Instagram Algorithm

Instagram Algorithm

Instagram Algorithm for Writers

By Deanna M Ramirez

Follower hide-and-seek.  Only ten percent of followers see your posts.  10%! Thanks to the Instagram (which includes Facebook) algorithm.

I get 2% of likes to my number of followers.   This makes me believe less than 10% of my followers see my posts in their feed.  The alternative explanation is that my posts did not capture my followers’ attention.  Therefore, not giving any likes

What can I do to improve this?  How can I get more followers to see my posts?  If you research the Internet, these same general bullet points turn up to these questions: 

  • Better photo quality
  • Publish consistent stories
  • Publish video content
  • Go live, and often
  • Answer DM’s
  • Craft better captions – add a call to action or question.
  • Have a contest or giveaway
  • Refine hashtag usage
  • Post when your followers are online
  • Avoid shadowban hashtags

I’ll share what I’ve learned on my Instagram journey from the perspective of an author and poet. 

Instagram’s algorithm is unfavorable to words.

Did you know Instagram is unfavorable to words? When I created my Instagram account to feature my written work, I did not understand this! 

In the beginning, it didn’t matter to me. I used my poetry account as a small creative outlet.  I wasn’t thinking in terms of “likes” and “follows”. But once I took myself seriously as a writer, I looked at my use of social media differently. 

I’ll address this unfavorable word topic below. But first…

Do you take writing seriously?

Do you call yourself a writer? A poet? An author?

If your answer to any of those questions is yes, GOOD!  If it is not, why? Now, if writing is your hobby, then worrying about followers and likes is irrelevant and this article might not be for you.

However, if you care about this topic.  If you want people to read what you write, you must resolve these issues. Admit to yourself that you’re a writer. Admit you’re a poet. Say it out loud. Tell someone. It’s okay. 

Instagram Algorithm for writers.  Say it out loud. You are a writer!

Here’s a little secret – the people you think will judge you, don’t! The support surprised me when I told friends and family about my poetry and writing. You aren’t alone in hiding from shame. 

You’re in good company.

This topic came up at a writers’ conference I attended. So many people admitted to hiding it. A keynote speaker encouraged everyone to say it out loud. I am a writer.

It was the best advice! I had already outed myself as a writer. But it affirmed in my heart something I had wanted to shout over Instagram, Admit what and who you are! Be proud! Embrace it!   

Okay, now that you’ve admitted you’re a writer. Now, what?  One of my college professors said, “You must market yourself as a writer.”  

Writers must market themselves.

My professor was a published author who wrote an award-winning children’s book. She taught my Professional Writing class that writing success was our responsibility. 

Unfortunately, I took this course prior to Facebook and Instagram.  Authors then lacked concern for social media. Social media was irrelevant for writers then.  

Swipe worthy marketing.

Today our world is different.  The business of writing looks different.  More competitive than ever. With the reader’s attention distracted by other, new stimuli offered immediately at their fingertips.  People favor fast fulfillment.  They want posts impressing them in ten seconds or less.  

This century’s writers must capture readers in a finger swipe.  As I write more on each point, keep this in mind. Ten seconds.  A finger swipe

Instagram algorithm.  Thirty seconds. A finger swipe.

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Quality matters. 

Poor quality, spelling and grammar errors, and anything visually displeasing turns off fast eyes scanning an Instagram feed.

Use a spellcheck! Capitalize. I see a wave of people using lowercase EVERYTHING. Please, for the love of words, cut it out!

This is a fad that will fade, then die. As it should. It’s lazy. If your art is words, become a master of words.  You can’t move from apprentice to master when you’re too lazy to capitalize and use proper grammar.  

Now, I didn’t say perfect grammar.  No one is perfect. Books make it to store shelves with mistakes in them.  But this is the exception, not the rule. Accidents happen. People forgive happy little accidents. (Side thought: Could I become the Bob Ross of writing? “Let’s make this lowercase i into an I. There, now that’s better.”)

Help abounds.

Feeling rusty? That’s okay. There are tools to help you. We’re all using them!

Google Docs corrects your spelling and grammar for free.  I use ProWritingAid.  It made revising my novel possible. ProWritingAid catches spelling errors. It flags repeat words, or if the writers used too many glue words. It catches passive voice versus active voice. It’s freaking amazing.

Using ProWritingAid is like taking a refresher English course. In fact, I’m using it to write this article.

Highly recommend ProWritingAid, or Grammarly.  Both offer free services. Use their free grammar checks. Try both free. I heard multiple authors say they use both during the revision process at my last writers’ conference.

This post was proofread by Grammarly

I promise these resources will help you become a better writer. Remain a student of your craft and it will shine through your words.

The #1 Writing Tool

Have out-of-focus posts turned you off?  I’ve read well-crafted poems I didn’t feature on @evepoetrygroup because the words were fuzzy.  Well written but “blah” to the eye. You can’t do that on Instagram and expect follower growth. For good reason, too.  

It’s all about aesthetic these days.

