Beating the Instagram algorithm

By Molly Waring-Moore on 4th Jul

If your reach and engagement has decreased on Instagram, we’re going to show you how to step up your game and beat the algorithm.

Although Instagram hasn’t published their secret formula (so nobody can be absolutely certain about the key to success!), we've run some tests and gathered hints leaked by Instagram and boiled them down into a few truths. (We've also put together a guide on stepping up your Facebook game.)

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Instagram will filter content to make sure its users have a great experience so that they’ll keep using the app
  • Instagram rewards good strategy
  • Instagram punishes bad practices
  • Instagram focuses on community and rewards those engaging with theirs
Instagram Algorithm Shadowban

Shadow banning

Overusing, abusing or using 'banned' hashtags can lead to your content being limited in reach.

Avoid spam hashtags
Lots of hashtags become taken over with spam content so you want to avoid Instagram seeing you as part of the problem. Hashtags like #like4like or unsuspecting ones like #streetphoto have now become full of spam or inappropriate content.

Instagram Hashtags
Switch up your hashtags

Check the hashtags you use regularly
Instagram has completely banned some hashtags that have been associated with inappropriate content. If you search for these, you’ll only be able to see a selection of the top posts and nothing more. Instagram won't warn you if you use these (and some of them aren't obvious) but it could indicate to them that your content is inappropriate or poor quality.

Switch up and vary your hashtags
Using the same hashtags over and over suggests they're not being used properly or that you're not really thinking about posting good quality content.

Instagram Algorithm Engagement

What is 'engagement'?

Engagement on Instagram is the act of interacting with other users via likes and comments. This means commenting on your audience's photos, as well as responding to their comments on your own.

Instagram’s focus on community means it wants to see you engaging with others on the platform.

Engage with others using hashtags in your niche
Find a mix of the top and most recent posts in a selection of hashtags. Engaging with others is also one of the most effective ways to build your audience and put your brand in front of people already engaging with you niche.

If people interact with your content, return the engagement
This is also a great way to get to know your target audience and the kind of content that resonates with them.


How often should I post?

Post as much as you can consistently without losing quality. If you can only produce three quality posts a week, stick to that.

If you publish a lot of low quality posts and they receive low engagement, Instagram will learn that your content isn’t worthy of being shown to more people and respond by limiting your reach each time.

Instagram Algorithm Businessaccount

Should I convert to a business account?

People are scared to convert to a business account because of a potential drop in engagement. It’s no secret that Instagram wants businesses to spend money on their platform, and their way of doing this seems to be to decrease organic reach to encourage spending on promotion.

Likes on a post are vanity metrics
Conversions are better than likes so don't get hung up on the drop. By avoiding using a business account you miss out on all of the tools Instagram provides to help convert your audience. If you're looking for more than just social proof, you'll want to convert your account.

Make use of Instagram's business tools
Without a business profile, you don’t have the ability to use call-to-action buttons, image shopping, stories links and audience analytics. These insights ensure that you’re posting content that your audience will respond to and at a time that they're online. Access to these tools are worth the initial drop in engagement.

Instagram Algorithm Cheatsheet

The Instagram cheat sheet

Here are our top tips for beating the algorithm...

  • Use fewer but more relevant hashtags
  • Find hashtags that have less than 100k posts to better your chances of being seen
  • Have a selection of go to hashtags and switch them up with each post
  • Check that the hashtags you are using are still in use and don’t contain lots of inappropriate content
  • Use audience insights to find the best times of day to post and be consistent
  • Use audience insights to see which of your content is the most engaged with and post more of it
  • Engage with everyone who comments on your posts
  • Engage with the hashtags that you use
  • AVOID Instagram bots. Your audience will be wise to the lack of authenticity and Instagram will be heavily penalising for this.
  • AVOID Instagram pods. Facebook have already started removing these groups on their site and they’ll undoubtedly start penalising this unnatural engagement
  • Use a business account and make the most of all of its features

Short on time?

Want to up your Instagram game but don’t have the time or tools? Makermet can help. We offer a range of digital marketing services from strategies to complete account management and content production. Get in touch to see how we can work together.

Trove Insta Images

Case study: Management, strategy & content creation for TROVE

After our design and development work on the TROVE website and on-going work with the brand, TROVE asked us to manage their social media platforms to help increase their engagement and build stronger relationships with their audience.

The business analytics gave us insight into what the audience responded well to, which along with our own consumer research, helped us to create an entire content plan - including tone of voice guidelines and in-depth hashtag research.

We could see that the audience wanted to be part of the story and so we introduced more 'behind-the-scenes' and lifestyle content. We produced photography that incorporated a range of different lifestyle situations and sourced the models, locations and props to suit.

Trove Insta Images 2

Spending time manually engaging with TROVE's audience has helped us to build a more authentic relationship and has given us even more insight into what the audience wants to see.

Each month we take a look at what has worked well and re-strategise for the month ahead to ensure TROVE is constantly growing.

Want to up your Instagram game? Talk to us for advice on how to implement these tips or for help on how you can move your brand forward using social media.

Feel like Facebook has left you out in the cold? Check out our post on overcoming Facebook's changes.

About the author

Molly Profile Picture

Molly Waring-Moore

Digital Marketing Executive

Works directly with clients on the planning, delivery and analysis of multi-channel marketing campaigns.

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