Person taking a photo of food


The growth of Instagram is showing no signs of abatement in 2018 – recent stats show that it has more than 800 million monthly active users, with predictions that it will reach 1 billion this year. So how do you get your business to be noticed? Understanding how the algorithm works is a good start – we talk you through the basics …

Step one: encourage engagement

Instagram wants to see posts that have high engagement. This includes the likes, comments, video views, saves, shared posts and DMs a post receives. Try to create a conversation when writing your captions – include a question or call to action to provoke responses – and make sure you respond to them to foster great conversation on your posts.

Step two: be engaged

Instagram loves to see you engaging with others, but there are some do’s and don’ts to consider, says Instagram influencer Jess Siggers (@porthjess on Instagram):

  • Engage widely – just commenting on the same people’s posts every day won’t cut it.
  • Engage wisely – the algorithm likes to see you engaging with likeminded people who have similar interests.
  • Say something meaningful – comments like ‘great pic’ or ‘love it’ will be seen as spam, as will a comment that is just a load of emojis.
  • Respond to people commenting on your posts – keep the conversation going.
  • Spend 20-30 minutes everyday engaging if you can – you’ll soon see the benefits as Instagram will notice and boost you up its ranking. If this sounds like a lot, even five minutes each day will make a difference.

Step three: stay relevant

Why are you on Instagram? Be clear about the purpose of your account, and what you want it to say about you or your company. This will help you to stay relevant – and that means keeping consistent themes throughout your content and following and engaging with others who are relevant to the topics and themes you care about. In other words, become known for something and Instagram will take notice.

Step four: don’t post and run

It’s all very handy that we can now schedule Instagram posts through tools like Hootsuite, but scheduling posts and forgetting about them is a big no-no if you want the algorithm to be your friend. Instagram wants to see engagement on your post in the first 30-60 minutes after it is posted. That means responding to any comments that come in immediately and encouraging the conversation to keep going in the moment.

If you can, post live and stick around – it will also mean you can geo-tag the post (which isn’t yet possible in scheduled posts) – and this has been proved to increase engagement by up to 79%, which isn’t to be sniffed at.

Step five: be timely

Not only does that first hour count, so does the actual time that you post. Find out the best time to post for you and then stick to it – Instagram picks up on routine and likes to see you posting at the same time every day.

Not sure what time is best? There’s lots of research out there about the best time to post, but every account is different, so experiment to find the best time for you – and a time when you can be active for a whole hour afterwards (see step three).

Step six: keep people’s attention

The algorithm calculates how long people are looking at your posts, so craft a brilliant caption and trigger the ‘read more’ tag so they will click on it and read for longer. This is one of the reasons why video and carousel posts do well on Instagram too – they take longer to view, which Instagram loves.

Step seven: use Stories

Posting Stories – and interacting on them – is more crucial than you might think. More and more Instagram users are favouring Stories over posts in their feed, with an estimated 300 million daily active users. The algorithm charts all interactions on Stories, and the more a user interacts with your Stories, the more likely you are to show up on their feed – result!

Step eight: experiment

Instagram wants to see you using all the features it offers you, including new developments to the platform. So, experiment with all the different features such as polls, gifs, swipe-ups and type mode. If you want to be an uber-user then keep on top of all the new developments and be an early adopter – you’ll earn lots of Brownie points from the algorithm.

What do you make of these tactics – have you used any of them, and what’s worked best for you? Tell us in the comments below – and make sure you connect with us on Instagram @ambitious_consultancy.