3 ways to boost Instagram engagement

The photo-sharing app is switching to an algorithm-based timeline, which means brands’ content might no longer show up in users’ feeds. Here’s how to get ahead of the change. 

This article was originally published on PR Daily in March 2016.

Instagram is about to become much harder for brand managers to use effectively.

The photo-sharing app announced in March 2016 that users’ timelines will switch to an algorithmic formula. Instead of featuring posts in reverse chronological order, posts will appear in your feed “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post.”

The curated feed will take engagement into heavy consideration when it determines which posts to show in a user’s newsfeed. A post that is receiving interactions on an account whose followers are regularly engaged is more likely to show up at the top of the newsfeed.

A high number of followers will no longer be enough—only a user with a truly engaged following will be receiving many views.

Here are three ways that you can beat Instagram’s new algorithm and bolster your engagement:

1. Interact with users.

Post engagement is paramount to getting love from Instagram’s new algorithm.

Sharing visually engaging content is still important, but interacting with other users must be a key part of your strategy. The more you interact with others, the more likely they will interact with you.

Use hashtags relevant to the audience you want to reach. Also find users that post photos around similar topics as your brand and follow them.

Spend time each week liking and commenting on others’ images. You can also explore geo-location tags—which are especially relevant to brick-and-mortar businesses—to find additional users.

Commit to doing more than just sharing pretty photos. Get creative and engage with your audience.

2. Post engaging content.

You’re losing some control over the reach of your content, but let’s focus on one thing you still can control: creating engaging, high quality content.

The images you share should fit your brand’s overall style while being visually appealing. Avoid stock images, brand logos or pictures of a product by itself with little context.

RELATED: Want to get your employees involved and active online? Download our free guide: 6 steps to crafting an internal social media plan.

Tag your geo-location when applicable and include relevant hashtags to help your images get found.

How can you determine what’s engaging and what’s not? Consider these:

  • Focus on consumer-centric photos. Before posting, answer these questions: Does this add value to my customer’s life? Why would they be interested in this? How do they benefit?
  • Highlight the personality of your brand. Behind-the-scenes photos or snapshots of employee life help promote your brand’s authenticity.
  • Instead of focusing solely on your product, show it in action or in a beautiful location. Take advantage of Instagram as a visual medium that can highlight colors and prints in unique ways.
  • Ask your followers simple questions and for their opinions. Again, don’t focus on your product, but rather on topics that are related to your brand and that your users find interesting.
  • Host photo contests on Instagram as a way to entice users to interact with your brand. This also gives them a reason to stay interested in your posts and helps you generate original user-created content that you can share with your followers. Offer worthwhile prizes and give users as much creative freedom as possible with their entries.

3. Work with Instagram’s power users.

Partnering with influential social media users can be a great way for your brand to gain credibility with a new audience.

Active social media users with engaged audiences are deeply trusted by their followers, and their endorsement is a believable thumbs up for your brand.

When searching for the perfect “influencers” to partner with, many brand managers have been focus on those with high numbers of Instagram followers. That will no longer be enough.

Carefully select Instagram users who have a truly engaged following and regularly share images that relate to your product. For posts to be successful in Instagram’s new algorithm, the “influencer” will need to share content that seamlessly fits into his or her overall Instagram theme and aesthetic.

Your product should be featured in the context of that person’s lifestyle and personal brand, so their followers will see it as an authentic post and engage with it.

Tiffany Romero is the president of influencer management at Sway Group. A version of this article originally appeared on the firm’s blog.

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