business

Instagram Algorithm Case Study

The Instagram algorithm has been controversial for past year. When Facebook took over the platform, they quickly implemented a new Instagram algorithm. This algorithm changed the way we receive information. Previously, we saw posts in chronological order on Instagram. Now, an algorithm decides what posts we see first based on certain criteria.

 

The 5 Key Instagram Algorithm Factors are: 
  • Interaction – the accounts you frequently interact with. This includes viewing stories, liking posts, saving posts, sharing posts, sending DMs or commenting on posts.
  • Engagement – how popular an certain post is. This includes likes, comments and saves.
  • Relevance – how relevant the content is to topics you’ve shown interest in. This includes hashtags you follow or search, or hashtags you personally use.
  • Searches – the accounts you search for on Instagram
  • Time – the amount of time spent viewing a post, story or profile as well as the time a post was shared.

 

The Instagram Algorithm was designed to show you the content you’re most interested in. However, human behavior threw a wrench in the plan. The ease of scrolling Instagram makes it easy to forget to engage in accounts you’ve selected to follow. By doing so, users naturally stopped liking and commenting on as many photos. Therefore, instantly altering your “relevant content”. Designed to be visual platform, users often spend less than two seconds viewing a post as they scroll to the next. This inherently alters the Instagram algorithm again by shortening the time spent viewing a post.

 

The Instagram Algorithm Study

 

For seven days, we tried numerous variables while posting to see what posts performed best. From hashtag  variations to time of day posting, to geo tags and comment pods.  Here are our findings:

 

DAY 1 – 

We posted in our Stories a screenshot of our profile – asking how many of those nine images anyone had seen organically in their newsfeed. The results were disheartening, to say the least. On average, our followers were seeing three of our posts over the course of nine days.

What we learned: SO MANY of our followers were feeling cheated by having missed so many of our posts. We felt defeated and oddly isolated. However, we quickly learned that providing a call to action in our stories resulted in higher clicks to our profile (which Instagram says contributes the algorithm).

 

DAY 2 – 

We posted a photo with me in it, around 7pm PST. Historically, photos with people in it perform better than ones without. For this post, we added our 30 hashtags to the caption immediately after posting it. This post performed decently, with over 350 likes trickling in over the first few days. Most interestingly, this post prompted 102 profile visits. Again, a large contributor to the Instagram algorithm.

 

DAY 3 –

We posted a lifestyle type photo at 3:30pm PST with a strong call to action at the beginning of the caption. We also added star emojis to the beginning of the post to help differentiate it from our normal captions. The key here was adding a call to action in our Instagram story immediately after posting, urging people to engage on our post. This time – we didn’t add any hashtags for the first 24 hours the post was live. In the first hour, the post had received 300 likes. By the end of the week, there were over 222 comments, 16 saves and more than 600 likes.

What we learned: Hashtags cause the algorithm to slow down your post. A caption without hashtags appears more “authentic”. For the remainder of the week, we would continue to add hashtags the next day. Additionally, we learned that adding a call to action in our Story prompted strong engagement.

DAY 4-

We posted a quote image that we created, again in the afternoon. Quote cards often do well, but this one performed better than any before. The image was saved 64 times and reached almost 5,000 people. That was twice as many as any post recently. We also took a poll in our Instagram Story as to how many people spend most of their time scrolling their feed versus watching Stories. 60% of answers said they mainly watch Stories, and no longer spend time scrolling through their Instagram newsfeed.

 

What we learned: Post more quotes.

As for the results of the newsfeed vs. Stories poll, that could explain a LOT of why people aren’t seeing posts. It’s because they aren’t looking. 60% of people said they no longer look at their newsfeed. That could play a fundamental role in why people are experiencing lower post engagement.

DAY 5-

Our 5th post was another original content piece, posted earlier in the afternoon. When the post started off slow, we went this off to two “comment pods”. These comment pods (two groups of close friends in a DM) will like and comment on a post they may have missed in their feed, which helps boost the algorithm.

What we learned: Don’t post earlier than 3pm unless it’s first thing in the morning.

 

DAY 6-

 

We posted an interior decor image in a different view than shared before at 8:15am on Saturday morning. This post performed really well and is still receiving lots of likes and comments 36 hours later. After 8 hours, we added hashtags specifically describing the image, leaving out vague industry related ones.

What we learned: Original content always does best. Early weekend posts can perform well also.

 

The Results

 

With an Instagram Business account, you are provided insightful analytics. We’ve included our own personal results from the performance of the week below.

 

instagram algorithm growth hacks from the identite collective

 

 

 

The Best Tactics to Beat the Instagram Algorithm

For six days, we tried numerous variables while posting to see what posts performed best. Below, we’ve listed our recommendations for the best Instagram tactics to increase your exposure. These recommendations are based on our personal experiences only. However, they’re also the strategies we’ll continue to use for our own business account.

