Social media marketing isn’t new. In fact, it’s been one of the most effective ways to deliver your offers in front of a highly active and responsive audience since Facebook started allowing business pages and rolled out their advertising platform.

While organic marketing is always preferred, as it eliminates the pay-per-click model that can be quite costly, you can’t simply post content without an execution plan and expect to see results. Social media is far too crowded of a space for that strategy to work.

Over the past few years Instagram has really surged in popularity. Facebook purchased the social media network for $1 billion back in the day, and completely improved it. They merged Facebook and Instagram on the advertising side, giving advertisers the ability to cross promote and utilize Facebook’s vast targeting abilities on both platforms. They also copied every feature from Snapchat, which spiked their usage numbers, as there was suddenly no reason to even open the Snapchat app.

From a marketing standpoint, these changes were welcomed, as it brought Instagram’s user-base to over 1 billion, with more than 500 million daily users. Only YouTube and Facebook have a larger user-base, which makes Instagram a social network you need to be focused on dominating.

Competition on Instagram is fierce, with every brand out there fighting for attention. In order to be seen in the feed of your followers, or be promoted to the explore page, which features popular relevant content, you need to design your strategy for engagement, which is what Instagram’s algorithm rewards. You need likes, comments, and views — and I am going to help you attract more engagement across all of your Instagram content.

If you follow these tips you will see your engagement start to increase and if you play that momentum correctly you present yourself with the opportunity to snowball, generating epic results for your business.

Here are ten things you need to start doing if you want to win against the Instagram Algorithm.


1. Post at the optimal times for the most exposure.

When you spend a considerable amount of time and effort building a following you want to make sure that you receive the most exposure you can each time you post. If you post too much and flood the feed with content it will turn some people off and result in being unfollowed. If you post when your followers aren’t active you are essentially posting to a non-audience.

It’s important to think logically when deciding what times to post content. First, what is your target location? You need to identify the optimal time zone to work from, and then you need to think about who you are targeting and what their general schedule is like.

If you are targeting college kids, you might want to post early in the morning to catch the pre-class crowd, another time mid-day and then late night. If you are targeting parents, for example, very early morning and around dinner time and late evenings should be explored. From there, see what posts receive the highest engagement rates.



2. Announce new posts on your Story and include a call-to-action.

Instagram’s Story feature is one of its most popular, and it was after releasing this that they began to crush Snapchat. After all, this was the feature that caused people to use Snapchat. Now, they can remain on their Instagram app, deeming Snapchat useless.

People like to be able to open a story and see images and clips in a chronological order. More users take advantage of this feature, adding content throughout the day. There is a lot of attention to be found by using the Story feature. More of your followers are going to view your Story than see the actual content you post, so it’s an open invitation to draw attention to your posts.

You will often see influencers announce a new post via a screen shot in their Story with the image blurred or scribbled over. This creates an element of mystery, and then with a strong call-to-action they will push a lot of traffic to their new post, receiving likes and comments.


3. Mix in some video content.

Instagram allows you to post images and video content, but many accounts have yet to experiment with videos. If you look at the explore page you will see that most of the most popular content is video, with some receiving millions of views.

Video content has the ability to go viral much sooner than image posts, which I believe is due to how the algorithm works. Instagram will push a video to the explore page faster than an image post with the same engagement metrics. This is because video content tends to receive more attention, so naturally they want to promote posts that are going to keep their users on the app.

You don’t need fancy equipment or editing software to create video content for Instagram. In fact, most users prefer raw footage over edited content that looks like a TV commercial. The trick is to be unique and create videos that offer a look into something special or provide a level of value that can’t be found elsewhere.


4. Use a few well-researched hashtags per post.

Hashtags have always been a great way to be “found” on Instagram, as many users will search the tags section to find posts related to specific keywords or phrases. Well, like everything else, marketers ruined it and began using 30 hashtags per post, which is the limit.

This eventually led to Instagram shadow banning accounts that continued to use the same tags on all posts and they even went as far to start shadow banning accounts that used tags that they deemed to be spammy.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, a shadow ban is when your account isn’t disabled, but the content you post isn’t shown to your followers. You basically post to thin air, and since nobody sees the posts you receive no engagement. It’s basically a death sentence for your Instagram account, although there are ways to have a shadow ban removed. But, it takes time.

I suggest you use 5 to 8 relevant tags that describe your post and avoid generic ones that have been used millions of times.


5. Hold a contest that requires likes, tagging and re-posting.

This is one of the most effective strategies for attracting engagement and building your following, and it can work for almost any account if you are willing to put up a prize that will have mass appeal.

