The Instagram Algorithm – What is it, and can I ‘beat’ it?

23 Feb, 2021 | Podcast, Season 5

Do you have any idea what really goes on with the Instagram algorithm? Nope? Didn’t think so! All of that is about to change in episode 66 of the Whin Big Podcast. This week, Katie shares the plain English explanation of all things Instagram algorithm and 3 key points to focus on and get your content in front of more people of the right people.

Today's episode is sponsored by the Instagram MOT. This 20-point checklist and free training are freshly updated, so get stuck in to find out if your profile is fit for purpose or needs some attention! Click on the big yellow button below to get started right away.

Everyone says ‘Let’s beat the Instagram algorithm!’

Have you ever been invited into an Instagram follow loop? The posts usually go something like this:

“Hi, let’s beat the algorithm and get more followers. Join the follow loop for more followers and instant success”.

Whenever Katie sees one of these posts, her heart sinks.

“The thing is…that’s not how the Instagram algorithm actually works. So let’s find out how it does work.” – Katie

Katie’s seen one too many of these posts recently. As these misguided messages grow in popularity, it’s becoming clear that the Instagram algorithm is something we understand less as time goes on. Until now, that is.

Confusion around what the algorithm is – and is not – pushes us into a place where we have the wrong marketing priorities and output.

What does the Instagram algorithm do?

It’s a complex computer programme that decides what type of content each of us sees on Instagram
It tracks millions of pieces of information to help it understand more about posts, user preferences and user behaviours.
It’s designed solely to help Instagram make more money – for users to stay on the app longer, and see more ads
This is why you waste time on the app – it changes what you see to keep you engaged. The more interesting the content, the more likely you’ll stay on the app.

Katie shares working examples of her own experiences the main podcast episode, so don’t forget to tune in to this week’s Whin Big Podcast.

Look at your existing skills, and what you do right now. Then look at businesses that do something similar to you and ask ‘what are they doing differently? What can I do to move into that space?” – Sarah

Myths about the Instagram algorithm

What interactions are most important on Instagram?

A common misconception of the algorithm is that it’s based on a points system. The idea is that it tallies up the likes, comments, shares and saves on each of your posts, decides which of your posts is ‘best’ and shows that content to most people.

That’s not the case. What the algorithm cares about is:

What is the best thing to show to each individual user at any given moment?”

The algorithm is constantly checking in on the behaviours and activities of users and adapting tools to keep people on the platform for longer. Even tools that seem helpful to us as individuals – like saves and shares – were developed to keep people engaged, longer. 

Should I get Saves instead of Likes on Instagram?

Asking someone to save your post does not have the same effect as that same person choosing to save your post because they find it useful. We might be happy with our ‘saves’ insights but Instagram has way more data on that user’s behaviour and will know if it’s an engaged, useful save, or a ‘help someone out without being interested’ save. 

“Instagram doesn’t want you to tell people to save it for YOUR benefit, it wants them to care enough about the post to save it for their OWN benefit.” – Katie

3 ways to ‘beat’ the Instagram algorithm

1. Focus on talking to your IDEAL customer instead of to ‘everyone’

It’s not about getting a little bit of engagement from as many people as possible. You want to be focussed on attracting on the people who LOVE your stuff. As much as they love their family posts. You want people to hope you’ve posted and be pleased you have.

You’ll never be that person for everyone, but you want to be that person for your ideal customer.

“It’s far better to have 500 followers who think everything you post is the best thing on Instagram that day, rather than 5000 followers who barely notice you as they scroll past.” – Katie

2. Encourage interactions where they help your customer

So your call to action on posts isn’t about asking for help or algorithm points, but more about encouraging your readers to behave in a way that the algorithm takes notice of. So your call to action has to be about genuine engagement.

Don’t say: help me out by saving this post

Do say: ‘if you found this useful, save this for future reference’ or ‘share this with a business pal that needs to hear this today.

3. Don’t waste any energy trying to ‘beat’ or ‘trick’ the algorithm

It’s too sophisticated, smart, secret and focussed on making money for Instagram. Instead of trying to beat the algorithm, why not work with the algorithm. How can you create content that is so engaging people literally want to open your Instagram app to see if you’ve posted anything? 

That is your goal here. 

“It’s much easier to think about the algorithm as tally marks and points, but that’s not how the algorithm works. Get your audience to think, laugh and feel something to work with the system, not against it.” – Katie

Instagram support and training for small business owners

The Whin offers three different options for upskilling your Instagram know-how and strategy.

Instagram MOT checklist and training video

It takes you through the 20 key elements to get your Instagram moving in the right direction, without relying on quick fixes and outdated (or inaccurate) ideas. Watch the video.

Hashtag research spreadsheet

Hashtags are the best way to work with the algorithm to get your content in front of more of the right people. Use our free template to research and itemise the best hashtags for your business. Download the spreadsheet.

Instagram Masterclass Training

This is the best way to figure out a strategy to grow your audience, get better engagement and keep it all organised. Katie’s working on new content to include Reels, Guides and so much more, but while we work away on that, the course is still just £97. The updates will come to you as part of your £97 payment. If you wait till the updates are ready, the price will go up to £147. It’s a no brainer! Learn more about the training.

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