Instagram boasts more than 1 billion active users worldwide. That’s huge marketing potential. It’s also the third most popular social media platform of internet users aged 16-64, falling behind only WhatsApp and Facebook. Plus, reports suggest Insta’s engagement rate is 4x higher than Facebook’s measly 0.26%. But are you making the most of this platform? Improve your Instagram reach with these tips…
Instagram Marketing Challenges – What You Need to Know
If you think Instagram marketing is easy or something you can do in your lunchbreak, think again. There are many challenges to be aware of. For example:
- There’s a lot of noise. The average business posts at least once per day. And with more than 25 million businesses now using Instagram to reach and engage with audiences, that’s a whole lot of content.
- Instagram is the most popular platform for following brands. 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile per day. This is good news for business as consumers want to see branded content. But it’s also a warning that competition is fierce and that being on top form really is the only option.
- Instagram ads can have a low clickthrough rate (CTR) of around 0.22%. This is largely due to the visual nature of Instagram which doesn’t offer opportunities for CTR in organic newsfeeds (other than Stories). Benchmarks for Stories are a little higher at 0.33%. So it’s important to create a strategy for improvement and to monitor analytics to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
Improve Your Instagram Reach
Knowing the roadblocks and challenges is one thing. But how can you improve your Instagram reach and get as many people engaging with your content as possible? Let’s look.
Understand the Instagram Algorithm
The Instagram algorithm essentially decides which content gets seen. Every single time a person opens the app, the algorithm instantly combs through all available content and decides which posts go to the top of the newsfeed and which posts should feature in the Explore tab. It also orders Stories, Live videos, Reels and IGTV videos into a suitable order.
Understanding the algorithm completely is virtually impossible. But at the very least, knowing that the algorithm is a set of rules that controls your content’s organic reach is a must. So let’s delve deeper into Instagram’s algorithm ranking signals and what you can do to hopefully make your content more visible.
Instagram is a business with a money-making focus. They make money by keeping users on the app as long as possible. Instagram therefore favours accounts who have a good relationship with their followers and keep them as active and engaged as possible.
The algorithm assumes that people who’ve interacted with your account in the past will be interested in your new content. Makes sense, right? After all, if you hang out with a friend, you’re likely to do it again in the near future. So when it decides whether to show a post to your followers, it evaluates your relationship. For example, do you follow each other? Do you message each other and leave comments? Do you tag each other in your post?
Of course it’s not possible for brand accounts to be besties with every single audience member. But you can work on your engagement, as the algorithm will recognise this. One of the best things to do is to listen and respond to your community, monitor what works and deliver content of high interest to your followers. This will boost the chance of likes and comments. This way, you’re basically showing Instagram that your followers love your brand and want to see content.
Phrases like, “You asked, we delivered” as seen in this Instagram caption from @BootsUK show that you care and are willing to tailor your strategy to meet consumer demands.
Top Tip: Always use Instagram analytics such as Instagram Insights to monitor what’s hot and what’s not. You can also utilise tools like Agorapulse for deeper insights. This will also allow you to make tweaks if your reach of engagement drops.
Newer posts often take priority over older ones. Again, this makes sense as Instagram is trying to ensure users get access to the very latest content and aren’t always exposed to posts they’ve read before. Therefore, when it comes to improving Instagram reach, one of the easiest things you can do is post when your followers are online. Looking at your audience’s behaviour therefore becomes critical. And there are tools to make this easier.
Agorapulse Analytics, for instance, recommends the best time to post to every network based on your account’s historical data and goals (follower growth, engagement and click-throughs). Of course, the best time to post is not always the most convenient – particularly if you’re targeting an overseas audience, or a community well-known to work unsociable hours.
Remember Instagram wants to keep people on their platform for as long as possible. The average user spends 30-minutes a day on Instagram and that’s achieved by giving people what they want to see. Instagram’s complicated algorithm is brilliant at tracking user affinity and can cleverly work out the exact content of a photograph or video. Therefore football fans get football content, millennials are delivered memes according to their tastes and humour levels and crazy cat ladies get cute feline content. (I do know this!) Again, it all very much makes sense. So what can you do to ensure your content is being seen and reaches your audience promptly?
It’s important to known and understand your audience. What makes them tick? What content do they seek out? What are their favourite account types? Once you’ve created audience personas you can then create content that’s truly appealing. If it hits the spot, the algorithm is more likely to serve it up to your followers on a silver plate. Well, not literally, but you get the gist.
Top tips for brands: Be consistent. Instagram wants to know who you are and what they’re dealing with in order to find the right audience for your content. Develop a unique tone of voice. And tell stories that matter to people. Take a look @airbnb’s posts, for example.