Don’t know how to make eye-catching, beautiful posts? Good news! You don’t have to be a graphic designer and a great writer. Use apps. They’re awesome. They make life easier.

My recommendation is Canva.  You can use Canva for free. Upgrading to Pro opens access to premium gorgeous fonts and stock photos.  But again, you’d do just fine with the free version too.

Pick a look for your feed. Brand yourself. If you create a look and feel and decide you hate it, change it. That’s okay too. I’ve gone through a few phases of testing different looks.

Your brand.

Creating a brand is a process. You, the writer, have a brand. Make it look and feel you. Your brand is the message you wish to send. It should look the way you want your audience to feel.

Test things out. Change your mind. Eventually you’ll find your aesthetic. Your brand.

Do this, and people will follow you. They’ll like your posts more often. Because they will instantly recognize your post in their feed from your branding. It will happen. You’ll get there.

Instagram algorithm for writers.

How often do you post? 

Consistent posts are important for account growth. Anywhere from one to four posts per day are okay. Too many posts will flag you as spam.

Find a happy number that works with your schedule. There is no magic number of posts. Bummer, right? Consistency is key. Not posting all day long.

People desire reliable Instagram accounts that post consistent, quality material. Bottom line, yo! (Sorry, on a Breaking Bad kick ever since El Camino came out.)

Instagram algorithm for writers.  Sorry, on a breaking bad kick!

The what. Words, Words, Too Many Words.

More words on an Instagram post (or caption) means fewer likes. That’s it. The short and sweet. And it sours your tongue, right?

How do writers deal with it? Keep reading. This may cause debate. But if you want to be a professional writer, you need to throw away any purist notions you have about sharing your work on social media.

First thing to understand: They created Instagram for people to share photographs. It has a simple scroll feature for this purpose. This feature, by design, is unfavorable to posts filled with words.

The why. Why do they hate my words?

Casual scrolling is lazy. Reading is work. Casual scrolling and reading a post, then reading the long caption that goes along with it, doesn’t mesh super well.

Avid readers (who read books, not Instagram posts) or your supportive writer friends read your longish posts. However, you’re not capturing followers in droves because you’re not thinking of your audience’s mindset.

Instagram algorithm for writers. Know your audience.

The who. Know your audience.

Mothers, fathers, teenagers, baristas, foodies, the Kardashian’s, white collar business men looking for love, every race, religion, and creed. Just about every type of human is on social media. Except people with something to hide. But I digress. That’ll be a different, festive article.

Your audience is a beautiful mix of people who log on social media for moments of escapism.

They check Instagram in the bathroom at work. Yeah, that’s right. They read your flowery sonnet squatting on the toilet. Sitting in traffic (not safe, but you people do it!). Social media checks occur in line at the grocery store or in a doctor’s waiting room.

Short wisps of time. That is your audience’s mindset.

Make your follower smile in the short 30-seconds you have their attention. Make them giggle. Embarrass them while they wait in line at Starbucks. Cause them to snort with laughter from the brilliant photo you picked to illustrate your short narrative.

Keep it brief. Little word appetizers. Teasers. The happy hour menu. Make them want to stay for dinner. Now I’m getting ahead of myself.

The How.

Create posts incorporating everything mentioned above. If your poem is long, include a portion of your poem in the post. Ensure the stanza or portion you include displays in high resolution.

The post should be crisp and clear. Dazzle the eyes. Use resources like Canva to do it.

Instagram algorithm. Dazzle them.

Include the full poem in the post’s caption or guide people to your website for the full read. Use the post as a teaser. But be sure the post itself is complete. It should stand on its own.

Break it down.

It’s okay if they read, like and scroll on. A few dazzling nibbles later, the reader will read further. They’ll investigate your profile.

Using the caption for the full poem can be tricky. Someone may love a post but scares off by a lengthy caption. Short attention spans. Remember, the mindsets of brilliant people changes for social media.

Using Instagram’s carousel option works too. Breakdown your writing into two or three images for one post.

Use high-resolution graphics and smaller fonts. Poems appear more consumable to the eyes. It’s strange, yes. But it worked for me on my post shown below.

Instagram Algorithm

If concise wording is key in both post and caption, then a website is even more important for writers. Use social media to draw fans of your writing to your website.

Use your own judgement regarding the format you use. I’m leaning toward shorter posts and non-wordy captions and directing my followers to read my website content. (Except for contests, etc. That’s different.)

If you build it, they will come.

Don’t have a website? Why not? These days it’s super easy to slap a blog together.

Use your website to display your long form poetry. Then you can play around as much as you like. It’s your dang website! Instagram can’t tell you what to do there!

Plus, you can link all your social media channels to your website to solidify your brand.

Believe me, if I can start a website, so can you. Weebly is a great option.

Find your domain and create your site at Weebly.com!

You can’t buy popularity on Insta.

Many sources recommend paid promotions through Instagram when I researched increasing post reach. So I tried this theory. A theory that claims paying for promotions increases reach on the algorithm because it reassures Instagram that you’re not a bot. That you don’t sketchy things to gain likes or followers.