 

  • Original content is key – whether it’s a thoughtful snap from your iPhone, or one shot with a photographer, original photos perform better than any others. While strong stock photography is a helpful filler, your engagement will grow by incorporating more original content. We recommend a ratio of 60% original, 40% stock.
  • Post in the afternoon – post between 3-4pm for longevity. Post between 8:30-9:30pm for quick engagement.
  • Don’t use hashtags for 60 minutes after posting – refrain from posting a group of hashtags for the first hour. Add your hashtags by editing your original caption, not by placing them in a comment like many people used to.
  • Change your hashtags with each post – when you do add hashtags, make sure they are entirely relevant to the content in your image or caption. Stick to 15-20 per post that are all thematic to your content, avoiding over used tags.
  • Use your Stories – every time you post, mention it in your stories with a specific call to action asking people to engage. Sometimes, we need a reminder to break the human nature to simply scroll or stare.
  • Post regularly – one post a day is optimum for your feed, while consistent posting throughout the day on your Story is ideal. Stories do a better job of refreshing chronologically than your newsfeed, so frequent posts spread throughout the day increases your visibility.
  • Include hashtags in your stories – Use one or two key hashtags in your stories to increase visibility.
  • Add VALUE to your content – whether directing followers to a great sale, giving away a free download, providing advice, or solving a problem for people – make your content add value to your followers lives.

 

Final Thoughts

More than anything, be an active participant. ENGAGE in other people’s content. Like photos as you scroll. Leave comments. Answer polls. Initiate conversations. It is a two way street and your growth will come from thoughtful engagement.

 

Now that Part 1 of our Instagram Algorithm study has concluded – we’re on to something bigger. Later this week we’ll share a plan to help get Instagram’s attention. Our goal is to get Instagram back to being instant – and the newsfeed back to chronological order. We’ve collected dozens of personal stories as to why this is crucial. Examples of how the new algorithm is threatening our businesses, our friendships and our freedom of speech.

 

In the meantime, try implementing our suggested techniques this week and let us know how they work for you. This is a conversation, not a lecture. If you have ideas, we want to hear them. The more knowledge we share, the more successful we all become.

 


 

The Identité Collective is a full service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering bespoke branding, web design and social media content creation, we help small businesses elevate their digital presence to become industry experts. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.

  1. Jessica

    January 15th, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this study! I’m going to try these tips this week.

    Best,
    Jessica

  2. acasey

    January 15th, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read it Jessica! I hope you see some positive changes from it this week <3

  3. Shree

    January 15th, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Oh, wow! So this was interesting to read. I had no idea that posting hashtags right after posting a photo could be damaging my ability to reach my audience. And I can’t believe that 60% of people don’t look at their newsfeed! I love stories but I always look at my news feed because I know that there’s still some value there.

    I wasn’t posting a lot of call to actions in my IG stories because I guess part of me feels like that’s bugging people and that’s annoying but apparently I need to up my game if I’m going to try and beat the algorithm!

    Thank you for posting this and I can’t wait for phase 2!

  4. acasey

    January 15th, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Something important to consider is the stories vs. feed poll was conducted ON stories. So – that in itself likely excludes a large portion of people, the ones who prefer the feed! But… it definitely shows a large number of users are choosing to stick with stories. Food for thought!

  5. Danielle

    January 15th, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    This is so mind blowing. Thank you so much for sharing!!

    Keep Sparkling✨
    Danielle
    Sparkling Southerner
    Find me at : Instagram

  6. acasey

    January 15th, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read. Part 2 will need your help – so keep watching for when I get my act together and have it completed! XO

  7. Julia

    January 15th, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to figure this out! A huge thank you for sharing it with us all, I’ve taken my notes and can’t wait to try all of your tips out.
    – Julia
    Julia Goodwin Design // My Manicured Life

  8. acasey

    January 15th, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Oh, sweet Julia, I’m so glad you were able to take something away from the post. I hope it helps a little! It’s all overwhelming and scary. Glad you’re here with us.

  9. acasey

    January 18th, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Julia! I’m so happy to see your gorgeous face here! Hope the tips have helped a bit, but I’m working on updating some thoughts based on the feedback I’ve gotten from accounts of varying sizes. I’ll post on Instagram when those updates are live! Love you!

  10. Natalie

    January 15th, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    This is extremely insightful. Thank you so much for sharing!

