instagramIn March, Instagram announced a new algorithm hoping to help its 300+ million daily users access the photos and videos most relevant to them. Now that those changes are being rolled out, let’s examine how it will affect marketers.

In an official blog post, Instagram representatives noted that the order of content in the feed will be “based on the likelihood that you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.” The new algorithm won’t remove any content — it’ll just put it in a different, and hopefully, more relevant order.

Some found Instagram’s transition to an algorithmic feed inevitable. Others said the transition would negatively impact the discoverability of content and hinder organic community building.

Regardless of their opinion on the news, content creators and marketers came to one reasonable conclusion: Brands need to invest in relevant, high-quality content in order to be successful on Instagram.

Sure, Instagram has unveiled a slew of new tools and capabilities for business users, and has even introduced new “picked for you” channels in explore, which features videos grouped by specific topics and interests. But since Instagram is rolling out its new algorithm soon, we wanted to share a few tips and best practices that brands should implement to get more views and engagement on their organic Instagram content:

Think strategy first

Like any promotional channel, Instagram should be part of your holistic content and marketing strategy — not an outlet you post on from time to time. Don’t just grab random images from your creative hub, publish them on Instagram and pat yourself on the back.

First, determine your strategic business goals. Are you trying to improve site traffic, boost mobile app downloads or generate sales? Or, do you want to build your community and start to identify potential advocates who will promote your brand to friends and family? Identifying your end goals first will help you determine what you should be tracking and, ultimately, how you measure success.

Then, it’s time to strategize your content. All content you create — be it visual or written — should align with the wants, needs and preferences of your target audience. The calls to action you use, the tone of your commentary, even the filters you use in images, should be designed with the intent of captivating your followers and encouraging them to take action.

As you go through the process of identifying your goals and building your content plan, think of the role that Instagram will play in your strategy. Do you want to simply inspire your followers or use shoppable images to create a more direct call-to-action? Does your target audience use Instagram frequently enough to warrant investing in Instagram ads? These are all questions you should answer before you even think about your plans for Instagram specifically.

Transition from “push” to “pull”

Prior to the new Instagram algorithm, post frequency was marketers’ key to staying at the top of consumers’ minds and present in their feeds. However, it’s no longer effective to inundate consumers’ feeds and hope it leads to a site visit or sale. Now it’s imperative that marketers transition from “push” engagement to “pull” engagement. As a result, you can tackle that relevancy issue that the new algorithm is designed to address.

Pull engagement is just what it sounds like. Rather than endlessly pushing content to consumers, pull them in by posting more compelling content that captivates them and inspires them to respond. At first glance, this may seem like a time-extensive and expensive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. All of your content should be aspirational, inspirational and show your products “in the moment.” This isn’t an “Instagram only” best practice, so you can easily use them on your website, product pages, in marketing emails, display ads and so much more.

You can also build up your content arsenal by encouraging your customers to join in. Encourage them to share images and feedback, and then tag your Instagram handle or include a specific hashtag. Either approach will allow you to track all content coming in, and once you get their permission, you can reshare on your Instagram feed and on other channels as well.

Engage in a meaningful way

instagram train tracks cell phone photo

The new algorithm favors content created by accounts that users have forged strong relationships with. Account follows, image likes and comments all contribute to your relationship with consumers, so you need to think of ways to not only pique their interest but also encourage them to stay engaged.

Meaningful engagement can come in a variety of forms. The first bucket consists of behaviors that occur on your Instagram account. First, keep tabs on your followers. Take the time to follow your fans back, especially if they’re liking and commenting on your content. And of course, track all comments to see if users are asking questions, offering honest criticism or have a specific concern. When you respond to followers’ inquiries, you’re showing them that you care about what they have to say and are eager to help.

The second bucket takes a bit more time and attention. Track which users are tagging your brand in images and look for patterns. Are they sharing feedback, gushing about their great experience or showing off a new product? Are they in a physical location or spotlighting a digital interaction? These insights can help you get an honest look at your consumers and their overall perception of your brand. But this feedback also presents you with a great opportunity to comment on their posts and even ask them if you’d have permission to share their posts. Your fans and followers would definitely appreciate the opportunity to represent your brand and show off to their friends.

Use analytics to find out what matters

It takes a lot of time and effort to manually track and record the total number of likes, comments and reshares each image receives. Luckily, there are a variety of analytics tools to facilitate the process and provide you with a wealth of actionable insights.

To get the best insights on your data, use a third-party Instagram analytics provider, such as Curalate. It’s important that you understand some key data points to get a comprehensive view of Instagram content performance — such as content reach, number of image likes and comments, impressions, overall engagement, call-to-action clicks, and so on. Dive even deeper, by examining the age, gender and location of the users that are engaging with your content.

House of MarleyAll of this data can be combined and analyzed to help you understand which users are connecting with your content and what image styles, calls to action and even captions are resonating with your followers. Instead of just sticking to what you’re doing and hoping your followers come around, you can use this information to improve your overall visual content strategy.

In the new era of Instagram, relevance trumps all

Now that Instagram’s new algorithm is finally being rolled out, all brands need to consider how they can use the social network — not just as a marketing channel, but as an outlet for driving engagement, building a community and being more relevant in consumers’ eyes.

Using the right tactics and leveraging the right data will help brands create more compelling messaging and calls to action, publish more relevant visual content and promote the trends, brands and styles that matter most to target consumers.

Download this guide to learn how you can use data, insights and shopper feedback to create more powerful visual content.