Not only do they use beautiful images, but they provide descriptive and enticing content in the caption to make it extra clear that this post is for people with an interest in exploration, travel and discovery. They also give posts a more personalised feel by using the names of Superhosts. Anyone who has read content about Superhosts is therefore more likely to be delivered similar posts. Airbnb loves to include storytelling elements too in order to make people want more. Just look at the description of Ralph’s ‘fresh donuts and apple fritters.’
Other Ranking Factors…
There are other ranking signals to be aware of too, but these revolve more around user behaviour. For example, someone who follows less accounts and opens their Instagram feed multiple times a day, is more likely to see your content compared to someone who follows thousands of accounts and rarely opens their app. The organic reach of your brand might also depend on how long someone stays on their feed. If they give it a quick glance, your content can be easily missed. But if they spend quality time looking at each and every post, your engagement levels might surge.
Now obviously, you can’t ask your followers to unfollow other accounts or spend more time on social media. That’s just unethical. However there are other ways to try and improve your reach. Here’s a few things to consider.
Prioritise Instagram Carousel Posts
Did you know that Carousel posts make up 17% of feed posts and pull 3x the engagement and 1.4x the reach of other post types? Interesting, you say. Well yes it is. While Instagram doesn’t prioritise Carousel content specifically, it does reward posts that earn more engagement. So it’s a great idea to create your very own Carousel strategy. Carousels can consist of between 2-10 images that users can view by swiping through the content. They’re great for going into more detail on a product or capturing multiple angles on the same theme. It’s like visiting an e-commerce site and wanting to see the dress from all angles to make sure you like it.
Check out this adoption plea for a lab mix puppy called Fran. And this is just a snippet guys… get the tissues out.
Nearly all of @sociaCheck out this adoption plea for a lab mix puppy called Fran. And this is just a snippet guys… get the tissues out.lteesnyc’s posts are carousels. Because let’s face it, the greater number of pictures you see of an adorable potential pet, the more likely you are to adopt, right? It’s easy to scroll past one picture of a dog looking a little sad and lost. But it’s not so easy to ignore a whole bunch of them. This brand is also incredible talented at storytelling which further pulls on the heart strings and encourages people to spend more time on their page, which Instagram views as a good thing.
“Let’s play make believe. You’re Goldilocks, and you’re looking for a lab mix puppy. You’re aggressively scrolling through Instagram and refreshing your Petfinder browser window more often than you’re taking breaths of air .. then there’s Fran. Perfect balance. You bookmark her and resume the digital hunt. The next one’s too unruly, the following seems sedated. You glance back at Fran — again, the balance you’re looking for. Have you had enough of this game yet? Get the gist?
Make the Most of Hashtags
Let’s just take a quick look at the hashtags for the above post too! Here they are:
#dog #dogsofinstagram #puppy #animalrescue #cute #nyc #love #life #socialteesnyc #straypride
While machine learning essentially sorts out Instagram content in a complex way that none of us can really ever fully appreciate, hashtags are a great way for brands to improve their organic reach easily. For example, hashtags help people discover you, even if they don’t follow you. And that’s the perfect way to get eyes on your brand. Precise, accurate, thoughtful hashtags also signal to both humans and the algorithm what’s in your post and who might be interested in it. What’s more, reports suggest that a post with at least one Instagram hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag. While you can use up to 30 hashtags in a post, make sure that any you do use are relevant, describe the content and are tailored to your target audience.
The best way to build a friendship is to spend time with the other person right? Well the same applies to digital relationships. In order to improve your loyal following and show Instagram that you’re acing engagement and deserve to have your content delivered to a wide audience, you need to get posting. If posting every single day to your feed seems too overwhelming, fear not. During Instagram’s Creator Week in June 2021, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri revealed that a posting cadence of 2 feed posts per week and 2 Stories per day is ideal for building a following on the app.
And there are many things you can do to make this process a lot easier. For example, you might decide to create how-to videos, tutorials or product showcase videos. These can actually be created in batch over a short space of time but be rolled out over a period of several weeks or months. Sephora does this regularly to show their latest products in action. You can also come up with a seasonal content plan to fuel your social media strategy. This will help to keep your content fresh, relevant and searchable. Check out the likes of fashion retailer New Look who have put together this autumnal look. You can also take advantage of user-generated content which is great for populating both your Feed and Story. That’s exactly what Intrepid Travel does on a regular basis.
Improving your Instagram reach takes time and effort. Want to restrategise your content and social media marketing? Get in contact.