Guide to the Instagram Feed Algorithm
In June 2016, Instagram announced it was changing its algorithm to show users content they cared about first -- no matter when it was posted. This could make it tougher for social media marketers to get organic Instagram posts seen because most users were missing 70% of the content on their feeds.
Shortly after Facebook began to prioritize posts of users' friends and family in 2018, Instagram followed suit. Its algorithms began prioritizing brands and advertisements less heavily.
But brand posts with natural engagement can sometimes defeat these algorithms. There are a few factors that influence a post's ranking on the Instagram feed, and the number of likes and comments a post achieves is one of them. Here's what matters when it comes to ranking on an Instagram user's feed:
- The number of Likes and comments a post has
- If that user has interacted with your content in the past
- How recently you posted
If your organic Instagram posts get engagement from your followers, it creates a positive feedback loop: the more people like and comment on a post, the greater likelihood it will appear on the Explore tab, where users who don't already follow you can check out your popular content.
Before we jump into strategies for attracting more comments, there are a few things you need to do:
1. Make your account public.
Make sure new followers can find your content by opening your account. Navigate to your profile, tap the Settings gear icon in the upper right-hand corner, and toggle the Private Account button to the Off position.
2. Enable push notifications.
Turn on push notifications so you can quickly reply to or like your followers' comments. Remember, the more users interact with your account, the higher on their feeds your content will appear.
Navigate to your profile, tap the Settings gear icon in the upper right-hand corner, tap Push Notification Settings, and choose which Instagram actions you want to be notified for.
3. Curate engaging content.
People aren't going to comment on uninteresting content, so enlist one team member to manage the scheduling and editing of Instagram content, but open it up to a larger team to source different photos, videos, and ideas to keep your Instagram feed fresh and interesting.
4. Develop an Instagram editorial calendar.
Figure out an Instagram publishing cadence that works for you -- and we recommend posting no more than once per day. Remember, timing is a factor in the algorithm, so you don't want posts from earlier in the day to get lost in the shuffle. Download our social media content calendar to keep track of what you're posting across other social platforms so you're not repetitive and you're covering all of your bases.
Now that we're all on the same page, let's dive into strategies for getting more comments (and likes) on Instagram.
13 Ways to Get More Comments on Instagram
1. Host a giveaway or contest.
A fun and easy way to get followers to comment on your Instagram posts is by hosting an Instagram contest or giveaway. You could post on Instagram promoting the contest, then ask users to enter by commenting on your post. You could make your contest a weeklong campaign, where users have to comment each day. You could even incorporate user-generated content (UGC) and ask followers to post their own photos and to tag/mention your brand in the post.
Here's an example of an Instagram contest we ran for our attendees at INBOUND 2016, HubSpot's annual marketing and sales event:
Social Media Examiner has a great guide for running Instagram contests -- check it out here.
2. Host an Instagram takeover.
Instagram takeovers are a fun way to get fresh content on your Instagram and to work with colleagues and influencers. They're a smart way to generate more Instagram engagement, too.
Takeovers involve one Instagram user taking over another's feed, usually for a day, and posting from their point of view. Takeovers are often done from the perspective of:
- A colleague
- An influencer
- Another organization in your industry
These takeovers help generate more Instagram comments whether it takes place on your account or you're taking over another account. Here's an example of a takeover we hosted with our friends over at WeWork. WeWork was able to share brand and member stories to a whole new audience of HubSpot's engaged followers.
WeWork closed the takeover with a call-to-action (CTA) to follow its Instagram account -- where new followers will start liking and commenting on new posts. And over at HubSpot, we enjoyed comments from WeWork fans and others interested in the takeover.
Takeovers are a win-win for hosts and guests. Learn how to host one with help from Buffer.
3. Ask users to engage in the comments.
A simple way to get more Instagram comments is to ask for them.
Post content on Instagram that lends itself to sharing, and ask users to answer a question or tag their friends and coworkers in the comments. It's a fun and easy way to interact with your audience, and it helps you garner more comments, too.
Here's an example of an Instagram post we shared in which we asked our followers a question. You can caption posts with simple questions like "Agree or disagree?" or "What's your advice?" to prompt responses and earn more comments.
4. Post something funny, surprising, or provocative.
In a study of what makes content go viral, research revealed some of the most viral internet moments also provoked high-arousal emotions. Among the most common were posts that created anticipation, surprised the viewer, and provoked curiosity and uncertainty. Emotions that incited feelings of joy were also among the most common, so think about content you could share on Instagram that makes people feel an emotion so strongly that they're compelled to comment on it.
Is there content you could post about a surprising fact, a happy moment, or an intriguing industry trend? It doesn't need to be specifically about your brand, either -- content that's enjoyable for a broad audience will likely attract more comments.
It can be silly, too -- here's our teaser video for our April Fool's Day prank about "gorilla" marketing that attracted a lot of attention -- while building anticipation and a sense of surprise.
