There are constantly new social media platforms launching, all trying hard to be the next greatest thing, but most never pick up the momentum needed to compete with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Now, while these are considered to be the “Big Four,” one platform is currently crushing the competition and growing stronger by the day, and that platform is Instagram. If you are not active on Instagram, both for your business and your personal brand, then you are missing a huge opportunity.

Facebook is still a good option for those looking to do paid advertising, simply because of the huge audience, but the younger demographic has left Facebook. It’s now more popular with the older parents and even grandparents, as a means to keep in touch with family members.

Twitter has been struggling for years now, and they still can’t figure out how to make money. They tried to stir up user buzz by increasing the character limit, but that really hasn’t sparked any growth. It’s a great place to keep up on news and current events, but that is about it.

Snapchat was gaining a lot of momentum and looked to be like the next best thing, but then Instagram basically copied all of their features and now that platform is a ghost town (pun intended).

Instagram has the users and the engagement, which are the two metrics that are most important when it comes to marketing and using the platform to spread your message and connect with individuals that can potentially be converted into customers.

Instagram has always tweaked its algorithm, but what they just released really tossed a wrench into the spokes of many brands and campaigns. Many of the popular tools and software that ran off Instagram’s API are now utter useless, as they are making a serious effort to prevent all automation and spam tools from operating correctly.

Accounts with fake followers and fake engagement are also being taken down at an alarming rate. If you want to win when it comes to Instagram you need to do it right and play by their rules. This will not only keep your account safe, but also help you to achieve your goals, which is to make money.

I don’t know about you, but simply getting a lot of followers or likes and comments doesn’t pay the bills. You need to master Instagram in order to generate revenue. The new algorithm requires a different approach, and the eight tips below will help you stay within the guidelines and experience results. Instagram isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so I would suggest figuring it out as quickly as possible.

Follow these tips to help beat the Instagram algorithm


1. Run contests requiring liking, comments, tagging, saves and re-posting.

Instagram’s new algorithm heavily favors engagement, but not the automated fake stuff that everyone has been running. You have to attract real engagement from real followers, and to do this on a consistent basis requires creativity and some bribes to keep your followers playing around.

The engagement your posts receive within the first 20-30 minutes is crucial, and massive real engagement can even help push your content onto the explore page, and if that happens there is a good chance of it going viral. If this happens, then follower count can skyrocket.

It takes a combination of all engagement types, including “saving,” which is something nobody has ever focused on. The new Instagram algorithm takes saves into account, as they see it as an indication that the content is popular and if a lot of people are saving it then it might be something that the entire community (explore) will enjoy.

By posting occasional contests that award a prize for likes, comments, tags and saves, it helps your engagement numbers. Requiring re-posting helps expose your account to new users and can result in large-scale follower growth.



2. Take professional quality photos and videos.

If you take the time to study the most successful Instagram accounts, you will see that the photos are professional quality. If the images are of a person, they feature unique angles, spectacular backgrounds and some elements that just draw the user to the image.

If they are product images then they are usually in a very unique setting, and a far cry from a standard image that would be on an e-commerce website. If you just post a picture of the product alone, nobody will stop to explore more. They will just see it as an advertisement.

Let’s assume you were marketing a weight loss supplement. If you just posted an image of the bottle, then there would be no reason for anyone to pause and look. They know what it is scrolling through the feed. Now, if you placed the bottle on the edge of a cliff and took a picture while the sun was going down then you have created an image that will cause someone to pause their scroll and examine the photo. They will then see the bottle and if done correctly, they will want to learn more about what it is.


3. Go live often.

Instagram Live is so easy to broadcast with, requiring a single swipe to active it. If your followers have their notifications turned on they will know every time you are live. If not, they will still see you are live, as all live broadcasts are featured on the left-side of the newest stories, on the very top of the app.

Going live is great from a marketing standpoint, as it gives you 100% of your followers’ attention that are tuned in. They aren’t scrolling to other posts because they are locked into your live broadcast.

If you sell physical products, then it’s a great opportunity to do live demos or even just show the packaging and talk about the benefits. It’s essentially a glorified commercial, but in a very relaxed and more personal setting.

If you sell a service then you should use your live broadcasts as a way to provide even more information, just in a different content format.

Start reminding your followers to turn on your post and story notifications, because the more followers that engage with your live feeds, the better your account will perform in explore. Instagram’s new algorithm is rewarding accounts that receive high-level live engagement. When you are broadcasting make sure to encourage the viewers to post comments on the live feed, as they help significantly.