Instagram cracked down on scandalous tactics people use. Buying likes and followers: Don’t do it. Accounts disappeared in the past six months because of Instagram’s crackdown on fake likes and followers. Did you notice it too?

Instagram algorithm. Don't buy popularity!

Many legit accounts (like mine and yours) suffer because people shirked the system. They bought social media popularity. It didn’t work out for them. Because of it, the rest of us must work CRAZY HARD for visibility. Changes Instagram implemented reduced our post exposure.

Paid Promotions

The process. First, I selected a post of mine to promote to test the theory mentioned above. Next, I set up the post and selected my target audience. I recommend picking your target audience versus letting Instagram do it for you.

In selecting my audience, I honed in on where I needed growth most. I picked locations where I wanted exposure. After making my selections, my potential reach was at 83,000,000. That’s huge!

Finally, they have you pick your budget and duration. I picked two days and ten dollars for the budget. Doing so reduced my reach. By a lot. Instagram will show you the number of reach in a range based on budget and duration.

It makes sense. Instagram provides instructions in their Help section, if you need them.

Instagram Algorithm.  They are in control.

This process added to my awareness of the amount of control Instagram has on who sees our posts. If I pay more, they let more people see my posts. The more you spend, the more exposure they let you have. Otherwise, screw you, Eve Poetry! (Again, I digress.)

Once the promotion began, I received an email from Facebook. In fact, I received three emails from three different posts that I paid Instagram to promote.

The Instagram Rub

And by rub, I mean a real gnarly carpet burn. They informed me, “your image contains too much text”. In the subject line of one email, ” Your Ad Is Not Delivering.”

I’ve included screenshots of these emails below for your viewing pleasure.

Instagram Algorithm
Email received after trying Instagram promotion.

After the above promotion, I experimented with different text styles, font size, and the number of words. Adjusting the standards in ways I thought would please Instagram. Then I received another email.

Second email received from Facebook.

Want to know the worst part? Instagram won’t allow you to edit a post once promoted. Facebook emails telling you to fix the problem. Then Instagram won’t let you. Even after the promotion is over, you can’t edit the dang post!

On both posts, I opted to delete the promotion. Because I couldn’t edit my post. If I can’t “fix the problem” as instructed, I won’t waste my money.

Instagram (Facebook) blamed me, a writer promoting my art form, for using too much of my art in my post. Ultimately, they blame the user to create an excuse for the debacle that is the algorithm. The algorithm controls viewership. It’s censorship. They censor who sees what.

Censorship in disguise.

In saying this, I realize there are reasons for their censorship. Many iterations of the algorithm were to protect people from harm or bullying. This is important. I respect safety. Online bullying is unacceptable. No one should be unsafe on social media.

Using an algorithm to censor artists is not the answer either. Limiting how many people see our posts is censorship. They mask their censorship with their algorithm. That sucks. Nothing we can do about it but quit Instagram or learn how to use this tool, obstacles and all.

Instagram Algorithm censorship.

The obstacle is invisible, and writers have it worst!

The transition from what you’ve been doing to implementing any suggestions I’ve made requires patience. Be patient with yourself. Don’t try everything all at once. Practice self care. It’s frustrating. So be kind to you.

Take it in small bites. Just like the saying, how does a mouse eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Try small changes and see if your likes increase or decrease. If they increase, keep doing it! If you don’t see improvement, adjust something. Small increments.

Did you lose likes? Something didn’t work the way you hoped? It’s not a failure. Don’t think you failed by trying something new.

Instagram algorithm.  Try and try again.

Even recently, I’ve tried new things that failed. I expect it. I lick my wounds and try again. Licking wounds is gross, so I get a little better with each new attempt.

Unless you explode overnight and become the next Atticus, it’s a process. I have posts that bomb. I’m in a process. Still finding my groove for Eve Poetry on Instagram.

Comfort zones are danger zones.

Use Instagram Live. It’s another layer of exposure. All video features for Instagram help you increase reach. If you hate Lives, then make appearances through your Instagram story.

Don’t use Insta Stories only to share your posts. Change it up. Show a piece of your life. Connect with your followers. Be a real person. People want a connection.

Connection matters.

Recently, I saw Margaret Atwood on stage. I’m a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale. However, once I saw her live in person, I became enraptured.

My fan status jumped up a huge notch seeing and hearing her discuss her life and her work. She is wonderful. She was wholly herself.

My husband wasn’t a fan, but he turned to me fifteen minutes into her interview and said, “I want her to be my grandma!” This is a testament (pun intended) to the importance of connection.

What it’s all about.

Seeing someone. Hearing a voice. It creates a real connection. Connection creates real followers. Real followers create real engagement. Real engagement creates authentic accounts with real growth. Strive for this.

Comment with Questions

Don’t fear my dear, there will be more of these. This is long enough, yet there is still so much I need to tell you!

If I left something out, comment and I’ll include it in my next article! Thanks for reading. Please let me know if this helped. If you found it helpful, please share it!

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