How I Hacked the Instagram Algorithm Like a Teen
Not much is known about the new Instagram algorithm, but whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay. We’re in a time of flux, where some users have it, some users don’t, and everyone is just trying to figure out how they can make the Instagram algorithm work for them. Here’s what we do know: similar to Facebook, the new Instagram algorithm feed favors posts with high engagement, meaning that the more likes and comments your post receives, the more people will see your post!
With Instagram engagement down 33% this year, now is the time to get creative about how you can hack the Instagram algorithm to make it work for you. Recently, I discovered the weird ways that teens use Kylie Jenner’s Instagram posts to get more likes on their profile, and I decided to see if I could use their methods to hack the Instagram algorithm. And, well…it worked. Once I started using Instagram like teens do, my posts started performing better in the Instagram feed and I was able to double the likes on my Instagram photos. Here’s a look at the weird world of Instagram teens:
How Teens Built a Sharing Economy of Likes
One glance at Kylie Jenner’s Instagram account, and you’ll notice tens of thousands of one-word comments on every photo: “lb, lb, lb, lb, first, lb, first, first, lb, row.” It’s fascinating. This photo of Kylie Jenner’s dogs has over 300,000 comments, and I’d guess that 90% of them just say “lb.” What does it mean, and why are teens doing it?
“Lb” is short for “like back,” and it acts as the motto of an unwritten teen code. Teens use Instagram very differently than adults and businesses do; they favor likes and comments over followers, and will frequently delete photos if they don’t get enough likes. To help each other out, they’ve gathered around the teen Instagram queen Kylie Jenner (and her sister Kendall) to create a sharing economy of Instagram likes.
If you’re a teen and you want to get more likes, all you have to do is visit a recent post on Kylie Jenner’s Instagram and click to view the comments. For every person that comments “lb,” (which is nearly all of them) just go to their profile, like a photo, and they’ll like one of your photos back. Repeat this until your thumbs get tired, and you’ll have racked up the likes in no time. It’s shocking how quickly teens reciprocate with likes, it’s as if they’ve created this community where they understand each other’s insecurities and want to help each other out. That, or they just want more likes on their Instagram photos and will do whatever they can to get it.
In Kylie Jenner’s comments you’ll also find a few other phrases besides “lb” that refer to a more specific likes-for-likes scenario. There’s LB’s little sister, “cb”, which means “comment back” and is used less frequently. Next is my personal favorite “first,” which means “first photo” (and is not, as I originally thought, teens thinking they have the first comment on an Instagram post). And last but not least is “row,” which references an entire row of three Instagram photos. One teen I talked to mentioned that she “has to be sneaky doing it, because often your friends will grill you for it,” because they monitor the “activity” tab on Instagram to see who is liking what photos. It sounds exhausting.
How I Hacked the Instagram Algorithm Using Kylie Jenner’s Teen Army
This teen LB phenomenon has been happening for years, with Kylie tweeting her disapproval of it way back in November 2012, but the teens haven’t stopped. Originally created as a vanity metric, I decided to use Instagram like a teen to try and hack the Instagram algorithm.
First, I started by just liking other teen’s photos, which was a little weird at first, but then it became addicting once I realized that I could get as many likes on a photo as time I was willing to spend. But being an adult, I don’t have unlimited time on my hands, and I wanted to speed up the process. My hypothesis was that if I was able to generate a lot of engagement on my Instagram post shortly after posting, it would signal to Instagram that it was quality, engaging content and my post would be moved higher up in people’s feeds and be shown to more people.
With that in mind, after posting a photo to Instagram, I made my first comment on Kylie Jenner’s Instagram (sorry, Kylie). I chose to comment with “first” instead of “lb,” because I wanted to direct the likes only to my most recent photo. After commenting, I watched the likes roll in, with about 5 likes from people who didn’t follow me per minute. Teen code says that I was then supposed to like their first photo back, which I tried my best to do. Because Kylie gets tens of thousands of “lb” comments, my comment was quickly lost and the likes dried up after a few minutes. Because of this, I found that it’s better to take a minute or two to go and like other teens’ photos first, and then they’ll return the favour almost instantly. In order to keep engagement steady, I would go back to Kylie’s comments and like a few teens photos every hour, and get some more in return.
My goal wasn’t to just get likes on Instagram, because likes from random teens are not valuable to me. Instead, I was trying to generate a short burst of engagement soon after I post in an effort to trick Instagram’s algorithm into promoting my post to the top of my followers’ feeds. And it worked: the posts I tried this with all received 50-120% more likes than my average posts, and I noticed that my Instagram posts had a longer lifespan than usual, with the photos receiving a steady amount of likes for 3-4 days after I posted. Likes on my photos went from around 110 likes per photo to 220+, with only about 20 of those likes from teens, meaning that the vast majority of my Instagram engagement was from my real followers. So while likes from random teens may not be valuable, if they’re able to help you gain more exposure with your real audience, then it may be a weird Instagram strategy to consider.
Is this the right strategy for you?
If you’re using Instagram for business, commenting “LB” on a teen’s Instagram photo probably isn’t right for you. Remember: while the activity feature on Instagram may not be a popular feature with adults, it’s still there, and people are able to see what you’re “liking” as a brand. For tips on how to increase Instagram engagement for business, you can check out this blog post. But if you’re using Instagram for yourself, and you really want your followers to see your latest selfie, why not kickstart your post by liking a few teen photos? The adults won’t notice.
Later helps you schedule Instagram posts for optimal times, so you don’t have to rely on Kylie Jenner to succeed.