On Tuesday, March 29th, it was nearly impossible to log onto Instagram without seeing a post that looked something like this one:

The post itself is enough to cause a stir. Why wouldn’t I be able to see your posts anymore? Is that going to happen to my profile too?

Instagram quickly reacted, releasing the following tweet:

So what’s all this panic about? In short, a word most Instagrammers don’t understand: algorithm.

What is Algorithm?

At the dawn of social media, everything you saw was placed in reverse chronological order, based solely on the people you follow. For a person just joining social media today, this idea is completely foreign.

Before, we mentioned that Instagram’s parent company is Facebook. Since March of 2013, Facebook has been integrating more and more specific features to their timeline, instead of being just reverse chronological. What began as a way to remove clutter slowly transitioned into a way to get businesses to pay for advertising right on your timeline. Through this process, Facebook worked to combine both paid advertiser posts that match user interests, along with the posts users would like to see most from the people they are friends with and follow.

Why the change?

Instagram’s idea to switch to algorithm mimics what their parent company, Facebook, believes about social media. The company sees that the longer you use Instagram, the more people you will begin to follow. As a result of that, there soon becomes no possible way for you to see every single post that is intended for your Timeline. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said that nearly 70% of posts to your feed are getting lost due to the timeline.  In a New York Times interview, Systrom summarized their objective well, saying: “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”

What goes into algorithm?

Algorithm is different for every form of social media. Because it directly impacts both user experience and advertiser contribution, companies keep their algorithms as trade secrets. Still, it’s pretty easy to speculate the biggest factors that go into making your timeline what it is.

Looking at a combination of Factors, Gizmodo has identified 3 Major Factors that they believe will drive Instagram’s algorithm, whenever it is introduced.

  1. Likelihood you’ll be interested in the content

Interest in a post is most easily tracked with hashtags, combined with you liking images with similar hashtags.

  1. Your relationship with the person posting

This will likely be a combination of if you follow this person, have interacted with the advertiser before, or have interacted with advertisers of similar brands. More so, suggested posts can be determined based on who you follow, who they follow, and so on.

  1. Timeliness of the Post

More or less, newer posts will be shown first.

How will it affect me?

The good news is, there’s no need to panic. If your content is good, you’ll still appear in the timeline like always.

Bad news? It means businesses won’t get the easy, free ride they have been so far. With the slow roll out of advertising options over the past two years, this was expected. If you decide your business needs that extra bump of paid advertising, check out our post on paid advertising with Instagram.

If there’s one thing I can tell you for sure, the Instagram algorithm isn’t going to destroy your following.  In the coming weeks, more and more will be shared from Instagram about what their algorithm will entail. For now, let’s just keep using best Insta practices and enjoy all the cute pictures of puppies Instagram has to offer.

I’m in the Middle East wat da heck

A photo posted by Marnie The Dog (@marniethedog) on Mar 14, 2016 at 10:07am PDT

Do More With Your Followers

Turning Followers into Customers and Advocates
Now that your business’s Instagram is up and running and you’ve started to gain some followers, it’s time to consider how you can turn your followers into real customers and influencers. This week, we’re going to look at some methods of getting your customers to go from “Liking” your images to actually buying your product or service.
1. Put Your Product on Display
First and foremost, make sure the content you post is getting your followers excited about your product. Instagram is a completely image (photo or video) based platform. Utilize this by showcasing your product for the world to see. This can be as easy as a posting an image of your newest line in action (as shown by H&M below), or even just sharing a #FoodPorn picture from your new menu. If your content is visually appealing, you increase the likelihood a customer will find your product worth buying, or share the content with their friend.

2. Ad Links to Online Purchase

A few weeks ago, we talked about engaging customers directly to your brand. By combining these paid advertising options with links to your purchase page, it’s extremely easy to herd your followers straight to your online market place.

3. Offer Discounts 

As with traditional sales, sometimes the easiest way to get customers is to offer discounts. Instagram gives you a unique platform to let your followers know about in-store or online sales. Post an image sharing information about a current promotion your business is running to let your followers know. In the caption, share any necessary promo codes for customers to receive the discount. An added benefit of sharing your promotion on Instagram is that, should they like the sale, follower can tag others on your post to inform them about said promotion. Now, your follower just became an influencer If you’re looking for inspiration, check out American Apparel’s Chicago Region account. 

