When it comes to the Instagram algorithm, everyone seems to have a theory about how it works.
Lately, there’s been a steady increase in Instagram rumors spreading around the platform, with brands and influencers posting both warnings and pleas for engagement.
So how are you supposed to know which Instagram rumors are true, and which ones are fake?
We’re breaking down 5 of the most popular Instagram rumors, backed by real data and evidence:
Instagram Rumor #1: Is the Instagram Algorithm Hiding Your Posts?
There have been plenty of rumors around the new Instagram algorithm and how it works, but you may have recently spotted posts from brands, business and influencers like this in your feed:
Usually presented as a text graphic, and sometimes with two or three images in a carousel post, it states that the Instagram algorithm has limited their posts to only 7% of their followers.
The graphics usually then go on to explain that if you want to continue seeing posts from the brand in your feed, you need to like the post and comment “yes” on it.
So, does the Instagram algorithm really limit your posts to only 7%? Are 93% of your followers missing out on your posts?
Plain and simple, this Instagram rumor is NOT true!
In fact, these posts became such a viral epidemic that it forced Instagram to release a statement on the issue.
In a series of tweets, Instagram explained that “what shows up first in your feed is determined by what posts and accounts you engage with the most, as well as other contributing factors such as the timeliness of posts, how often you use Instagram, how many people you follow, etc.”
What shows up first in your feed is determined by what posts and accounts you engage with the most, as well as other contributing factors such as the timeliness of posts, how often you use Instagram, how many people you follow, etc.— Instagram (@instagram) January 22, 2019
And just in case you were still concerned, they reassured users that “We [Instagram] have not made any recent changes to feed ranking, and we never hide posts from people you’re following – if you keep scrolling, you will see them all. Again, your feed is personalized to you and evolves over time based on how you use Instagram.”
So no, Instagram is not limiting the reach of your posts to only 7%.
You can understand brands’ and businesses’ concern if they’re seeing a sharp decline in their engagement. But the reason so many businesses are struggling with organic reach declining is likely to be tied to stronger competition on the app, and not some black-hat tricks from Instagram.
Just a few years ago, there were fewer businesses on Instagram (business profiles on Instagram were launched in 2016!), which meant that people were following fewer brands and accounts in general.
But as Instagram continues to grow to over 1 *billion* users, it’s becoming harder to get your content seen by more people. It’s a louder, more competitive space than ever before.
Now, brands invest a lot of time and money into in their Instagram marketing, so not only is the quality of content continuously rising, but there is simply more options for consumers to choose from when it comes to deciding who they want to follow and why.
As Instagram users continue to follow more accounts in general, they have less time to devote to seeing every single Instagram post from every account they follow, which results in fewer people seeing and liking your posts. Hence, organic reach declining.
But don’t be disheartened! There are still tons of brand new businesses breaking out on Instagram each day and gaining a loyal and engaged following.
Instead of posting thirsty messages to Instagram referencing the algorithm, keep the conversation about your brand message, products, or services.
And remember: just because a lot of people are doing it, doesn’t make it right (or effective!).
Instagram Rumor #2: Do Instagram Comments Have to be More Than 3 Words?
Another Instagram rumor that has been running rampant is about the length of Instagram comments, and how they affect your position in a follower’s feed.
According to the Instagram rumors, the algorithm only recognizes comments that are in words, (and not emojis) and the comments need to be longer than 3 or 4 words to “count” towards improving your engagement.
This is not true!
Simply put, there is no evidence that words are weighted heavier than emojis in the Instagram algorithm. Similarly, Instagram has never mentioned, nor given us reason to question, that your comments must be a minimum number of words.
If I had to guess where this Instagram rumor came from, I think it was started back in the days when Instagram comment pods were popular.
Pod members started to become paranoid that consistently leaving a single heart eyes emoji on someone’s post would be considered “spam” behavior, so they started asking each other to write longer comments, to make it appear more genuine and authentic.
This Instagram rumor was super popular in 2016, but due to the latest “7% meme” going viral, has recently resurfaced in a quest to beat the algorithm. But it simply isn’t true.
Genuine comments on your posts are valuable, and you should try to find ways to better engage with your community. Here are a couple tips to help you get more comments on your posts (emojis or otherwise!) :
#1: Ask Your Followers a Question
This may seem obvious, but an easy way to get more Instagram comments is to just…ask! Your question can be as simple as asking where your followers are from:
Or you can ask a more in-depth question, like what their favorite piece in your new collection is, or what they think about your recent blog post.
#2: Write Longer Captions:
This was one of our top tips for getting more Instagram engagement in 2019, and it works for inspiring your followers to leave more comments too!
When you take the time to engage your followers with your copy, it’s easy for them to get invested in what you’re trying to say, provoking an emotional response back!
For example, I’ve started writing longer captions on my Instagram because I want to really connect with my followers. So instead of just trying to think of a witty Drake lyric to use as a caption, I take a few more minutes to get real and think about what I really want to say.
Instead of dreading caption writing, use it as an opportunity to think about what you want to use your voice and platform for.
As a business on Instagram, you should value any and all Instagram comments you get from your community, whether they’re an emoji or a heartfelt essay about why they love your products!
Struggling to get pen to paper, or thumbs to keyboard? With Later, you can draft, save, edit and schedule your Instagram posts in advance. So you can spend time making the perfect caption for your post, right from your desktop!
Instagram Rumor #3: Will Liking and Commenting on Someone’s Posts Show Me More Content From Them?
Remember when the Instagram algorithm was introduced, and every influencer was asking you to turn on post notifications so you wouldn’t miss their posts?
