Buffer: Since Instagram started sorting posts on users’ feed with an algorithm, many marketers have noticed a decline in their organic reach and engagement.
But that doesn’t have to be the case for you. In fact, it could be possible for you to reach more of your followers now than without the new Instagram algorithm.
In this post, we’ll share 10 straightforward ways you can use to increase your organic reach on Instagram today.
Buffer for Instagram now comes with direct scheduling! Schedule single-image or video posts or set reminders to post multi-image posts at your best times to grow your Instagram following. Learn more today.
Understanding the Instagram Algorithm
Here’s a quick side-note: Understanding how the Instagram algorithm works can be helpful in figuring out how to increase your organic reach in the algorithmic-feed world.
We’ve dug into the Instagram algorithm and broken down the seven key factors of the Instagram algorithm. If you’d like to learn about the algorithm and how it ranks content on users’ feed, feel free to hit the button below to read the post first.
10 ways to boost your Instagram reach today
So how can you increase your organic reach on Instagram? Here are the 10 powerful ways you can do that:
- Find your optimal posting times
- Experiment with videos
- Host contests or ask questions to encourage engagement
- Curate user-generated content
- Tell Instagram Stories
- Go live on Instagram
- Use Instagram ads
- Post less
- Create specifically for Instagram
- Be a great Instagram user
1. Find your optimal posting times
Even though Instagram uses an algorithmic timeline now, optimal posting times are still relevant as timing is a factor in the algorithm.
Posting at the right times can help generate an initial round of engagement on your posts which can, in turn, prompt the Instagram algorithm to push your posts higher on your followers’ feed.
It may take time to get a long-term understanding of your followers’ activity, but it’s important to make sure you’re posting when the majority of your audience is online.
If you are using an Instagram Business Profile, you can check your Instagram Insights to find out when your followers are most active by the day of the week and the time of the day.
To access your Instagram Insights, tap on the profile tab in the Instagram app and then the bar chart icon in the upper-right corner. There will be a section for your followers’ activity information, and you can tap on “See More” to see more detailed insights. Here’s an example of what you’ll see:
Once you’ve identified your ideal posting times, you can also schedule Instagram posts ahead of time to help ensure you consistently post high-quality content.
2. Experiment with videos
Several studies have found that photos tend to get more overall engagement (i.e. likes and comments) than videos on Instagram. On first look, it might seem that photos are better than videos for engagement — and it could well be!
On closer examination, we might draw a different conclusion. News Whip studied the Instagram accounts of 31 news publishers and made an interesting discovery. While photos, on average, get more likes (and overall engagement) than videos, videos generate more comments than photos. In fact, videos, on average, received more than twice the amount of comments than photos!
It is not certain if the Instagram algorithm values likes and comments equally or one more than another. But since commenting requires more effort from a user than liking, it’s possible that the algorithm values comments more than likes and would rank posts with more comments higher than posts with more likes.
Last year, Instagram found that the video watch time on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent over a six-month period. At this growth rate, it could be great to experiment with videos to see if it increases your engagement and organic reach on Instagram.
To make things easier for you, you can now schedule videos to your Instagram business profiles using Buffer.
3. Host contests or ask questions to encourage engagement
Asking questions or calling for an action is one of the fun ways to encourage your followers to interact with your Instagram posts. We found that hosting a giveaway contest is an effective way to engage our followers.
Some of the call-to-actions we have tried are:
- Enter to win by sharing your favorite emoji party combo in the comments below ?
- To enter, simply tag a friend below who you would “Vote” for as your favorite marketer and you’ll both be entered to win!
- To enter tag a friend below who you know is rocking it on social media! ?
- What’s on your reading list this week? ? Drop your book suggestions below for a chance to win a free book of your choice from the Buffer team! ❤
While giveaway contests usually generate more comments than usual posts, we try to give it a few months in between each contest to keep things fun and exciting.
4. Curate user-generated content
Brian Peters, our digital marketing strategist, grew our Instagram account following by about 500% (4,250 to 21,000) in under six months. His secret? User-generated content.
Curating user-generated content can encourage those users to engage with and share those content. Since the Instagram algorithm considers users’ relationships when ranking content on their feed, building relationships with your users through Instagram might also help your content rank higher on their feeds.
Apart from organic reach, Crowdtap found that user-generated content is 35 percent more memorable and 50 percent more trusted than traditional media and other non-user-generated content. This makes user-generated content a valuable strategy to try.
If you would like to repost user-generated content on your Instagram profile, we would love for you to try our Buffer for Android or Buffer for iOS mobile apps, which can help speed up the process.
