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Decoding Instagram Algorithm to Increase Free Instagram Followers

Spending countless hours on Instagram today is the greatest of all our guilty pleasures. Why don’t we leverage Instagram for something productive!

Instagram marketing is evolving with times! Up until recently, one thing that almost guaranteed that your account goes viral was the number of likes your post gets.

This is no longer enough. Let us see what the Instagram algorithm is and what strategies you can adopt to increase free Instagram followers. 

Remember, these tactics will be valid only if you have Instagram Business Profile. Follow these easy steps to switch your current profile to a business account.

Switching to Instagram Business profile will give several advantages:

  • You can access Instagram analytical tool called Insights.
  • You will be able to advertise on Instagram via promoted posts.
  • You can add links in the Instagram stories. However, your business profile should have 10,000 followers before Instagram gives you access to this feature.

Now Let’s deep dive into how you can increase free Instagram followers! 

1. How to find a spot on the Explore Page

Most of the people are fed up of the new Instagram algorithm because the content isn’t getting the same engagement as it did in the past! That said, you might be wondering how to trick this mysterious algorithm? Let’s answer this burning question.

Getting on the Explore Page is one of the best ways to outsmart Instagram algorithm. First, let’s know about the Explore Page.

Instagram explore page is a combination of photos, IGTV videos, shoppable post, Reels and topic post that are tailored for a specific user. When you tap on your Explore page and compare it with your friend’s explore page, you will notice that it is different. 

The Explore page algorithm monitors your interaction with different posts. It displays the posts that people you followed have liked, the ones with high engagement and posts from similar accounts that you already follow. From the picture below, you can see how landing on the Explore Page drastically increases the number of impressions. 

In simple terms, landing on Explore Feed means boosting your presence on Instagram. It is not just about one or two posts, try to get most of the posts discoverable on Explore Page. 

But, how to make our content discoverable on Explore Page?

Post more IGTV, shop posts if you want the favour from Instagram Algorithm to appear on the Explore Page!

Explore Page has a dedicated tab or shortcut for IGTV and Shopping post. There are higher chances for your content to come in one of these tabs. What are you waiting for? Create IGTV and get started. 

From IGTV, you can create videos longer than 60 seconds. It is a mobile-oriented feature incorporated in Instagram to give YouTube-like experience. Unlike standard videos on Instagram, you can pause, resume, forward and back IGTV videos. 

After clicking on the IGTV tab, you can select your favourite genre and binge-watch! Be strategic and choose relevant hashtags for IGTV. Read this article on how to find the best hashtags for likes on Instagram.

Instagram rolled out the Shop tab in Explore Page to find a range of buyable items within a personalized feed. It contains all the shoppable post from different brand accounts.

Shop tab comes with two icons at the top right corner. One is a ribbon icon that denotes a wish list of your saved favourite posts. Another one is a store icon that shows the posts from brand accounts you follow. 

Hence, we can say that Instagram shoppable posts help to reach potential users by being in the priority list of Instagram’s recommendations algorithm.

Well, this isn’t all! In order to come in the Explore tab, you need to perform well in the Micro-test! Let’s move to the next section to know about Micro-test.

2. How to succeed in Instagram Micro-Test

Instagram has the concept of doing micro-test! Whatever content you upload, it is shown to a few people in the first few hours. After that, Instagram computes the engagement of the audience for that post.

If your engagement rate is high, then your post stands successful in the micro test. Then Instagram increases the reach of your content to a broader audience. Let us understand Micro-test with a simple formula.

Success in micro-test = Number of impressions/ Time

The crux is to post your content at the right time to get maximum engagement within a short period.

Timing plays a crucial role to get engagement. If your post gets engagement within 1 or 2 hours of posting, then your content has the potential to become viral.

3. How to choose the optimal time to post?

Timings play a significant role to secure a place on Explore Page. If your timing is perfect, then your post has the potential to go viral. High engagement on a post is possible only when your followers are most active on Instagram, then they will interact more through likes and comment. 

For the Instagram Business Profile, you can use the Insights tab to check out when your followers are most active.

The best time to post varies from business to business. Pay attention to Instagram Analytics and pinpoint the time when your audience is most active.

Does it happen that sometimes you don’t get likes despite posting the content at perfect timings?

Certain things like lack of interactive content may cause your post not to perform well in the Micro-test. 

Read the next section and get tips to curate the winning content for Instagram.