Well, the 2019 version of this is influencers asking their followers to go on “like sprees” in order to see more of their posts.
So will liking a bunch of posts from one account lead to you seeing more of their content in your feed?
Yes — this one is true!
Who you engage with (by liking and commenting) contributes to what posts appear higher up in your Instagram feed.
The Instagram algorithm uses your relationships and how you interact with accounts to determine what content to show you first. So if you’re liking a lot of content from one account, or regularly returning to like one profile’s posts, Instagram will recognize you have an interest in this account and will place their content higher on your feed next time they post something new.
Getting into the science, according to Instagram, “Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. Even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.”
Simply put, if you want to see more content from a specific account in your feed, make sure you’re regularly engaging with them!
For example, I like, comment, and watch a ton of @Airbnb’s posts and stories, which signals to Instagram that I really want to see Airbnb’s posts in my feed. Instagram will then place Airbnb’s content higher up in my feed, so I don’t have to scroll forever to see their recent posts.
Which means that yes, if you did go on a liking spree on someone’s account, you probably will see more of their content in your feed temporarily.
But a few likes does not equal “relationship status” on Instagram, so in order for this to actually work, you’ll need to be engaging with their content consistently once it is in your feed, too.
You can learn more about exactly how the Instagram algorithm works here.
Instagram Rumor #4: Does Swiping Past Instagram Stories Negatively Impact Them in the Algorithm?
Another Instagram post that has gone semi-viral warns that you should watch entire Instagram Stories, or risk not seeing that profile’s stories in your feed when they next post.
The Instagram post warns: “When you’re watching someone’s Instagram story, choose to tap through instead of swiping Next, otherwise they get pushed back further in your timeline in the future. By tapping through each post, you’re letting the algorithm know you’re interested in that content.”
Here’s the thing: no one really knows how the Instagram Stories algorithm works.
We do know how Instagram ranks who views your story (spoiler alert: if your Instagram crush is near the top, it’s probably because you’re stalking them, and not the other way around), but Instagram has never publicly spoken on the record about the stories algorithm.
According to the Evening Standard, who attended an in-person Instagram event in London, Instagram did shed a little light about how the Instagram Stories algorithm works (that being said, this information has not been confirmed by Instagram).
“Stories has a different algorithm from the rest of your Instagram feed but it works in a similar way. It looks for the same signals, such as interest, relationship, and timeliness. It will also look at particular behaviors such as if you actively tap to watch a particular story instead of watching a feed of different stories. As well, it takes into account how many segments are watched in a story.”
So, it does sound like this Instagram rumor could be true.
But if you don’t have time to watch the entirety of someone’s Instagram story – it’s okay!
Honestly, I have never found that swiping next on a story results in that profile’s future’s stories being “pushed back further in your timeline.”
In reality, often I find that if I swipe next on a profile’s Instagram story that I usually watch through to the end, it will be served again to me at the front of my feed! Again, this goes back to the example where, based on consistently liking, commenting, and watching, Instagram knows that I really, really like to see Airbnb’s content in both of my feeds.
If you want to learn more about growing your business with stories, sign up for our free Instagram Stories for Business course!
Instagram Rumor #5: Does Switching to an Instagram Business Profile Negatively Affect Your Account in the Algorithm?
Let’s jump right in with this one – the answer is NO!
Instagram was asked this question directly, and said that “Instagram does not give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.”
This Instagram rumor is one of my biggest pet peeves because there are so many benefits to switching to an Instagram business profile! Even if it *did* negatively affect performance (which it doesn’t), I still think the benefits of an Instagram business profile outweigh any negatives.
Plus, think about it: you need to have an Instagram business profile in order to run ads on Instagram. Instagram is an advertising platform – why would Instagram want to jeopardize potential customer growth by having their business profiles’ posts perform worse?
Here are 2 major benefits of switching to an Instagram business profile:
#1: Access to Instagram Analytics:
Instagram’s in-app analytics, Instagram Insights, is only available to business profiles. As a brand, if you don’t understand who your audience is and what content they respond to, it’s going to be very hard to grow your business on Instagram!
#2: Scheduling Instagram Posts:
You can schedule photos and videos to automatically be published to Instagram — but only if you have an Instagram business profile!
And only if you’re using an Instagram scheduler that is part of the Instagram Partner Program, like Later. If you don’t have an Instagram business profile, you can still schedule Instagram posts, but you’ll need to get a reminder with push notifications instead of having your posts automatically publish for you.
So if you want to save time and have your post automatically publish, you can schedule Instagram posts for free with Later, the #1 Instagram marketing platform used by over 2 million businesses.
How to Use the Instagram Algorithm to Your Advantage
It’s easy to understand why everyone wants to beat the Instagram algorithm, but at what cost?
Instead of stressing about your algorithm performance or trying any little hack that comes along, spend your time doing the things that have been proven to grow your Instagram account: creating high-quality content, posting regularly to Instagram Stories, and building a real, thriving community on Instagram.
Yes, it’s an algorithm, but it’s a super-smart algorithm. So instead of trying to hack it, try to work with it to improve your account’s performance.
If you are putting in the effort and creating content that people want to engage with, the algorithm will understand that and you’ll be rewarded. Maybe not rewarded like you were a few years ago, but people will still see your posts!
For brands and businesses, the intricate workings of the Instagram algorithm is still a mystery, and we may never really know how it works. Yes, there are things you can do like finding your best time to post that statistically help get more people to see your content, but as long as you’re always delivering quality content that represents your brand and resonates with your target audience, you can’t go too far wrong!
Overall we recommend focusing more on building a brand, creating content, and making real connections on Instagram instead of trying to hack the algorithm any chance you get.
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