Today, I’m going to talk about how to make the new Instagram changes work for DIY musicians. If you noticed a decrease in engagement in your own posts, these changes might be why.
First, a brief little background. Back in 2016, Instagram introduced brand new algorithm changes that switched users’ feed from chronological to something that was based on an algorithm around engagement.
Before this change, users reported that they were missing 70% of all posts and about 50% of their friends and family’s posts. Thus, this non-chronological, engagement based algorithm was produced. While this caused a bit of uproar at first, users of Instagram have grown to appreciate the change, because they’re consuming content that is more and more relevant to them.
The idea behind the algorithm was to increase engagement by delivering the content that people would likely be most interested in. And as a result of this change, Instagram saw a surge in user growth as well as activity use. Since then, Instagram continued to work on their algorithm to fine tune the user experience.
in today’s podcast, we’ll be going over what those changes are, how they’re relevant to you, and what you could do to leverage these changes.
In 2016, the algorithm changes were primarily based on engagement activity. This didn’t have to be how much the user engaged with a piece of content. This was based on how the masses engaged with a piece of content. So if your fan Jan didn’t really like any of your posts, but a thousand others did, she’d still see your content because she’s following you and because you had a lot of engagement on that post.
Now, the algorithm is based on each unique user. This means, based on the example I just gave, Jan may be seeing your content less because she doesn’t really engage with your posts.
So, how does the algorithm work? Instagram revealed that it revolves primarily around 3 different elements: interest, timeliness and relationship.
Let’s break that down.
First, we’ll talk about interest. Interest is based on how much a user likes a post. As I mentioned before, this isn’t based on how many of your followers like your post and amount of engagement. This is based on a very specific fan’s engagement with your post.
This means that fans will now receive content that is uniquely catered to them based on the content they personally engaged with the most. For their personal news feed, this means that for the friends, family and brands that they follow, they’re going to see more of the content they’ve engaged with. And in their explore page, they’ll see more content that they engage with categorically.
With Instagrams photo recognition technology, it’s able to recognize the types of images or genres. Recently, my husband my was really into Peaky Blinders and was on my Instagram account then he liked one or two images of Cillian Murphy, an Irish actor. Then, days following that activity, I’d have photos of Cillian Murphy sprinkled across my feed.
So, generally speaking, the photo recognition technology can categorize artists, actors, brands, performances, weddings, Cillian Murphy, travel, nature, music, food, etcetera.
From a fan perspective, they’re getting content that they enjoy seeing and have engaged with. As a DIY musician and content creator, you want to have general themes and consistency throughout your page. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean take a bunch of photos of food. But what this does mean is that you need to understand what content your type of fans enjoy and what content they’d like to consume as it relates to your music.
I’ve mentioned a DIY singer-songwriter, introspective sounding folksy sort of musician. Let’s say they’re similar to Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. Fans of this music may like nature scenes or the feeling of quiet adventure into the woods. So, the images you may post every now and then may relate to that so you can engage with the fans that not only enjoy that content, but could also likely your type of music as well. This allows you to create themes of content that your current fans enjoy and what potential fans might enjoy to discover you.
Overall, some argue that there are certain types of content that have more engagement. Generally speaking, this means video versus a photo. However, having a video as a post doesn’t increase your chances of exposure with existing fans or potential fans, especially if your fans aren’t inclined to watch video. Regardless of the type of content you produce, you should be posting relevant and quality content.
Now, how frequently should you be posting quality content? The other component Instagram looks at is timeliness. With the new algorithm it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be using Insta stories frequently, spend more time on the platform or create a post every 3 days. Timeliness is important. So, while frequency is playing a less role in the algorithm, you still need to be posting regularly to maintain a presence in your followers feed. Specifically, some users complained about seeing Christmas posts when it was well past New Years.
Depending on when you’ve posted a piece of content (and perhaps the theme), Instagram is likely to display it less on a users feed. The key takeaways for you as a DIY musician is to build engagement by delivering timely, quality and relevant content that your fans and potential fans would enjoy.
The last main category Instagram introduced included relationship. This relates to engagement based on comments. How frequently is that user leaving a comment on a specific accounts posts and what types of posts are they leaving comments on? This defines the relevancy of the users’ relationship to the accounts they follow and thereby helps the algorithm determine who and what’s most important to the user.
As DIY musician make sure to leave questions or captions that are engaging. For example, you can ask something like, “what’s your favorite thing to do to relax? Leave a comment below.” Or something that’s relevant to your fans so that you give a reason for fans to engage. The other option is to create a contest or giveaway where fans are asked to create a comment on a post for 5 different post days to win a prize. Each comment for each different post could represent a singular entry. This is just one example of trying to build comment engagement.
Instagram revealed that these algorithms essentially tries to predict what photos and videos are most interesting to them. If you’re worried about exposure via hashtags and how that’s affected your Instagram game — fear not. Hashtags still deliver over 10% more engagement than posts without. Instagram also clarified that shadow ban does not exist. If you’re not familiar with the shadow ban, it was this idea that if you used spammy over overused hashtags, your content was hidden from the explore feed. Tons of blogs came out freaking out about it, but it’s not a thing.
If you’re looking for more resources, I’ve got a few freebie worksheets for you! They cover tools you can use, how to leverage hashtags, and a mini-action plan. Make sure to check out the below resources.
- Episode No. 6: 5 Instagram Tools to Grow Your Fanbase
- Episode No. 10: The Powerful Free Tool that Grows your Instagram Fanbase
- Instagram for Musicians 101