5. Tell Instagram Stories
In our State of Social Media 2016 report, we found that while 63 percent of marketers surveyed use Instagram, only 16 percent have created Instagram Stories. There’s a great opportunity to stand out before it gets too crowded!
Instagram Stories take a prominent position on the Instagram app — above the feed. This allows you to stay on top of your followers’ feed and grab more of their attention. If your followers view your Stories regularly, it could possibly even help your Instagram posts rank higher on their feeds.
It’s worth noting that the Stories are also ranked by an algorithm; possibly one very similar to the feed algorithm. Spend the time to craft great Stories to help them rank better.
6. Go live on Instagram
A similar “trick” is to go live on Instagram. When you use live video, you will appear right at the front of the Stories feed, assuming no one else is live at the same time. The “LIVE” logo also makes your profile photo more prominent in the Instagram app.
Social Media Examiner found that the more they went live on Facebook, the more their non-live content received exposure. Michael Stelzner said that one reason might be their brand is in front of their fans more often so the fans might go to their Page to see their content more — even if the fans don’t watch the live video.
This effect could play out on Instagram, too. Seeing your logo at the top of their feed might encourage your followers to check out your Instagram profile.
From our State of Social Media 2016 report, we concluded that live video has yet to hit mass adoption as only 27 percent of marketers surveyed had created live video content. While the percentage might be higher today, I believe live videos aren’t mainstream yet. So it’s another perfect way to stand out and deliver great content!
7. Use Instagram ads
This might sound a little counter-intuitive but Instagram ads can be an effective way to grow your organic reach.
If you have an Instagram Business Profile, you can promote your existing posts from within the Instagram app. (Here’s how!) By boosting an existing post and selecting the appropriate target audience, you can drive more engagement to the post and help it rank better on your followers’ feed. The paid reach can eventually help to drive organic reach!
So which post should you promote?
Here’s a quick way to pick a good post to promote:
- Go to your Instagram Insights on the mobile app (tap on the profile tab and then the bar chart icon).
- Tap “See More” under the “Top Posts” section.
- Tap on “Impressions” at the top (a pop-up should apply to let you adjust your stats filters).
- For the first filter, you can choose “All”, “Photos”, or “Videos” according to your preference.
- For the second filter, select “Engagement”.
- For the third filter, select “7 days”.
- You will see your top posts by engagement for the last seven days. From there, you can pick a post to promote.
8. Post less
When explaining social media algorithms, Michael Stelzner encouraged marketers to re-think your posting strategy.
Rethink is the keyword here. Rethink your posting strategy on social media – Less is actually more!
Sue B. Zimmerman also gave a similar advice for marketers who want to overcome the Instagram algorithm.
If you truly want to connect with your audience, it’s better to share one fabulous photo instead of 20 mediocre images. So next time, before you hit post, take a moment and consider how this content contributes to your brand, and does it effectively encourage engagement from your followers.
I believe this is about the allocation of your resources and time. Instead of publishing 20 posts a week, use the same resources and time for just one or two posts and make them great.
9. Create specifically for Instagram
One way to create quality content is to create content specifically for Instagram. Instagram, being a very visual platform, has a greater focus on the photo or video itself than the text. So a post that would do well on Instagram is probably different from one that would do well on Twitter or Facebook.
For smaller social media teams or solo social media manager, it can be challenging to always create unique content for each platform. Crossposting and repurposing content from other platforms can be great, too. If you are doing that, it’d be best to craft specific caption for each social media platform as your followers likely follow you for a different reason for each of the platforms.
Now with Tailored Posts, you can write customized captions for each social network. We’re hoping that this feature would encourage you to be (even) more creative with your social media posts and would help you drive more engagement.
10. Be a great Instagram user
This last point might be a little vague but it nicely wraps up many of the points above.
Social media algorithms are built to encourage genuine, positive behaviors on the platformssuch as sharing, showing appreciation, quick replies, and more. Often, they would also try to discourage abuse or hacks.
My gut feeling here is that being a great Instagram user will help you grow your organic reach over time. That includes:
- Posting quality content that is relevant to your followers (be it informative, inspiring, or entertaining)
- Answering questions on your posts quickly
- Thanking people for commenting on your posts
- Exploring other people’s profiles, engaging with their posts, and building a relationship with them
All the best!
The main objective of Instagram (and most social media platforms) is to make users happy and let them enjoy the experience. As brands on Instagram (and social media), I think we can do a lot to create great experiences for our followers — which will, in turn, benefit ourselves.