4. How to curate the content for maximum engagement?

The content works as a game-changer when it comes to  Instagram success. The content should be created from scratch, more customized and according to your followers. Create Instagram content specific to your niche. The purpose of Instagram content is threefold.

  • At least 70% of your Instagram content should focus on increasing the reach and followers organically.
  •  The objective of 20% of the content should be to build trust and affinity. 
  • Not more than 10% of the content should sell products or services

Let us see detailed strategies to achieve the above content goals

How to increase your reach and followers through content

You must have frequently seen memes taking over your Insta feed! What type of meme should you use? Are all memes funny?

Memes usually have some sort of relevance. They’re often funny and delineate trending topics. They typically consist of text, image, GIF, or even a video. The viewers should find the meme amusing.

Post the content that appears aesthetically pleasing to the viewers. This can be done by maintaining a colour scheme. You can either choose a theme of warm tones, cool shades, even colourful and bright shades do well. Whatever theme you choose, make sure to have a consistent colour pattern.

Here in this example, @dior maintains a pink colour theme in its posts. 

How to build relationships and brand affinity with the audience

Try to become friends with the followers rather than just increasing the counts. 

Post the content that creates an emotional connection with the audience. This can be done by the art of storytelling, visual narratives, replying to the comments and requesting the followers to tag your brand while posting. 

In the example above, @airbnb emotionally connects with the audience by announcing its initiative to provide shelters to COVID-19 responders. 

The Instagram audience is really fascinated to know about their favourite people representing the brand. They love to interact with them and getting their glimpse behind the curtains. This can be done by going LIVE on Instagram. You can also share the Behind The Scenes video to display the authenticity of your brand.

User Generated Content (UGC) is one of the best ways to win the hearts of the audience by collaborating organically. It gives a shoutout to the followers by reposting their content on your feed and stories. 

You can see how @lushcosmetics leverages UGC by posting customer snaps. 

How to leverage Instagram content to drive sales

Instagram introduced shoppable posts. On the Instagram profile, these posts are identified with a small shopping bag icon at the top right side of the post. You can tap the image to view its product details.

After tapping on the details, the users are directed to the ‘company’s website to purchase the product.

Using a shopping post is like hitting two birds with a single stone! First, it could be a huge opportunity to drive the traffic to your commercial website. Second, It will make you more discoverable on Explore Page.

Incorporate not more than 10% of salesy content in the feed. Some of your followers may buy allowing you to get ROI from Instagram. Post too often, and your followers will unfollow you.

There is another way to drive sales through Instagram without being pushy, and that is  Influencer Marketing. From Instagram, people have witnessed rampant Influencer culture. This has inspired many people to become like one of them. 

The girl you copy for all your fashion trends or the chef who tells you the secret of his magical recipes are Influencers.

From the picture, you can see how the captain of Indian cricket team Virat Kohli is endorsing @Flipkart.

To deep dive into this topic, I would recommend you to check out this article on how  to Increase the profit with Influencer marketing.

A post will perform best only if it resonates with the interests of the audience. You might wonder which type of post audience finds most attractive, is it IGTV, boomerang, GIF or still image! Is it a meme, tips or behind the scenes.

Now Instagram business profile enables us to check the performance of an individual post. Tap the blue insight button at the bottom of your post to know about the number of likes, comments and share on the post. 

Analyzing the metrics is the only way to check out which type of content works best for your feed. For instance, I am sharing the performance of two different types of posts from my Instagram account. One is an informative post, and the other is a BTS (Behind the scene) video from one of my sessions.

You can observe that the number of impressions is more for the BTS video than that of an informative post. On the other hand, Informative post received more likes than the BTS video. It’s a tie! We are still not able to find out the post that gets maximum engagement.

Then what’s the alternative?

Calculate the engagement score of every post and choose the one with the highest score.

Prepare an excel sheet to track the performance of the different types of posts. Make a separate column for:

  • Number of posts in each category
  • Average number of likes received.
  • Average number of comments.
  • Average number of impressions.

This is an excel sheet that I prepared for analysing the Instagram posts. You can also create an excel sheet in the same way as I did. 

Now, let’s calculate the engagement score!

The engagement score is a parameter used to evaluate the average interaction your posts receives per impression. Here is its formula.

Engagement score = (Likes+ comments + Shares)/Impressions*100

Generally, the engagement score is calculated for an individual post. As we want to select the best type of post that brings maximum engagement, we introduced a little modification in these calculations. 

