Some days, social media can feel like a struggle. 

You spend time creating relevant and original content, crafting the perfect caption, picking high-performing (and not shadowbanned) hashtags — and despite all your best efforts… your post flops. Maybe it doesn’t get as many likes as you thought it deserved, or your audience doesn’t engage as you’d hoped — whether that desired action was a click-through on a sale link, or just a simple comment. 

The good news is, it might not be that your content was bad, your instincts were off, or that you wrongly predicted your followers’ preferences. Instagram’s algorithm might be to blame. 

It can feel like the Instagram algorithm is always changing — and after each high-level functionality tweak, users are forced to reexamine their efforts and figure out what they need to do to get their post in front of more followers. The most recent update dictates the order of the posts that users see when they’re scrolling through their feed. Based on certain signals, it prioritizes the best posts, pushing the most relevant ones toward the top and giving them the most visibility, and bumping other content further down.

According to the current algorithm, the main ranking factors when it comes to determining whether an Instagram user might like a post or not are:

  • Relationship with the user. When someone has interacted with a lot of your past Instagram content, they’ll be more likely to see your future content.
  • Signaled interest. Does the user interact with similar posts and accounts when they explore Instagram? If so, they’re more likely to see your posts.
  • Relevancy. When you publish a post on Instagram, the algorithm gives it a relevancy score, which impacts who in the feed sees your content.
  • Timeliness. More recent posts are prioritized over older ones.

So, what does this all mean? In short, it’s not enough anymore to just post on a regular basis with the right hashtags and trust that your audience will see them. The good news is, there are ways to improve your posts’ impact — and get more eyes on your content. Here are four tips to help you hack the algorithm:

Tip 1: Know what actions make an impact – and encourage your followers to engage in ways that move the needle.

The most recent algorithm update prioritizes types of user interactions by importance, and weighs them to determines whether your posts make a user’s feed. The actions rank as follows:

1) Sharing a post (most impactful)

2) Bookmarking a post

3) Commenting on a post

4) Liking a post (least impactful)

To increase the reach and impact of your posts, encourage your followers and supporters to share and bookmark your posts if they’d like to show appreciation for your content — and help grow your audience. 

Tip 2: Don’t just pay attention to what you post – pay attention to when you post.

On average, the best time to post on Instagram is between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT, according to Sprout Social. But performance can fluctuate depending on what day of the week you post. The best days to post on Instagram are Wednesday throughout the day, but particularly around 11 a.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Posting at 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday through Friday generates some of the highest engagement, because people usually check their phones as soon as they wake up. Posting between noon and 4 p.m. EDT on weekdays also positions your content well, because users usually check their phones during lunch or at the end of the work day.

Tip 3:  Don’t forget about Stories!

The more people engage with your brand through Stories, the more likely they’ll be to see your updates every time you post. Knowing this, you’ll want to consistently post Stories to reach people as they open their Instagram account.

Tip 4: Do your own testing — and use your findings to shape your future posting strategy

The best way to find an ideal posting time is by testing the timing of your posts to see which post time generates the most audience engagement. Then, take this information and use it to plan your post schedule in the future.

Do you have any other recommendations on how to hack the algorithm? Share your ideas in the comments. Or, if you’d like help creating a social media strategy that moves the needle for your brand, contact us!

Erin Witt Headshot

Written by Erin Witt

"She believed she could, so she did."