  11. acasey

    January 15th, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you so much Natalie! I’m so glad you found it to be helpful – if we can help ONE person reach their audience more efficiently, it was so worth it. XOXO

  12. Sophia Reay

    January 16th, 2018 at 2:08 am

    Blown away about the hashtags! It’s been drilled into us to use all 30 all the time. Thank you for doing this and for sharing your results xx

  13. Leah

    January 16th, 2018 at 3:47 am

    This is such a helpful post! I can’t wait to try out all of your tips this week!

  14. acasey

    January 18th, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Thank you Leah! I’m working to compile my notes from feedback I’ve received, so I’ll be adding more tips for different sized accounts ASAP.

  15. Meghan

    January 16th, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Super interesting results – it’s definitely strengthening my belief that small businesses HAVE to be killing it with stories. And NOW is the time, before everyone has caught on!

    Thanks for the wonderful post!

  16. acasey

    January 18th, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Totally agree! Make sure to check out Tyler J. McCall on Instagram because he’s running a challenge about improving your stories right now. His insight is INSANE.

  17. Kaitlyn

    January 16th, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Wow thank you so much for not only doing this study but for publishing it so we can learn along with you! This is SO helpful and I’ve already sent it to my friends because more people need to know this. Thanks!!

  18. acasey

    January 18th, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Oh Kaitlyn your comment made my day! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a sweet note. I hope you find it useful – check back later this week as I’m adding in notes from feedback of others who’ve tried it. Learning so much!

  19. Cassandra

    January 17th, 2018 at 1:22 am

    You are incredible for putting all this together. I can’t wait to hear what else you have up your stylish sleeve! <3

  20. acasey

    January 18th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you sweet, Cass. So appreciate you taking the time to read it and weigh in.

  21. Susan Schwelke

    January 17th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    I have to agree with the other peeps, that this has been very detailed information, that I will be willing to try. I also may consider working with you. Limited budget. Would love to hear back from you 🖐

  22. acasey

    January 18th, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you, Susan! I’m so glad it was helpful. The best way for us to get started potentially working together is to head on over to our inquiry page here, so we can learn more about your project + needs. XOXO

  23. Laura Harrison

    January 17th, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    Super kind of you to share so much research. Grateful for all of the info!!!

  24. acasey

    January 18th, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Hey Laura! So grateful you’re here. I’ve learned a lot from hearing other people’s feedback this week, so I’ll be updating the post with more tips soon. Thanks so much for your sweet note!

  25. Erica Woodford

    January 19th, 2018 at 4:09 am

    Great info! Thanks for sharing. I have been hesitant to switch over my photography account to a business account in the event IG starts to do what Facebook has with the business accounts (showing little content to viewers and wanting businesses to pay for ads to be seen). Thoughts?

  26. Elizabeth

    January 20th, 2018 at 1:20 am

    I have the same perspective as Erica on switching to a business account. I know there are tools in stories and links available on our profile with biz that we don’t have with a personal, but leary of the cons outweighing the pros. Also interested in your thoughts.

  27. Rachael Anne Allison

    January 22nd, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    Absolutely fascinating! I’ve totally felt discouraged on my business instagram, and have just kind of given up on it because it’s so frustrating to use. But–I’m torn because it also does help me get great business, so I know I can’t completely ignore it. So this experimentation helps me understand what to do with all of this, because I really do like instagram in general, I just don’t like the gamifying how I spend time with people online. So, this helps so much! Thank you Anastasia!

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  30. Alisha

    February 19th, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this study and posting your findings!!
    I have literally been doing everything wrong, smh. I’m going to apply your tips and see if they work for me!

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  32. Dudu

    March 2nd, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Hello!
    I found the study really awesome, it helped me a lot…I was too lost when deciding about contents to poost, ways to do it, how to reach better my followers etc.
    Thanks a loott!!! =D
    Oh, btw, at the end of your text, u told u were to share “a plan to help get Instagram’s attention”.
    I’m really anxious to read it!! ehahae
    Is it done?!
    Regards from Brazil!!
    =D
    xoxo

  33. Jane

    May 26th, 2018 at 2:32 am

    Reading this and taking some college-style notes!! As a newbie to marketing my (brand new) business on social media, I feel overwhelmed…much like I’m drowning. You’ve just thrown me a life preserver. Thank you!!!

  34. Shelley | Crazy Wonderful

    October 3rd, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I am eating up all of this useful information, thank you!!! I do have a question for you – I just read your post on The Haven List about hashtags. There you mentioned you add hashtags to the comments section. Do you now recommend that over editing the original caption as you mentioned here? Thanks so much!

  35. acasey

    October 3rd, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Hey Shelley! Great question + thank you so much for reading! So… I honestly switch back and forth every couple of days. I think the changes in the placement of the hashtags help keep the algorithm thinking it’s “authentic”. But, that’s really just a hunch. I’d definitely try posting at the same time two days in a row, and test the hashtag placement to compare + contrast!

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