You will often see influencers team up to offer a mega prize, consisting of a laptop, iPhone, GoPro, cash, etc. They get 20 to 30 of them to all pitch in, and then require people to follow them all and engage with their content and tag friends in order to enter.

You have to remember one thing: most people are going to follow you because they want to win, and not initially because they are interested in your company. So, you need to be aware that 30 – 40% of your newly acquired followers could fall off after the contest is over. You can prevent this though, and that is by planning to post a lot of interesting content during the contest, and if done correctly these new followers will stick around after to continue to engage with your account.


6. Include location tags on your posts.

Instagram recently rolled out a new explore page, where users can find all of the most popular content, and the suggestions users receive are based on their viewing habits as well as location, so it’s important that you use the location tagging feature on all of your posts, especially if you are a local business trying to target a very specific area.

So, a pizza restaurant in Dublin, for example, would want to tag all of their content with their location. They will receive more value if 100 users within a small radius of their pizza shop come into contact with the posts, rather than 1,000 users located nowhere near their business.

On the other hand, if an e-commerce website is trying to target buyers from the U.S., then they would want to start tagging large U.S. cites, like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami in their posts to try to expand their reach. It doesn’t matter where you are or how big your business is — location tags should be used on each post.



7. Connect your Instagram account to your Facebook profile.

Any time you can use other platforms to re-post your Instagram content it provides you with additional exposure for your account, helping you attract more followers, and driving more engagement per post.

Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, they have an easy integration, which allows a business Instagram profile to connect with a business Facebook page, or a personal Instagram to connect with a personal Facebook profile. You can then set it up so that every time you post on Instagram the same content will automatically post to Facebook as well. This applies to both image and video content, as well as Story posts.

So, if you are able to gain some new followers this way, along with some likes and comments, it contributes some additional engagement, but it’s also helping you automate your marketing, giving your Facebook following something to engage with, requiring no additional effort on your part.


8. Team up with influencers to “take-over” your Instagram account for a period of time.

You may have seen account take-overs in the past, as it’s something a lot of larger brands do with their celebrity partners. This strategy works for two reasons. First, the influencer that will be participating in the take-over will advertise and promote the take-over event on his or her Instagram, via posts and Stories leading up to it, tagging and mentioning the company. This type of exposure when teamed up with the right influencer can result in a follower spike, as many of their followers are going to want to see what they post.

Then, on the day of the take-over the influencer will engage via his or her Instagram and direct their followers to the account they are taking-over.

Most brands won’t benefit enough for aligning with a mega influencer, because of the cost associated with it, but if you focus on local influencers or niche-specific ones you can often get them to participate for very little to no money, as they will often trade for product or services.


9. Include clever emoji use in your captions.

Emojis have become their own language. Just look at some recent text messages in your phone, and I would bet that there are some messages and replies that are 100% emojis and nothing else. These symbols have completely changed the way we communicate.

When you combine them with your written captions it can really help to emphasize points or compliment a statement. Also, they just make a boring text caption more fun. You want to attract engagement, so you need to do little things like this to draw attention to your posts. Remember, when someone is scrolling through their feed they don’t have time to read an entire caption, but with the right emoji use you can cause them to slow down enough, and that extra second or two can be the difference of them skipping past your post or pausing long enough to like it and drop a comment.


10. Make your content stand out from all the boring content in the feed.

This is something that I shouldn’t even have to touch on, but if you scroll down your Instagram feed for 10 seconds you will see that most people don’t put much, if any, thought into what they post. Many businesses post just to participate and say they are doing social media marketing, but in the end, all of that effort is wasted time, because the content doesn’t draw attention or attract engagement.

You have to be creative and you have to stand out. If you look at some of the most successful brands on Instagram, you will instantly see that they know what they are doing.

If you look at @sugarbearhair on Instagram you will see that they post intelligently designed content that has a consistent look and feel throughout their feed. With 2.1 million followers, this brand used Instagram as its primary marketing channel and grew a multi-million-dollar company via Instagram. That shows you how much potential is on this one platform.



Instagram is a very effective marketing platform when you know how to manipulate and leverage the algorithm in your favor. Blindly posting content without a plan is a complete waste of time, though.

Engagement is the name of the game. Everything you do on Instagram needs to have one goal: attract engagement. Likes, comments, tags, and shares are what the algorithm loves, and rewards.

Once you master this, you will see spikes in your website traffic, followers, and ultimately your sales. All it takes is a plan that utilizes the tips I highlighted above.

Are you currently using Instagram to promote your products or service? What are you doing to help create more engagement? Let me know in the comments below!

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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