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5 Ways to Compete with the Instagram Algorithm

By Elayane Merriwether

Eight years ago, when I graduated from the University of Central Florida, there were no degrees in social media. Instagram, if you can believe it, hadn’t even launched yet! Through sheer luck, I was fortunate to stumble into this emerging sector of the marketing industry. A peer of mine randomly asked me if I would be interested in filling her role as a Campaign Fulfillment associate at a local agency in Orlando––she said she had a good feeling about me. I did, in fact, get the job and went on to help brands like Bolthouse Farms and Hershey’s creatively tell their story through up-and-coming bloggers. 

Fast-forward to today, and I’m still helping brands tell their story… just on faster-moving platforms like Instagram. The players might have changed, but the game remains the same: empowering brands to grow their identities in a creative and meaningful way. 

At Freshmade, we always connect our client’s story with the consumer experience. We visually tell a story on the package that will resonate with the target consumer and position our clients as thought leaders in their desired spaces. We take that same approach with our social media clients by helping their brand’s story live visually and compellingly in the digital space. 

It’s not enough to simply leverage a trend, you must genuinely tap into the cultural zeitgeist. 

No matter the client, whether it’s Frieda’s Speciality Produce or SUNSET Grown, we have a tried and true methodology that allows us to create an effective, evolving, and results-driven social media strategy. While leveraging trends and maintaining an always-on approach to concepting creative is necessary, a thoughtful narrative and purpose-driven strategy is equally essential to success in such a saturated space. It’s not enough to simply leverage a trend, you must genuinely tap into the cultural zeitgeist. 

Easier said than done in an ever-changing platform, I know. But here are a few insider tips on approaching trends and tools on Instagram in a more impactful way. 

Talk to your community. They are real people. 

Instagram was designed to connect and create communities of like-minded people from around the world. To bring the platform back to its core principles, Instagram began beta testing the removal of likes, and most recently, a new feature giving the user the option to view or hide likes. It’s unclear if this will become a permanent feature, but the desire for users to leverage social media as a way to foster relationships remains true. 

As a brand, your goal is to reduce a bottom line and focus on positively trending metrics. It’s easy to lose sight that behind every smartphone is a real person. As a brand, treat your audience as a friend. No one wants a friend that only talks at them and not with them. 

Pro Tip: Leverage interactive features like Instagram Story stickers to start two-way conversations with your audience. Leveraging Instagram Story stickers is a great way to encourage your followers to chat and share their opinions and experiences. In turn, this will help create a loyal following that feels connected to your brand. Take a page out of Chobani’s book. They use Instagram Story polls, voting, and questions with their followers. Inviting your followers to join a conversation could be the difference between an active and engaged audience versus a quiet, superficial following. 

Inviting followers to join a conversation could be the difference between an active and engaged audience versus a quiet, superficial following

Test new content. Instagram is begging you. 

Last year was a big year for “snackable content,” with the introduction of Instagram Reels — a bite-sized video content feature created to compete with TikTok. Once dominated by Gen-Z users, TikTok now has an increasing percentage of millennial users, making the platform a much more attractive proposition for advertisers. Instagram Reels allow users and brands to dynamically flex their creativity with transitions, music, and effects. 

If the history of social media has taught us anything, the algorithm is constantly changing. So when Instagram drops a valuable nugget about what they are prioritizing, you better jump on it. Big box brands like Hippeas Snacks and Siete Foods are wasting no time leveraging the Instagram Reel algorithm in their favor. 

Instagram created a Reels tab that lives front and center on the navigation bar creating prime positioning for this content style. Reels fill the gap of high-quality content that is still informal but has longer shelf life than 24 hours. The proof can be seen in the organic reach Reels produces versus organic in-feed content, seen below on Siete Food’s Instagram. The challenge with Reels is finding the perfect balance of creating content that feels both authentic and branded.

Instagram video of Siete Foods
Siete Foods Reel Example

Add value to your content by making it “Saveable”

Saveable content is a style of content that brings value to your audience, which is why they bookmark it to refer back to it later. The key to creating Saveable content is understanding your audience and their pain points. What nuggets of content would they enjoy, need, or benefit from? Misfits Market leveraged a national holiday with an eco-friendly alternative to dying eggs. This concept speaks directly to their organic and sustainability-conscious target audience. It also reinforces their brand identity and mission of fighting food waste. The trick is knowing what content makes sense to leverage and the best way to execute it creatively.

Instagram’s newest beta testing of likes is changing the way brands benchmark success. This means meaningful engagement metrics like comments, shares, and saves are more crucial than ever. How do brands create content that resonates with their audience? How can they generate meaningful engagement on social media? By adding value to their content and making it “Saveable.” 

The key to creating Saveable content is understanding your audience and their pain points.

Give them something to ‘Share’ about

SUNSET Grown’s relatable grocery shopping meme speaks directly to their target audience of Millennial foodies in a humorous and shareable way. The concept addresses their audience’s pain points of balancing eating healthy and the woes of grocery shopping. 

Users’ ability to share feed posts to their Instagram Stories or DMs is a handy feature that can put your brand in front of people who don’t follow you. You want to make the content something your audience will want to repost. Think about data that could shock or spark intrigue, like fun memes, relatable quotes, or DIY hacks. Now, with the ability to track and measure the number of times your grid post has been shared with stories, it’s even easier to understand the content resonating with your audience. 

Sunset Instagram Post
SUNSET Grown Meme

One word, three letters: SEO 

Instagram recently launched a Keyword Search feature that enables you to connect with people who are actively searching for content related to your business. Think Google but for social media platforms. A consumer can now search for terms like “vegan recipes,” a list of posts using that term will appear. This new tool can give your brand’s reach, discoverability, and engagement on Instagram a serious boost and the key to engaging prospective customers who are more likely than others to convert. 

How do you leverage the new Instagram Keyword Search feature? The principles are exactly the same as SEO on your blog, your website, and anywhere else you might be generating content for the spiders to latch onto…optimize your Instagram post copy with relevant keywords that your target audiences might be searching for. Brands must have a deeper understanding of their target audience’s behavior on Instagram just as they do elsewhere.

Brands must have a deeper understanding of their target audience’s behavior on Instagram just as they do elsewhere.

One thing is clear with these new platform features. Instagram is prioritizing connectivity and authenticity. The platform is going back to its roots to create like-minded communities of people with similar interests. Posting to post without a creative strategy won’t cut it these days. The platform wants you to do more and work harder for it, which means thoughtful and meaningful execution. When done correctly, your brand could go viral. With over 1 billion Monthly Active Users, the potential to reach, inspire, and facilitate sales is unparalleled, and the time is now! The Instagram algorithm won’t waste time switching things up, and neither should you.  

Interested in learning more about what it takes to execute on creative to increase engagement effectively? The best way to navigate the ever-changing waters of social media as a brand? Reach out:

Elayane Merriwether, Social Media Manager

About the Author:

Elayane is pure hustle. Her passion for social media is evident in the endless enthusiasm she brings to trendscaping and hunting down strategic opportunities that set her clients apart. With a B.A. in Writing and Rhetoric from University of Central Florida, Elayane has managed influencers and paid campaigns for brands such as Pure Barre, Del Monte, Heineken, Hershey’s, and Bolthouse Farms. For those lucky enough to experience her contagious energy and her confident nature, it comes as no surprise that she was a spin instructor before entering the creative industry.

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