5 Things to know about the New Instagram Algorithm and What That Means for Musicians/Artists

5 Things to know about the New Instagram Algorithm and What That Means for Musicians/Artists

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Benjamin Jay


Every year it seems like users on social media platforms are being thrown for a loop with major changes in the ever shifting cyber landscape of Social Media. There is no debating the importance of a strong online presence for musicians and artists alike. According to a Statista report in 2017 [which can be found here], Instagram is starting to achieve astronomically high traffic peaking at 800 million monthly users. It's those numbers that are attracting musicians all over the planet who market themselves online with this new virtual resume. Since the beginning of 2018, Instagram has launched their new and improved algorithm with some major changes that affects many users, not only artists and musicians. Social media is constantly changing, and content creators need to be aware of this, as it changes how people manage and run their social media accounts. 

This article will specifically  talk about  Instagram  , the new update, and 5 things artists/users can do to help use the new algorithm to their advantage. 

1. Fighting for 90 Percent

Right off the bat we can see how Instagram is starting to really favor the strong and reward high user engagement. When a user now posts something (image or video) initially only 8-10% of thier following will actually get that new post on the top of their feed (if at all). If that person gets high user engagement right away, then the algorithm will open up that picture to more of the user's following base as well as offer higher chance to land on other people's discover page. 

What is "high user engagement"?

High user engagement simply means followers, both old and new, are interacting with content. This can be as simple as a view or comment to a person sharing a post with a friend or colleague. Now you may be thinking that it would be a swell idea to just ask all your friends to comment or like a photo you just shared... but this is the exact opposite mentality that I'd like my readers to walk away with. Plenty of people have had this idea before which developed the name  "comment pods" or "comment groups.  More on comment pods and why they're bad for my next tip.

Good to know: The algorithm seems to heavily weigh the first hour of traffic on a post. It's important to try to get high traffic within the first hour of the initial post time. While these are just rumors, I myself have seen this to be true on several occasions. 

2. Comment Pods, Spamming, and... Shadow Banning? 

Instagram analytics are really starting to crack down on spamming and bot detection with the new 2018 update. There have been reports of people participating in comment pods to artificially boost their traction within the algorithm getting shadow banned. Shadow banning is essentially Instagram's way of "containing" bots, spammy users, etc. When a person gets shadow banned they may not notice for awhile... because they still have regular access to their account. Instagram is killing user engagement so that the person banned is pretty much posting to themselves or people specifically looking for their content. A shadow banned person's post may not appear on hashtag pages, follower's feed, or the discovery page. As you can imagine, this pretty much ruins traffic on Instagram.

Shadow banning was important to review first because it is the potential consequence from  participating in comment pods, spamming, or using bots. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In the end, the new 2018 update can make the killing blow to a lot of people's Instagram strategy. However, I think Instagram's new approach to reward real, genuine interaction is a step in the right direction. 

Comment pods: A group of people agreeing to like, comment, and sometimes share each other's content to artificially boost their use engagement. 

Another thing to consider is how the new algorithm is identifying accounts as bots/spam.

3. How to not come off as "Spammy"

From what I can tell, most people advise that you want to avoid comments that are 5 words or less. The good ol' days when comment sections would fill up with people saying "Nice" or "Nice." or "Nice!" are quickly ending. Once again, I believe that these new additions to the algorithm are better and promote real interactions. I can't tell you how many musicians friends I have who use Instagram solely to blast out their personal content or shows -  not interacting with people on the app.  

Yet another way to not come off "spammy" is to actually stay involved and active with your own followers. This is meant to reward real relationships... a direct message to the "follow for a follow" community/strategy from the company [Instagram]. 


4. The new hashtag game

So you may know by now that hashtags on Instagram have "top posts" which remain at the top of each page until they are bumped down. Achieving "top post" was a great way get more traction on posts and activity on your page. As of Jan. 2018, the "top posts" for everyone are now different and customized based on individual user activities. This means that the actual chance of appearing on someone else's top post have gone down significantly much like what happened to the discover page in previous updates. 

Also in "less spam" spirit, there are rumors that the algorithm is rewarding posts with fewer than ten hashtags. 


5. Niche markets, stories, and honesty 

Instagram, at the end of the day, is a multi-billion dollar business. Businesses make changes and try to adapt to the present day market. In my opinion, Instagram is gearing up to become more of a market place of the future where businesses can actually sell their products on the app. The trend of big business entering the paid advertisement field is immense, yet nothing compared to the small businesses using paid advertisements. My observation is that we will see more and more businesses hopping onto that train over the course of 2018. 

Niche Markets: Find yours. Especially if you're an artist. This is the quickest way to find "your target audience". Search hashtags, story locations, etc., to begin finding people who are actually into what you do! Don't market to everyone right off the bat. First establish a good following that will boost your engagement and offer a better social media experience.

Stories: ... are huge now in 2018.  With the ability to use hashtags and location features in stories, Instagram offers incredible opportunities for both consumer and creator. Instagram also offers a lot of free analytics for their business accounts. If you are a musician, I highly recommend upgrading [free]. You can find a how - to - guide here.    

Instagram's business account tip: Demographic analytics have also improved. Users can now see traffic on Instagram hour by hour. This is extremely handy information towards figuring out what day(s) and time(s) to post. Instagram will now notify users on their weekly profile hits (page visits), top locations and age range of your audience. 

The most exiting in my opinion is the "follower" feature which shows most active times of the day for your own following

For further information please refer to Instagram's Business Account Guide

Honesty: This is by far the most important take away from this entire article in my opinion. Honesty with your online community and genuine interaction with users is the best way to gain traction and traffic on Instagram. Instagram strategies such as social media guru Gary Varynerchuk's $1.80 per day - are taking off because of the new update which all promote real interaction with users, even for big business. It get's exciting to think that online business is being reshaped in front of our face every night as more people use social media.    


The thing is all this doesn't matter if...

I can list all the quirks about the new algorithm, and write one giant article but none of it matters if you don't have good content. Before you start learning how to fully optimize  "Instagram's analytics"  - make sure you have good, consistent content. This rings true especially for people in the entertainment industry. Instagram is evolving into a virtual platform for artists all over the globe to connect and collaborate - take advantage of that. Artists first and foremost want to be marketing, promoting, and publishing good content to make any of the above information useful. Don't think of Instagram as an app on your phone, but rather a website you've built that gets traffic everyday.  

I hope this information can help organize how you operate on Instagram or sheds light on why the new algorithm isn't necessarily a horrible thing. 

See you online,

Benjamin Jay




Instagram: @ScooobySnacksss

Twitter: @BenjaminJMusic

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About the Author:

Benjamin is a Los Angeles based guitarist/blogger. He currently is gigging with several bands in California. His writing includes band reviews, product (music related) reviews, social media and so much more. To receive regular updates and new articles/content please sign up for the mailing list below.