if you feel that your instagram account growth is “stuck”, i promise you that this is not the algorithm.
you, trying to understand instagram’s algorithm
being stagnant or “stuck” on instagram is a sign that something has to change.
the first thing most social media managers, influencers and businesses in general do when they get stuck is to post at another time to see if it does anything.
then they try not to use hashtags, post hashtags an hour after sharing a photo, take a break for a few days and so on.
most of these examples could be useful in the short term, but these changes will not address the real barriers that make it difficult to attract the right followers at a steady rate.
even at 175,000 followers, i sometimes stuck.
i have weeks when my growth stabilizes or i have very little commitment. it probably happens every few months, and the first thing i do is check my own account.
i wonder: what types of content are working well? (lots of impressions, attracting new followers, lots of engagement).
what types of content are performing poorly? (weak impressions, little commitment or appreciation).
you can easily see what is working and what is not working if you check your analytics.
if you are reading this and are using your ig account to do business or to increase the number of your customers, but have no analysis, activate your business profile now. i promise you that it will not negatively affect the reach of your content!
when you grow your account organically, you risk getting stuck no matter what. all you can do is be ready and know what the next steps are.
1. don’t use hashtags the right way (or don’t use it at all)
the right combination of hashtags helps you reach new people while you are still growing.
hashtags link your photo to targeted communities, niches and keywords that people are looking for like #healthybreakfastideas in my kitchen niche. these communities, groups and people looking for content that is relevant to them are less likely to see your posts without hashtags.
choosing them is the hardest. you can use up to 30 hashtags, so you should use them all.
most companies and influencers are mistaken in choosing hashtags that are far too “big”, which means that there are already too many messages and that their content will be buried under everything else. no one will see it.
for example, #instagood contains 875 million messages! it is way too big to be seen by anyone you are trying to target.
the other part of the hashtag game (and an easy place to screw up) is to change the hashtags every time you post them so they are relevant to the photo. unless you post the same photo every day (which i hope is not the case!), your hashtags should change with the content you share on a daily basis.
if you’ve tried to change your hashtags, but you’re sure you’ve been “banned in the shade” or that they don’t work – it just means you have to keep trying new combinations or maybe hashtags aren’t the problem.
how to fix hashtags:
finding the right hashtags takes a long time, and you have to find 40-60 to have an effective strategy.
most of the companies i work with use too big hashtags. so this is probably the main problem if you have the impression that your hashtags are not working. look for hashtags that are popular, but not oversaturated with millions of messages.
using the same block of 30 hashtags every day won’t work either. at least three or four hashtags should change each time you post, and it’s best to have different blocks for different types of content.
in addition, you should update your hashtags at least twice a year to keep them up to date! you never know when a new trend or new community will appear in your niche, and that’s something to capitalize on.
some hashtags will always be better than zero hashtags when you increase your account.
2. do not use sufficient ctas in the legend and the organic
if you never tell your followers that there is a company behind your instagram account… how will they ever know?
you may think it’s obvious … but i promise you don’t.
you only get the attention of instagram users for a few seconds (even if your content really catches their eye) and they see your content among dozens of other images in less than a minute.
a cta (call to action) tells your followers what to do next. for businesses, the “next step” should be to subscribe to a newsletter, go to your website, or purchase your product or service.
telling followers to like, comment, answer a question, tag a friend, or share a message are also good ctas, but they don’t necessarily have anything to do with your business.
the biggest mistake i see, however, is not using a cta in the bio.
you have 150 characters for your biography on your instagram profile (the text that appears under your profile image when someone looks at your account). in 150 characters or less, you need to tell ig users what you are doing, what topics you are focusing on and why they should identify themselves.
if you don’t give your followers a reason to click on this link, the chances of them doing it alone are slim to zero.
not only should you mention your link in your biography, but you should also mention it in the captions of your articles and in the stories. again, if you don’t, your followers won’t waste their time walking away to find out all about your business. it’s up to you to give them a reason.
how to fix it:
check out your bio now.
does it let followers know what your business is doing?
does it allow followers to know what kind of content you offer on this profile?
does this give followers a compelling reason to click on this biological link?
if not, it’s time to redo your profile copy.
here is a great example of a biography of one of my clients, @ 1second every day:
screen capture 2018-11-05 at 20.18.21 pm
and think of your legends. when was the last time you promoted your organic link?
i suggest promoting it at least once a week. it may seem repetitive … but you have to remember that your content only reaches a limited percentage of your audience and that new people come to your profile / content every day. it is not repetitive unless you use the same copy in the legend over and over again.
