Businesses are often the last group to adapt to social media changes. But Instagram’s newest updates push users to keep up or take a hit in platform visibility and follower interaction.

Over the last few weeks, Instagram users have recognized a familiar problem – quick, sudden drops in engagement. While Instagram doesn’t tend to make public announcements about its back-end changes, to many users, the change was obvious. When Instagram first switched to an algorithm-based news feed in 2016, followers no longer saw every post from accounts they followed. Instead, they saw only the accounts they interacted with the post, leaving other users and brands seeing a significant decline in activity.

In 2018, Instagram has made new changes to their algorithm. But this time, users know what to expect. Algorithm changes reflect a bias toward new features and updates on the front-end of Instagram’s platform, so now we can predict what works best with a little more accuracy. Here are three Instagram updates and how they should change your social media strategy:

Ability to Follow Hashtags

The easiest change to identify is Instagram’s new feature letting users follow hashtags. You can now follow a hashtag just like an account. Use this feature to keep track of brand mentions, industry news, or changes in the market. But this feature also changes the way you should use hashtags.

Instagram lets you use up to 30 hashtags per post. Prior logic said why not take advantage of all 30? Some users added even more hashtags by using comments. But the time for hashtag stuffing is over.

The hashtag follow feature can only be successful if users are more selective with their hashtags. Every hashtag you use should be directly relevant to your image. Avoid using 30 hashtags just to fill your quota or pasting the same hashtags in every post. This repetition can make your account look spam-like and may even get your account “shadowbanned,” a back-end penalty that prevents your posts from showing up in a hashtag search.

What You Can Do:

  • Only use relevant hashtags
  • Choose 5-10 hashtags
  • Do your hashtag research to make each one count

Stories Archives and Highlights

Instagram Stories is a Snapchat-like feature that rolled out in mid-2016 and saw wild success. Although the change to an algorithm could reduce the visibility of your posts, Stories were instantly visible to your followers at the top of your feed. Now Instagram has added two more features to its Stories: an archive and Highlights.

Stories previously lasted only 24 hours and then disappeared. They were perfect for quick announcements or silly content to catch your audience’s eye. But spending time on a carefully crafted Story only to have to disappear after a day was frustrating. Now you can save all your expired Stories in an archive and display them on your profile as a “Highlight.”

Highlights stay on your profile indefinitely. They’re an invaluable way to quickly connect with visitors new to your profile or keep information readily available for followers. While businesses should use Highlights just for their functionality, using them could also give your account a leg-up in Instagram’s algorithm.

Instagram’s new features encourage users to keep using Stories, even as they’ve become a saturated feature. Can you remember when you only had three or four Stories on your feed at one time? Those days are long gone. But keeping up with and using Instagram’s newest features puts you in their good graces. It’s even rumored that using new features gives you a boost in the algorithm. Regardless of whether that’s true, Instagram continues to add features that help you cut through the clutter and stand out.

What You Can Do:

  • Use Stories and Stories Highlights
  • Highlight your top content or important information for your consumers to know
  • Be adventurous and try new features as they’re released

General Engagement

Instagram is moving toward encouraging greater engagement. Although there’s no announcement about changes that will actively reduce business visibility like Facebook, engagement should be your main strategy to keep up with Instagram’s algorithm changes.

While likes and follows may look nice, they require very little effort and don’t indicate genuine engagement. Keep liking relevant posts and following users in your target market, but step it up too. Businesses already know that comments are a good way to boost engagement and look active. But brief, generic comments may not help you out as much as they once could. Instagram’s algorithm may even shadowban accounts that leave the same emoji comment on dozens of posts.

Instead, take some time to leave a genuine comment or compliment. That means avoiding confusing strings of emoji or simple “Nice!” or “Love it!” comments. You can also repost images (with permission) or save posts to your collections to engage with other users.

What You Can Do:

  • Engage with other users, not just your own notifications
  • Leave comments longer than 3 words
  • Save posts and organize them with Collections

Social media platforms are always evolving, but implement new changes as they occur and you’ll stand out from the pack. For more information on how to build your brand online, contact our experts at Drip Drop Creative today. Whether you are from Houston, College Station, Bryan, Tx or anywhere in the US, we are happy to serve you.