In the burdensome era of Facebook and Instagram algorithms, how to make your content visible

January 19, 2018

With over 2 billion users on Facebook and over 800 million users on Instagram, these two social networking sites have far surpassed their original intentions to connect family and friends. However, while Facebook and Instagram have been revolutionary marketing tools for brands, it seems like they both want to get back to their roots, shifting the focus of their feeds away from brands with new algorithm changes.

Here is what you can expect from Facebook and Instagram’s new algorithms and how you can increase your content’s visibility:

Facebook

Once upon a happy time, Facebook displayed a page’s posts to every one of its followers. That changed in 2014, when Facebook adjusted its algorithm to only display content it felt was relevant to its users, drastically reducing organic post reach. Pages caught on to the fact that the more they posted, the more people would see their posts, but so much content from pages overpowered your NewsFeed. So, with its newest algorithm change, Facebook is shifting its priorities back to people.

On January 11, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, shared a post to explain the new initiative: “Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.” Simply put, if people don’t interact with a page’s content, its content will be displayed to less and less people. It’s a lose-lose for pages with already low engagement, because displaying a post to fewer people reduces the likelihood of engagement, and so on.

According to its announcement, Facebook doesn’t want meaningless page content to drown out opportunities for people to converse. Page posts that encourage genuine conversation will appear higher in the NewsFeed. But, don’t fret – your page can take advantage of the personal touch.

Nix the Click-Bait

Saying, “Like this post if you think kittens are cute,” or, “Comment your favorite color,” probably isn’t going to get you very far. Facebook is more interested in posts that make users interact with each other, not just with the post. Instead, use language that encourages people to express their opinions or feelings. Start a debate. Create an alliance of like-minded commenters. Sure, less people are likely to write an insightful comment than share their favorite color, but 200 genuine comments are better for your post than 2,000 one-word answers.

Make Influencer Relationships Personal

If it’s real people Facebook wants, then real people Facebook shall receive. People are more likely engage in conversation with another person (as opposed to a page). While brands should still develop relationships with influencers who have a big page followings, they should take pitches a step further to comply with Facebook’s new algorithm. Since the algorithm favors personal accounts over pages, smart PR people will ask influencers to share Facebook posts on their pages and their personal accounts.

Instagram

Instagram tends to change its algorithm more frequently than Facebook, due to the influx of influencers and brands turing to the platform to market their content – by limiting post reach, people are more likely to invest in sponsored content.

The first major change occurred in March 2017, when Instagram announced that it would no longer display posts in chronological order. Instead, it would order posts by which content it thought you would care most about. So, even if your best friend posted something 12 hours ago, it will still top your feed (assuming you engage with best friend’s account regularly). Although Instagram doesn’t reveal much about its algorithm changes online, people noticed the the most recent change (a.k.a. dip in engagement) in November 2017.

According to Medium, when you post a photo, Instagram’s algorithm evaluates the engagement metrics to determine to whom and to how many users it shows your post. Depending on how many of this small percentage of users interact with your photo (like, comment, save), Instagram displays it to a greater or lesser percentage based on how well it is performing in relation to your average engagement. In other words, if you usually receive four likes per minute, but your newest post receives nine likes within its first minute online, Instagram will display that post to more people.

While there’s no clear way to hack the algorithm there are measures you can take to boost your content higher up in your followers’ feeds.

Use Appropriate Hashtags

Gone are the days when you can #KimKardashian on all of your photos and reach billions of users. Although Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, it’s actually been shadowbanning accounts who use the same massive group of hashtags over and over again. (Shadowbanning is when Instagram hides your post under the hashtags you used.) By doing so, it hopes to reduce spam, but, if you’re not careful, it could affect your content too.

Instead of using 30 high volume hashtags, try using 10 more specific hashtags that are relevant to your photo. For instance, instead of using #Travel, try #PassportExpress. The latter is much less saturated with spam, so people are more likely to see your post. Plus, specific hashtags offer more room for variation. #PassportExpress is one of many niche travel hashtags that you can alternate from post to post to reduce your risk of being shadowbanned.

Instagram also recently rolled out the ability to follow hashtags. This doubles (or more) your chances of showing up on someone’s feed. Create a hashtag for your brand or for certain things your brand posts and encourage your followers to follow the hashtags as well, so they never miss a post. For example, we use #NoBSBlog every time we announce a new blog post on Instagram. People who follow us and #NoBSBlog are two times more likely to see our posts.

Find Quality Comment Pods

Comment pods rose to dominance in 2016 as a way for influencers to boost engagement on their photos, but they are more important now than ever, since engagement plays a huge role in how your photos are ordered in your followers’ feeds. Essentially, members of comment pods share posts in a group message, and everyone else in the group has to like and comment on the photo. However, according to multiple bloggers, Instagram is taking new precautions to block this “fake” engagement. Comments like “Great post!” and “Love it!” now no longer count as engagement, as Instagram prefers quality engagement instead. Whether you’re a member of a comment pod or not, try to solicit comments that are four words or greater to help boost your engagement.

Post at the Right Time

It might seem like post time is irrelevant, since posts are not in chronological order anymore, but it is critical to post when the majority of your engaged audience is online. The goal is to receive as many likes and comments as possible as quickly as possible, so your post moves further and further up in your followers’ feeds. Facebook analytics has insight tools to help you determine which post times yield the best engagement.

These algorithm changes may feel like the end of the world for content marketing, but they also even the playing field for young brands to compete with established ones. Just like Facebook and Instagram are reuniting with their roots, there’s an opportunity to get back to the basics of social media – conversation, connection, personal association. Now, making your content visible is more about strategy than numbers.

-Kayla K.

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