In case you don't know, Instagram announced in March 2016 that it would look into changing the news feed from purely chronological to algorithm based so you see the posts you deem most interesting at the top. This is based on how you engage with material (ie if you comment and like X's photos, you are more likely to see it at the top of the feed). Having said that, the change is not as significant as Facebook's, as a profile is a profile on Instagram (no differentiation between personal and business), so it doesn't discriminate against businesses (like it does on Facebook).
I have seen a lot of posts this week with people, mainly small businesses, trying to counteract that. They are asking people to switch on notifications for their posts. I personally have ONE account that I have switched on notifications for, and even this can be disruptive in my flow of notifications. I would highly advise against switching notifications on to a whole bunch of accounts, as you will probably just have to switch them all off again which will be time consuming and annoying. If you've already posted an image asking people to switch on notifications, don't worry, there were so many of them people wouldn't remember ;)
So what should a small business do with the Instagram Algorithm change?
I say... EMBRACE IT.
Is it that bad if your engaged customers see more of your posts? And surely the whole point of Instagram is to create content that is engaging?
So... it basically comes down to HOW TO CREATE ENGAGEMENT. Here are some ideas:
1) Post less posts, but more high quality.
If you can't manage posting twice a day whilst dealing with the engagement, decrease to once a day. What do I mean by dealing with the engagement? Straight after I post a photo, I always click through and like and comment on the photos that I enjoy on my news feed. This will make you show up in people's notifications, and that will jog them to interact with you. Also, if you find it difficult to schedule in posts (understandably for a busy small business owner), use a free social media managing tool like Hootesuite to schedule in your Instagram posts. You can do this at the beginning of the week, make sure you have the right hashtags, and away you go. You will need to be available on your phone to actually post it though (it pops up as a notification, but doesn't post it for you).
2) Use Instagram for shorter bursts of time, more frequently.
This leads through to increasing engagement. This will allow you to see a wider range of posts. Instead of liking/commenting on, say, 100 posts like you may have done previously, now do only the top 50. But do it more frequently. For me, this is not a chore as I love using Instagram.
3) Only like posts you actually like.
If you want an interesting feed you are actually interested in, only like the things you like. Does that make sense? There's no point liking a blurry photo of a flower from someone you don't know in Turkey. That will feed into your algorithm and more of those photos will show up. What you want as a small business, is to like your target market's posts, and also to like companies that your target markets like (more of that below) - although... do see point 6.
4) Interact with other small companies
I believe firmly that we are stronger together, even if you are in fact "competitors". If you are selling kidswear, I don't see why you shouldn't interact with other kidswear owners. You can tap into their market, and they will tap into yours. Many people that shop with InstaShops like the community more than the product. Make yourself a part of that community. There are different levels of engaging - you can:
- Engage with their material, and hope for quid pro quo engagement
- Be more proactive and message them, saying how you would like to work together if they're interested. This can lead to a ShoutOut, and would normally be on a quid pro quo basis. This works best if you have similar level of followers, and if you are the one reaching out it makes sense if you have slightly more followers than them.
- Run giveaways together. This reduces the cost of the giveaway per company, and you are able to tap into each other's markets. You would typically ask your followers to follow everyone in the linky giveaway and ask for a regram with a certain #hashtag so you can track the competition easily.
5) Figure out what your audience likes, and post more of it.
Look at your posts, and analyse what gets the best results. Do you post a certain time of day, certain day, or is it a certain type of post? I personally dislike selfies, motivational quotes, wrap selling photos. Others may love it. Remember, just because you are selling something, doesn't mean you have to constantly push the product. Add some behind the scene things photos, add some photos from your personal life. Your gallery should still have a theme (around your business and you), but it doesn't have to all be about your products. Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuck, Social Media Rockstar) explains this very well in his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
6) Engage with active members that aren't your target audience
This may be a controversial suggestion, but I'm sure that's how the algorithm will work. How will they know whether the engaged individuals are part of your target audience? If you are engaging in general, you are more likely to show up on other people's feeds. Your break up of followers should still have less than 30% of people that are not in your target audience, so your photos will still show up largely based on your target audience (especially if Location is a factor, ie you run a cafe instead of an e-shop).
If you would like another take on this, where she is advocating you DO ask people to switch on post notifications, then have a read of Caitlin Blacher's blog post. Personally, the annoyance level would be too high for me as a consumer and I might have taken it out on the business that advocated such a move. But we are all different.