With over 400 million active monthly users and an average of more than 80 million photos posted every day, it was only a matter of time before an Instagram algorithm was introduced to sort their users’ feeds. The sheer volume and number of participants on the platform meant that on average people miss 70% of their feeds (according to Instagram). This has led to their recent announcement of the new ordering of posts that will be introduced in the coming months.

Shrieks of horror could be heard around the globe as businesses and marketers came to grips with the news that their beloved Instagram was going the way of Facebook with its mysterious algorithm and declining reach.

Only time will tell the true impact of the announcement, but if you’re already producing high quality, engaging content, then keep doing what you’re doing.  Those are the Instagram accounts that will rise to the top. Instagram has already said that the order will be based on “the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the posts.” If a good percentage of your followers already love your content and like or comment regularly, then your position in the feed should be secure. In fact, it might benefit from the change as the less engaging posts are pushed further down.

If you’re phoning it in, relying on less than spectacular photos or an inconsistent presence, then a new algorithm is the least of your worries. You’re probably already flushing resources and time and gaining few results. And that’s before the algorithm has even been implemented.

So to keep engaging and getting results on Instagram, it’s vital that businesses up their game now, before the “new order” arrives.

Here are 9 tips to stay on top after the Instagram algorithm is introduced:

(1) PUT THOUGHT INTO YOUR STRATEGY

Instagram Strategy

Plan your Instagram activity and take into account your business goals, your objectives for Instagram and your audience. Brainstorm post ideas and spend time developing quality content. Posting on the fly all the time won’t lead to a consistent, coherent strategy. Most of the leading Instagram accounts have developed a very clear look and brand voice that drives their entire activity.

(2) KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE

Know Your Target Audience

You cannot be all things to all people, and if you try you’ll find you’re not really appealing to anyone. It’s vital to really understand your target audience. Know what challenges they’re facing (and try to solve them). Know what inspires them (and give them inspiration). Know what gets them excited and chatting among themselves (and join in the conversation).  Pay attention to the posts they engage with most, and give them more of the same. If you’re really nailing the content for your target audience, they will engage more and will see more of your posts.

(3) CREATE OUTSTANDING CONTENT THEY NEED AND LOVE

Create outstanding content they need and love

Take your learnings about your key audience and funnel them into creating outstanding, eye catching, scroll-stopping content that they love (and need). This type of content stands out in the news feed and encourages people to engage. So unless you ARE your target audience, don’t create content YOU love, focus on THEIR preferences. Be helpful, inspirational, entertaining or educational but most importantly, be of value.

(4) USE HASHTAGS

Use Hashtags

While the order of the news feed might be impacted, there are still opportunities to be found within the search function of Instagram. So choose and use your hashtags wisely. Identify popular hashtags for your industry and use them where appropriate. Consider how your target audience would search for your products or services, and use hashtags related to those keywords. Rather than use the same group of hashtags on every post, vary them so you can identify those that really work for you by attracting extra likes and new followers.

(5) ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

One Size Does Not Fit All

Don’t just assume that what works on Facebook works on Instagram, or vice versa. Put thought into “native content” for your Instagram feed, i.e. the content that works best in that environment with that audience. And while it’s possible to share your Instagram posts to Facebook, I don’t recommend sharing EVERY post to Facebook. If you do, why would your followers want to follow you (or importantly, engage with you) on both? So share when appropriate, and develop unique content for each platform where appropriate.

(6) ENGAGE WITH AND APPRECIATE YOUR AUDIENCE

Engage with and appreciate your audience

Did you see one of the most important factors in Instagram’s new ordering system? “Your relationship with the person posting”. Now more than ever it’s important to engage with your followers. Reply to their comments, like and comment on their posts, acknowledge your most loyal supporters publicly. In short, build relationships.

(7) BE CONSISTENT!

Be Consistent

Decide on your posting schedule and be consistent. Consistency builds anticipation. There are no surprises, or more importantly no huge gaps in communication with your followers. Consistency builds familiarity – your followers are used to you being in their feed and can engage with your posts regularly. Consistency is important.

(8) DON’T BUY FOLLOWERS

Don't buy followers.

If you have made the mistake of buying followers, fix the issue now.  Bought followers rarely engage on your posts, so accounts with large follower numbers but low engagement are unlikely to be seen by Instagram as having a high “likelihood you’ll be interested in the content”.  Delete fake or disengaged followers now to make sure you have only real, authentic followers when the Instagram algorithm rolls out.

(9) MEASURE, TEST AND MEASURE AGAIN

Measure, test and measure again

Don’t just fly by the seat of your pants. Pay attention to the engagement you receive on posts. Pay attention to your follower numbers and how they are increasing (or decreasing). Use an Analytics tool like Iconosquare to get valuable information about your posts, account and your followers. Measure the traffic from your bio link. Measure the popularity of posts. Test posting at different times of the day to see which times achieve the most engagement. Test hashtags. Measure the impact on your business goals. Measure, test and measure again.

Businesses and brands have the right to feel nervous when it comes to an Instagram algorithm. Things will definitely change and a greater focus on your Instagram strategy will be needed to appear relevant and high up in the new order. But the fundamentals of Instagram haven’t changed, and if you’re already producing high quality, highly engaged content that is laser-targeted for your ideal audience, you should be one step ahead of game.