4. Don’t go overboard with hashtags and use them correctly.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, so everyone started flooding their posts with tags, maxing out and creating a big problem that hurt their engagement. What was it? Well, when everyone was using the software and bots to like, follow and unfollow, they were using hashtags to identify their targets.

This resulted in collecting a bunch of fake followers, which then lowers your engagement rate, and those that were running software at high rates are still paying the price. Let’s assume you have 3,000 legit real followers. If you then collect 7,000 fake ones, it appears you have 10,000 now. So, even if every single real follower liked your content, the absolute highest engagement rate you would achieve is 30%.

Now, that is a ridiculously high rate, as the real number is closer to 10%.

Even though Instagram is fighting the software and restricting API access, there will always be some sort of automation option, and they will continue to feed off tags. If you use hashtags think of tags that actually users will be searching for and limit posts to around 3-5 solid tags rather than a bunch of generic ones.


5. Become heavily active on Instagram Stories.

Instagram is really putting a lot of weight on Stories, because getting more people to use this feature is taking them away from Snapchat. Instagram wants its users to use their app for everything, which is why they have basically copied every single Snapchat feature.

I would suggest you post several stories a day at different times and see when you receive the most views. Not only should you convert your account to a business account to gain access to Instagram’s analytics, which they call “Insights,” but once you reach 10,000 followers you will have the ability to access the “Swipe Up” feature that was once only available to verified accounts. You must be a business account to receive this feature once you surpass 10,000 followers.

So, once you find the best times to post and know when you will have the most eyes on your Stories, you can create fun messages and then include a call-to-action that your followers can access by swiping up. Brands that master this are able to drive thousands of dollars in sales per Story posted. It’s a goldmine once you learn how to use this feature correctly.



6. Encourage user-generated content (and share it on your account).

The more people tagging you on photos and tagging your Instagram handle in descriptions, the better. The new algorithm uses this as a strong popularity signal. The easiest way to make this happen is by giving your customers a reason to do this.

People love free stuff and you don’t have to break the bank to get them to react. Sometimes, a discount code or even something as simple as a t-shirt or stickers will cause them to do whatever you ask just to have a chance of winning.

If you sell physical products, ask them to take a picture with whatever it is that you sell and tag you in the photo and also tag you in the description. This not only signals to the algorithm that you are popular, but it also gives you free advertising to all of their followers.

Make sure you check the photos you are tagged in often and re-post them on your account. This is a great way to build customer loyalty and people that are new to your brand will see that you are very hands-on. It’s a win-win situation.


7. Partner with influencers to expand your reach.

The new algorithm loves engagement from large accounts, especially verified ones. Influencer marketing has worked for a long time, but now you need to think beyond just having someone post a picture with your product or shouting out your account.

Yes, that is still good, but if you are creative you can accomplish so much more. I would highly suggest you make deals that involve the influencer posting about you, but also commenting and linking your posts.

When authority accounts comment and like, the new algorithm prioritizes that content, and if you are able to get engagement from influencers within the first 30-minutes it will really amplify your reach. Also, their followers see when they like and comment, so it’s just added exposure beyond just the algorithm manipulation.

Large accounts are great, but verified accounts are even better. You can even create engagement groups with large accounts and pay them to like and comment on your posts. If you do this though, host the group chats off Instagram.


8. Figure out the best posting times and stay consistent to them.

Your location and niche will determine what times are best to post, but there is no way in determining this without testing. This is why Instagram’s analytics for their business accounts are so valuable. You can easily look to see how many likes, comments, saves, impressions, etc. every post receives.

Start to experiment and pinpoint the best posting times. This can take a couple months, but knowing when your audience is most active will help you achieve the highest engagement rates, which is something this new algorithm really desires.

Once you know when your hot times are, stick to them. While Instagram is really clamping down on its API in terms of automation spam software, there are some preferred developers that are able to use it, like Hootsuite and now you can schedule posts in advance. So, once you lock down your best times, there is no excuse to not post new content. Schedule it in advance and map out your strategy for the month ahead.




Throw the idea of automation out the window if you plan on leveraging Instagram in your marketing efforts. You have to be willing to put the work in if you expect to see favorable results.

To give you an idea, check out the Instagram accounts of some large brands, and you will see how much effort they put into their content.

If you put in the time you can build a strong following and see high-level engagement. You don’t need a huge budget, but you do need creativity and the understanding that it’s not an overnight play. Also, be sure to integrate your Instagram effort with everything else you are doing. For example, make sure you ask your audience to follow your Instagram account at the end of your newsletters, or create a gated coupon code that is unlocked once they follow you.

What are your thoughts on the new algorithm? Have you been implementing any of the tips above and are you seeing nice results? 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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