What Instagram's Algorithm Change Means for Your Business

What Instagram's Algorithm Change Means for Your Business
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By Marty McDonald

Going online to conduct business and engage customers has become an increasingly popular practice. Because of this, digital and social media marketing have become a requisite part of doing business for small and large companies alike. At Bad Rhino, we have helped clients create engagement and sales by leveraging their social media presence for over five years.

I recently took a look at the new features Instagram incorporated into their platform and wanted to share my thoughts. Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has used a timeline-based algorithm to determine what users saw at the top of their feeds. They had a simple, democratic system. The posts that were published most recently got featured first.

When Instagram announced its plan to change how content appears in its feed, individual users and B2C focused companies had to reevaluate their social media strategies. Instead of showing content chronologically, beginning with the most recent post, the posts that show up depend on how likely the user is to engage with the content.

This means Instagram now tries to guess your level of interest in a particular post, based on your relationship with the user and timeliness of the post. The change will have lasting effects on how small businesses use social media.

Social media marketing is the preferred digital marketing channel for small businesses, according to a Clutch.co survey. In fact, nearly 60 percent of small businesses currently have a social media presence and an additional 10 percent have plans to begin using social media this year. Breaking the data down further shows that 28 percent of small businesses use or plan to use Instagram in 2016.

The new algorithm is sure to favor the most popular accounts on Instagram. This means that small businesses seeking to use social media to grow their audience, develop a brand voice, and attract customers have another barrier to jump over get in front of the right people.

Here are four tips to help you adjust to the change.

Get Your Followers to Turn on Notifications

Soon after the algorithm change was announced, many high-profile Instagram accounts started using the hashtag #turnmeon, a reference to turning on post notifications. Followers turn on notifications by tapping the three buttons in the upper right-hand corner of a picture.

Turning on post notifications signals that you are engaged with the account. Followers will be notified when the account is updated. They can choose to view the new content before it gets lost in the feed.

Encourage Likes and Comments

The algorithm change increases the importance of interactions between a brand and its followers. It's no longer enough only to "like" or follow a company profile. Liking, commenting and sharing pictures ensures content from a particular profile will show up high in your feed.

The new factor encourages small businesses to post content that promotes engagement. In reality, the most effective social media accounts strive to post novel, engaging content that has a unique voice. For example, Frank Body, an Australian skincare company, grew its audience through Instagram. The startup created a playful character who represents their brand voice, Frank. He tags photos using the hashtag "#letsbefrank." Women's running apparel company Oiselle encourages interactions by holding contests like this one: "Snap a pic while out in the wild. Follow @oiselle and post with #takeonthetrails."

The algorithm change sets a new bar for small businesses. It encourages them to improve their social media marketing strategy.

Some components to consider include defining your goals, creating a game plan, making valuable content, getting on the right platform, and including calls to action such as: "What do you think?" "Share your story," or "Double click the image if you can relate."

Analyze Your Posts and Develop a Strategy

Content is the key to a successful social media marketing strategy. How engaging, click-worthy, shareable, and appealing your content is determines how well it performs.

Some social media marketers stand by a set of rules to determine how frequently to post on different social media channels. Others stress the importance of content quality. Put simply, good content just does well, regardless of how often you post it.

Unsure of how to measure your content's success? A variety of social media marketing tools can help you keep track of important analytics, such as number of views, interactions and shares, audience growth, click-throughs to your website, and revenue generated.

Use Hashtags

Use hashtags to your advantage. They allow users to engage in discussions based on topic. Users can easily find small businesses on Instagram by using trending hashtags or creating their own.

Using popular hashtags increases your chances of being found by new customers. Users will see you as a voice in a discussion that interests them. Creating your own hashtags encourages people to engage with your brand. For example, Red Bull's hashtag campaign, #PutACanOnIt, encouraged people to share photos of them drinking a Red Bull.

Social media channels will continue to change how both users and businesses share and interact with content. For this reason, it's important to stay ahead of the curve.

Marty is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Rhino at Bad Rhino Inc., a full service social media marketing agency based in Wayne, Pa.

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