Opinion

What is the State of Organic Reach on Instagram?

Instagram's algorithm updates have caused concern amongst users that think organic reach is in decline. Ben Jeffries explains how you can work in favour of the algorithm to ensure your content reaches the masses.

In 2016, the Instagram feed algorithm was displayed in chronological order. Instagram claimed that this meant that users only saw half of their friends posts on their feed. They argue that the new algorithm prioritizes the content that users want to see, allowing them to view up to 90% of their friends’ posts and reducing the amount of fake news that is currently saturating the platform. However, many users have expressed their concerns that they believe organic reach may be on the decline as their engagement rates have dipped and their posts are simply getting lost in the new algorithm. 

The Instagram algorithm 

Industry experts have extensively researched this in recent months to prove that organic reach has died. Personally, I don’t necessarily see a decline in organic reach, but the performance per post has seen greater fluctuation than it has done previously due to Instagram attempting to crack down on fake news. Posts that underperform can get lost in the algorithm almost instantly if they do not gain the initial traction from the audience that the content has been pushed out to. Instagram algorithms now use technology to make informed decisions as to which members of your audience would be interested in your content, or who your content is relevant to. Essentially, if the initial audience that this content is pushed out to engage well with it, then it’ll be pushed out to a greater number of people, rewarding quality content. 

Some users have expressed their concerns about their individual engagement rates declining and their posts performing less well than they used to. Instagram may deem any piece of content to be irrelevant to individual users and, therefore, won’t push it out to their individual feeds, or will push this content out to a smaller audience than it may have done before. This may result in posts getting lost in the algorithm, or underperforming in comparison to previous posts.

However, others have hit their own record-breaking numbers in terms of engagement due to Instagram deciding that this content is relevant to a greater number of people, and these people have engaged with the content positively. 

How can you avoid this? 

Instagram has recently claimed that 68% of people say that they come to Instagram to interact with their favourite content creators. Therefore, they have decided to continue to invest in branded content as they believe it is most valuable to people, creators and brands. The latest investment has seen a push towards allowing advertisers to promote creator content as branded content ads on feeds of users who do not follow the initial creator to boost the reach of posts. The past few years have seen thousands of brands utilise the influencer marketing space, telling stories through the voices of creators and reaching new audiences that they may not have been able to without. The opportunity to use branded content ads and amplify content with paid spend will ensure that brands are targeting the specific audiences that they believe are right for them. 

The influencer marketing industry has previously faced criticism for only having a limited number of ways to track and measure ROI past vanity metrics in the form of likes and comments. This push towards branded content ads has also seen Instagram invest in creating campaign measurement tools that will allow the brands that are putting paid spend behind their ads to test a number of different factors. This should allow brands to optimise their advertising strategy, measure impact, set goals for the future and ensure the posts they are putting out will have great reach and relevance rather than getting lost in the algorithm. 

On a smaller scale, something that both brands and everyday users can do to increase engagement is to utilise other features that Instagram has developed, such as stories, IGTV or simply engaging with your audience on your main feed posts. With the Instagram algorithm prioritising the relationships you have with your audience and weeding out fake news, it is more important than ever to build meaningful relationships by being personal and authentic with your audience. 

Work in favour of the algorithm 

In essence, rewarding organic content that is relevant to its audience is the current priority of the Instagram algorithm. Content that is deemed irrelevant to individual users by Instagram will not be pushed out to a greater audience, and will simply be lost in the algorithm. This doesn’t mean that your content is irrelevant to everyone, it is simply attempting to weed out the saturated market of the Instagram feed and combat fake news. Creating quality content, engaging with your audience and utilising all the features that Instagram offers should help you to work in favour of the algorithm rather than against it.

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