Social Media Marketing in 2018: Is Instagram Following in Facebook’s Footsteps? What 2018 Algorithm Changes Mean for Business

Effective social media marketing requires that you keep abreast of each social media platform’s algorithm quirks and changes. Unlike Facebook’s most recent revelation, Instagram hasn’t made any major announcements about platform changes. But many creators and business owners have noticed a difference. Instagram’s news feed algorithm has been updated for the new year and it has business owners worried. 

Here’s What We Know: 

Instagram is shifting toward a model that values engagement between users. There’s no information on whether the algorithm is biased against business accounts, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. But with more users than ever on the platform and numbers only growing, Instagram has been forced to develop new ways to get the most relevant content in front of users first, ever since they stopped showing posts chronologically in 2016. Following are a few key tactics to immediately build into your social media marketing activities, especially when it comes to Instagram. 

Define Engagement: 

It’s not just that Instagram, like Facebook, is placing more emphasis on engagement, but that the definition of engagement may be changing. Social media marketing professionals have known for a long time that social media likes and follows don’t mean much. While establishing a following is important, not all followers will see all your content. And while likes feel good, they’re known as a “vanity metric” rather than a measure of engagement. Instead, comments and shares tell you more about the success of your content. 

Have you ever received or seen a comment from a business that only used emojis? How about a generic two-word comment like “Love it!” or “Nice job”? While leaving comments like these take minimal effort, on Instagram, they may be a waste of your time. 

Instagram’s algorithm may not count brief, generic comments as engagement anymore. And leaving dozens of the same comment could even get your account flagged. To count as engagement, you should leave longer comments—four words or more—and make sure you know what you’re commenting on. Don’t be the business that says “Outstanding!” on a product photo with a caption about how much the user hated the product. This means you’ll probably have to devote more time to your social media marketing activities than you have been in order to engage with others’ content in more genuine and relevant ways.  

Hashtag Selectively: 

Instagram is the platform to use hashtags on. On each post, you can use up to 30 hashtags, and from a business standpoint, it used to make sense to take advantage of them all. But not anymore. With a new ability to follow hashtags, released in December 2017, Instagram is taking a new approach. 

To ensure that this new feature is successful, people should see highly relevant images associated with the hashtags they follow. When users cram 30 hashtags into a post, not every hashtag will be the most relevant to that photo. In order to cut down on inaccurate hashtag use (and general overuse), Instagram may flag accounts that use the same hashtags for every post as spam. 

Breaking Instagram’s rules too often or attempting to cheat the system can result in your account being shadowbannedShadowbanning isn’t as scary as it sounds, but it can severely damage your account’s ability to grow. It prevents your posts from showing up in a hashtag search. 

How Can I Keep My Business from Being Hurt by Algorithm Changes? 

Encourage Interaction: 

Since Instagram is placing more emphasis on engagement, posts that receive the most engagement will be visible to a greater percent of your followers. The simple solution is to keep posting high-quality content that your followers will enjoy. But on the platform, you can also take care to craft compelling captions and use questions to encourage more comments from your audience. 

Leave Genuine Comments: 

Liking and commenting on other users’ posts is an excellent way to get found. But why not double the impact of your efforts? Leave longer comments that not only boost the engagement of the post you’re commenting on, doing so also signals to Instagram that you’re an active account managed by real people. 

Use Relevant Hashtags: 

The days of stretching yourself to think of 30 hashtags for a photo are over. Instead, choose between 5 to 10 highly relevant hashtags for your content. When choosing a hashtag, consider the user’s point of view. If you were a consumer searching for that hashtag, would this post be a satisfactory result?  

Utilize New Features: 

So far, the tips above have all been reactive ways to address Instagram’s algorithm changes now that they have happened. But you can also be proactive in your overall social media marketing strategy by staying on top of changes and widely acclaimed best practices as they occur. While no one can 100% accurately predict the changes to come, staying aware of such changes and trying new features can give your Instagram account a boost. 

When a social media platform releases a new feature, they want it to be successful and will reward users who are quick to adapt. In most cases, using new features allows your account to stand out from the crowd, as was the case with Instagram Stories and is now happening with Stories Highlights, the ability to display archived Stories on your profile. 

Get Support from Social Media Marketing Professionals: 

An effective and always up-date social media marketing strategy takes time to design, adjust and implement. And beyond managing your tactics on each social media platform, your social media marketing activities need to work symbiotically with all your other digital and traditional marketing initiatives. This is the difference between using social media for marketing and branding purposes, versus spending time on social media as a means of personal escape.  

As you grow your business through Instagram, stay adventurous and watch out for the next new thing. To keep up to date with marketing changes, or get help using social media marketing to the fullest, contact our professionals at McAllister Marketing today. We’ll ensure your social media marketing strategy is optimized and aligned with your overall marketing plan and objectives to attract, convert and retain more customers 

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