3. lack of context in the legend
speaking of legends – this is the most important growth tool you have on ig.
no, not all ig users will read all of the words. but the ones who do it are the ones you can really hang on to. if you constantly put good things in legends, more and more people will read them.
legends are your chance to get in touch with your followers on an emotional level, or at least to give them more information about why you share specific images.
too often i see corporate accounts display images without explaining anything. they will share a place, perhaps a time of day or a humorous comment…. but there is still so much to be desired.
the problem is that, without context, we (the public) have nothing to hold on to.
we need to invest in your content emotionally to engage. i don’t mean that you need to share a bloody story or be “vulnerable” in every article; you need to add texts to captions that speak to the desires, fears and barriers of your audience or that elicit an emotional response.
you can’t post amazing photos with boring captions every day and expect to grow.
how to fix it:
my audience quickly grew when i used my legends to show more authority. instead of just sharing the ingredients for the meal in the photo, or why i liked it, i talked more about the philosophy behind my cooking and why meal preparation is the best system if you want to save time and money on food.
you should treat each message as if everyone watching it has no idea who you are or what your business is.
give us the details. give us the good stuff.
here’s a great example from one of my clients @theessentialman.
it is easy to read and full of encouraging advice and information, and is relevant to its audience.
not sure where to start with the legends? here are some questions to help you get started:
where was the photo taken? what is the meaning of this moment / event / object / quote? why should we (the public) care about it, or how does it affect us? when is the right time to learn behind this content? what’s the story?
and don’t forget to include a call to action. always. even if it’s just a simple “what do you think?” at the end of your legend.
4. do not have an instagram strategy or plan
unfortunately, instagram does not send you a check after reaching 100,000 followers and beyond.
it’s up to you to develop a strategy or plan for instagram that fits your business model.
not all companies belong to instagram. but if you can think of a way to have a great instagram following helps you, whether it means more leads, the ability to work with brands, or just credibility, then you’re off to a good start.
when i work with 1: 1 customers, we talk a lot about the “why” of their accounts which is related to the business. if there is no clear direction or strategy, this affects the content and everything else in the profile.
not sure what i mean by instagram strategy? here is an example:
right now, my entire account is dedicated to getting my followers to subscribe to my meal plan subscription product. i know it takes a few weeks (and sometimes months) of follow-up for them to turn into customers. so i intend to accomplish three things with my content:
familiarize new followers with me, my brand, my approach to food and publicize the program.
provide lots of free, high quality content to make them want more from me (not just on ig)
directly promote meal plans, allowing followers to buy
know what my account is about (and how it directly supports growth helps me stay focused on my account, making it easier for people to follow me. they know what to expect.
without a strategy or plan for your content, there is no reason to be on instagram.
how to fix it:
decide on the main purpose of your instagram and how that goal directly supports the growth of your business.
will you use instagram for your ads? will it be the hub of your community? are you growing your audience to attract brands? are you going to mainly promote your products or your mailing list? or will you use it to send traffic to your website?
as i said before, this is something that requires further thinking, and sometimes advice.
5. your content is expected
continuing to post the same old stuff that lacks a real message or opinion is probably the most common reason why accounts are “frozen” and stop growing.
if you are just getting started, by the way, this is probably not the problem because you probably do not have enough content to be out of date! but you’d better be aware that it could happen along the way.
outdated content can be visually flat, show no real substance or value, or provide value that doesn’t really match the interests of the audience!
if your content does not resonate or connect with your current followers, if it does not stop them from scrolling, they will not engage and your message will not reach new people.
not sure if your content is out of date? compare the number of comments and organic reviews you receive compared to previous posts. think about the number of sms you get now compared to a few weeks ago. it’s more than that ? less? the same thing ?
how to fix it:
the first step is to ask your audience: how can we help them? what do you want to see from us? what are you currently concerned about (your subject)?
when your content aligns with what interests them, you are well on your way to creating messages that are more relevant to them.
another way to solve this problem is to have more opinions in the messages. it’s so much easier to follow someone or a company that represents something openly. new ig users will see these messages and can instantly decide if they like (or not) what you have to say. show what you know and save it in the captions of your messages.
while some companies and influencers are struggling to create fresher content with stronger visuals, that doesn’t mean they can’t at least put it in the caption.
i suggest that you refresh your content once every three months. start with an audit, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and brainstorm with your team to find new content ideas (or get them from your audience).
at the end of the day, when you feel stuck, don’t blame the algorithm.
it’s easy to cite the reason your account isn’t growing to account for the fact that we can’t really control the one big thing about ig.
it may seem easier to find a way to beat the algorithm, but focusing on content, hashtags, captions, strategy, and where you put your energy on the platform will help you in the long run.