Despite calculating engagement score for every single post, you can average out the number of likes, comments and impressions for each type of post. Check out the method below:

  • Average likes in post = (Sum of likes in individual posts)/number of posts
  • Average comments in post = (Sum of comments in individual posts)/number of posts

Average impressions in post = (Sum of impressions in individual posts)/number of posts

I hope this formula helped you to find the best type of post for your Insta feed. Insert the values in engagement score formula and compare its result with different types of post.

How to choose the best #Hashtags for Instagram

A hashtag is the most essential tool when it comes to making your content more discoverable. 

Let’s see the steps to choosing hashtags. 

Step 1: Generate the hashtags for your post

Websites like metahashtags.com can be used to generate real-time hashtags. Moreover, this website will show you relevant Instagram hashtags with useful metrics.

Follow the step by step guide to know the process of finding suitable hashtags for your post.

  • Go to www.metahashtags.com, enter the hashtag and click on “Search” to discover all the related hashtags. 
  •  I choose the hashtag #digitalmarketing. A list of hashtags related to digital marketing appears. 

After generating the hashtags, you will see some metrics at the bottom of every hashtag. These metrics tell us about the number of posts, average likes, minimum likes and the number of comments under that particular hashtag. 

  • Prepare the excel sheet of all the relevant hashtags you generated. You can check out the excel sheet I prepared from the hashtag #digital marketing.

Step 2: Grouping of Hashtags

Let us assume that you are able to hit 100 likes per post on an average, then choose the hashtags where an average number of likes are 100 or below. 

When you target the lower rank hashtags, you will climb up on “Hashtag ladder”. What is the Hashtag ladder? Let’s understand it from hashtags excel sheet I prepared for #digitalmarketing.

  1. #digitalmarketing – 13.7M posts.
  2. #seo – 5M posts.
  3. #marketingagency – 1.6M posts
  4. #marketing101 – 884.8k posts
  5. #digitalstrategy – 273.8k posts

Consider the different hashtags in successive order of how many posts they contain, like the rungs of a ladder.

First, you have to conquer the hashtag with 273.8k post, then move on to next series of the ladder with 1.6M or 13.7M posts.

The reason why you have to take a baby step is simple- you are bound to perform best in the micro-test when there are few posts to compete 

If you do well in 273.8k posts, then you are likely to do well later on in 1.6M and further 13.7M posts, consequently exposing your channel to a larger and more varied audience.

For climbing up on the Hashtag Ladder, it is preferred to choose a combination of hashtags. If you receive 100 likes per post on an average, you can choose:

  • 5-10 hashtags having medium competition with 150 likes.
  • 15-20 hashtags having less competition with less than 100 likes.
  • 6-7 hashtags having a high competition with a minimum of 200 likes.

Select the set of hashtags from the excel sheet you have created. Remember, don’t use banned hashtags. These are the hashtags that Instagram has blocked due to objectionable content. 

Wrapping up

In this article, we have decoded Instagram algorithm to get an extra edge over others. As you know, content plays a crucial role in optimizing the engagement organically. Therefore, find out which content works best for you by leveraging Instagram for business. From the Insights tab, you can quickly analyse the performance of your content.

No matter what strategy you choose, the most essential part is to engage with the audience wholeheartedly and avoid using too much promotional post in your feed.

As you are aware now how the Instagram algorithm works, incorporate these strategies and let us know in the comment section, how well your posts are performing on Instagram!

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FAQs

Instagram Business profile will give several advantages:

● You can access Instagram’s analytical tool called Insights.
● You will be able to advertise on Instagram via promoted posts.
● You can add links to the Instagram stories. However, your business profile should have
10,000 followers before Instagram gives you access to this feature.
If you are looking forward to grow your business, read this article to find top Instagram
influencers

Instagram has the concept of doing micro-test. Whatever content you upload, it is shown to a few
people in the first few hours. If your engagement rate is high, then your post stands successful in the
micro test and Instagram increases your content’s reach to a broader audience. To succeed in a
micro test, post your content at the right time to get maximum engagement within a short period.

The purpose of Instagram content is threefold.
● At least 70% of your Instagram content should focus on increasing the reach and
followers organically.
● The objective of 20% of the content should be to build trust and affinity.
● Not more than 10% of the content should sell products or services
To get more information about Instagram, I would recommend you to read this
article to rock Instagram influencer marketing

If you receive 100 likes per post on average, you can choose a combination of hashtags like:
● 5-10 hashtags having a medium competition with 150 likes.
● 15-20 hashtags having less competition with less than 100 likes.
● 6-7 hashtags having a high competition with a minimum of 200 likes.

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