5. Post videos.
Time spent viewing videos on Instagram increased 40% in 2016, and now, users can post videos up to one minute in length. Post this engaging content to get followers to stop scrolling through their busy Instagram feeds and watch your video -- and make sure it's intriguing. Your audience wants more video content -- especially on social media -- so if you share something compelling and ask viewers to comment on it in the caption, they'll most likely do it.
6. Use relevant hashtags.
When you post your content with relevant, popular Instagram hashtags, your posts appear in searches for those hashtags and the Explore tab. In fact, posts with at least one hashtag typically attain more than 12% more engagement. Influencers and interested users might organically comment when they see you talking about topics they're also interested in, or you could combine some of the strategies above to generate engagement.
Ask followers how they celebrated #SundayFunday, acknowledge a #ThrowbackThursday, or use one of the hundreds of hashtags relevant to your industry or your content to get new audience members involved in the conversation. We did this with Earth Day hashtags in the example below:
7. Publish at the right time of day.
There's a lot of debate over the best time of day to post on social media, and that's because the answer varies depending on your industry, your followers, and what type of content you're posting.
Our best advice is to test out your engagement rates on Instagram when you post at different times throughout the week, and determine your publishing schedule based on the results.
Whether it's bright and early on Monday morning or later in the afternoon, try to figure out the time when your followers are more willing to stop and leave a comment to maximize the engagement of your posts each day. Use a social media content calendar to track scheduling and results.
8. Post photos of people's faces.
Let's face it -- selfies are fun. And as it turns out, they're good for your Instagram strategy, too.
An analysis of more than 1 million Instagram posts by Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs found that posts with human faces are 32% more likely to attract comments -- and 38% more likely to garner likes.
There isn't a ton of insight into why this is, but the researchers suspected that it's partly because faces are effective sources of nonverbal communication that people respond to -- even as infants.
Post Instagram content featuring selfies, group shots, and candid photos, and see if your audience likes the human side of your brand, too.
Here's an example of how HubSpot incorporated Ellen Degeneres' face into an inspirational quote post:
9. Post photos of animals.
There isn't a lot of research to back this one up, but you know as well as I do that animals on social media are powerful. Animals have been popular on the web for a long time, and animal influencers can earn just as much money as human influencers on Instagram.
Whether you have animals in your office or a cute picture of a coworker's pet, try posting lighter, fun content on Instagram accompanied by a furry friend to see if your audience likes commenting on animals, too.
Here's a great example where an Instagram user tells people to tag someone that loves puppies:
10. Respond to the comments you get.
Just like other forms of social media, responding to comments can give your audience a sense of community and make you look like you're actually interested in what they have to say. When users get a comment in response, they might continue the comment thread.
Additionally, when others see that your account is responding to comments, they might comment on the post as well to join in on the discussion or ask a question about your post.
11. Use relevant emojis to make captions eye-catching.
While hashtags work to pull your post into searches, emojis will gravitate people's eyes to your captions. More eyes on your captions might mean more engagement, comments, and likes for the overall post.
When using emojis, be sure they make sense for what you are posting and seem appropriate for your company. Two to three emojis can be colorful and interesting, but don't go overboard with too many of them.
Here's an example where HubSpot accompanied an infographic with a caption that had an emoji in it:
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The estimated data that's created in ONE MINUTE on the Internet 🤯 Every minute, your customers could be singing your praises. Happy customers are your best marketing tool, and the data they create is more powerful than any marketing campaign. So treat them right. (Source: Statista) #businesstips #socialmedia #growbetter #hubspot #customerfirst #socialmediamarketing #startuptips #marketingtips #mondaymotivation #stats
12. Post more frequently.
Like many other social media platforms, posting more frequently will make your account look active and up-to-date. If you only post once in a while, your posts might get drowned out by others in the Instagram feed.
If you post regularly and at optimized times of the day, more people will see your posts. This could result in more people following you and ultimately commenting or reacting to your regular posts.
13. Promote a future Q&A and ask fans to comment with their questions.
Now that we have features like Instagram Stories and IGTV, we can host and promote live Q&A's which might be published with these tools. If you're planning to interview someone over a live feed, publish a few standard posts to promote the event.
For each promotional post, ask users to comment with a question that they'd like to ask the person who's being interviewed. Depending on the interview subject, you might see a flood of question comments from users. Along with more comments, this strategy will also allow your followers to feel like they're directly engaging with and contributing to your content.
Engagement Is Key
Likes, comments, and video views are valuable on Instagram because they influence where your posts sit in the feed. Additionally, your content will be discoverable on the Explore tab if a lot of users interact with your posts -- so test out these methods for attracting more responses on Instagram. For more ideas, check out our guide to Instagram for business.
Originally published Jul 21, 2019 7:06:00 PM, updated October 30 2019