaged with you in the past and will engage with you in the future...and that, my Insta-lovin'-friends, is a GOOD thing!
6. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP ASKING FOLLOWERS TO TURN ON THEIR NOTIFICATIONS!
Posts asking followers to turn on their notifications has been ALL OVER Instagram and I think most of us are eye rolling at yet ANOTHER "Turn on your notifications!" post popping up on our feed. Yes, having your followers turn on their notifications for you may be the best and easiest way to make sure your posts get seen...in the short run. However, would you want your phone blowing up every time all 800 of the accounts you followed and turned notifications on for posted? No. Will your followers get annoyed after a while and unfollow? Probably. So, while this is an option you can consider, I highly suggest against this very annoying, very intrusive tactic.
credit :: The Huffington Post
I hope this post has been helpful for you, my fellow small and creative business owners and marketers. Remember to keep creating authentic, professional and relevant content, to continually engage with your followers and others, to analyze your content on a routine basis, to utilize that all-powerful #, and most importantly...stay positive!
Keep Calm and 'Gram On!
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