Sorry, But We Need To Talk About The Instagram Algorithm (Again)

The terrible tweaks

Like global politics or a new Taylor Swift song, it’s virtually impossible to ever stop talking about the Instagram algorithm.

Since the less-than-joyous reaction to the move away from a chronological feed, the problems, irritations, tricks and myths surrounding the Instagram algorithm are endlessly debated.

And now it appears that some possible tweaks to the algorithm are stirring up that angry, bubbling pot all over again.

Many of the content creators we work with have noticed reduced visibility and really erratic engagement levels. As Evan Kane writes in a feature for FStoppers: One day a given post might do moderately well or at least meet whatever your expectations are, and the next day a similar post will do wildly better or worse for what seems like no reason at all. Engagement is either up or down all the time, never steady. You can read all the “how-to-Instagram” articles that you want, but if the algorithm is making the final decision about your content, your efforts may be wasted.’

Understandably this is a content creator’s worst nightmare, especially when they are selling their expertise and services to brands based on a proven and reliable rate of engagement.

The main culprit

Before we reach for our big marker pens and start making angry protest posters to wave outside Instagram HQ, there is another possible cause for the disruption in the feed – a cause that is slightly closer to home.

That’s right Instagram Stories, we’re talking about you and your astonishing growth since launching last year.

The figures about Instagram Stories’ success are endless and very familiar by now (not least the study that showed 50% of brands on Instagram creating a story within a single month).

But while it has become astonishingly popular for both the creation and consumption of this kind of content, there is a theory that it’s prompting a severe case of ‘thumb-malaise’ when it comes to encouraging users to scroll any farther down the feed.

So, what if as well as munching dramatically through the Snapchat engagement rates, Instagram Stories has caused a decline in views and engagement from its own core feed?


Nobody beats the algorithm

If by this point you’re greedy for us to announce the astounding new bit of trickery that will fool the Instagram algorithm then we’re afraid you’re on the wrong blog.

And while some crafty and resourceful users have been seeing some success with ‘sandwiching’ – effectively exploiting a pattern in the algorithm to sandwich promoted posts in between images that are expected to receive high engagement – any loophole is unlikely to stay too loopy for too long. (Just check out our blog on Instagram’s battle with bots and pods if you don’t believe us.)

Instead, we are seeing the content creators we work with make more use of Instagram Stories to create and share both their own personal content and collaborative brand content. That’s not to say anyone is abandoning the traditional feed, which can still earn serious engagement figures if the algorithm is kind enough to nudge your post upwards.

So, while it’s not quite as exciting as an ingenious new algorithm swindle, the simple idea of delivering compelling and creative content, telling fascinating stories, building authentic relationships and using every tool available on the platform to reach more people, is still the best advice we’ve got. Sorry about that.