4. Offer competitions

Everyone loves a good competition. While Instagram does only allow engagement through follows, likes, tags, and comments, Business Instagram accounts are getting more creative in using these limited options to help offer competitions through the platform. For example, Social Print Studio ( (a direct-from-Instagram print website) offers weekly variations of competitions. Two weeks ago SPS asked followers to comment on an image by tagging a friend who doesn’t follow SPS and saying how much you love Social Print, offering a chance to win a free 8×10 print. The print cost around $43 (including shipping), and garnered 5000 comments (for having 213K followers, that a lot of comments). While SPS does delete the image after the competition ends and a winner is chosen, below is a good example of how to announce the winner of a competition

The real benefit of these competitions is, when used properly, you can grow your fan base. In the SPS example, tagging non-followers increased the likelihood of gaining new followers, and thus new possible customers. That sacrificed $43 will definitely pay off if you can even gain 3 new customers from those 5000 comments. Side note, I won the SPS Instagram contest. You can believe I tweeted AND posted an Instagram about winning, sharing the brand with my own followers.


And there you have it, 4 ways to make your followers do more for your brand than just like pictures.

Next week, we’ll discuss the upcoming changes to Instagram, as well as defining what an Algorithm is and how it affects your business account.

Exemplary Instagrams

Learn By Example

Sometimes, the best way to learn is by example. Today’s blog will focus on some exemplary Instagram accounts that showcase the tools we’ve discussed in past weeks.

TED Talks

First, we’ll look an Instagram driving users to their website: TED Talks. TED, or Technology, Engineering, and Design, Talks are conferences held in various locations globally which celebrate innovation driven by social needs. TED’s strongest appeal is its Youtube page, which garners trillions of views in total, and more than 10 million followers. TED’s greatest appeal is that talks can be seen as education, inspirational, or just plain fun to watch, giving it a broad appeal. To reach this vast audience, TED is active on all major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All of these channels link back to their webpage and Youtube. But, let’s focus less on the full picture and more on the TED Instagram.

The TED Instagram takes a unique approach at image content by constantly changing media formats from Word Art to Photography to Video to Drawing. In this way, TED is able to showcase their equally diverse video collection. Of course, each image is designed to relate to a specific TED Talk located on their website. Now, we know from previous posts (LINK) that Instagram does not allow for links to be placed directly into captions or comments of posts, but only allow active links to exist in your profile’s bio. To get around this, TED uses short and easy to remember links for their videos. And example of this is found below, for a TED talk given by Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder.


What TED best showcases is how to turn interesting Instagram content into active users. Exciting images with compelling captions drive users to want to read and see more. TED delivers on this by giving links to the full Talks. Below is a good example of this. The image, in combination with caption, leads user to want to learn more about Mars. And given TEDs reputation for interesting Talks, users are sure to want to hear more.


Taco Bell

Taco Bell is a food chain almost every American is familiar with, due to its expansive franchising. But, Taco Bell still holds control of its social media accounts across the brand. One each platform, Taco Bell takes on a specific voice to match the demographic of that platform. On Instagram, the goal is pretty simple: have fun, engaging content.

To accomplish this goal, TBell makes strong use of their actual food products. Take this picture for example:

Get your grub ON, with 25% OFF using the Taco Bell Mobile App. Discount up to $10. Details in bio.

A photo posted by Taco Bell (@tacobell) on Mar 7, 2016 at 6:18pm PST


Within the image itself, Taco Bell uses bright colors combined with their product offering to make the image stay on brand, stay attractive, and stay fun. The caption offers followers at 25% off coupon on orders through their App (probably a product they are pushing). You’ll notice the reaction of users is to comment on the image tagging their friends to inform them about the deal.

The other big portion of comments is consumed by customer complaints. Taco Bell leaves these comments alone, because they know they will quickly get buried by other commenters. While Facebook allows users to like posts on the wall to keep them active and more visible, Instagram simply overlaps and shows the newest comments. In this way, TBell knows it won’t have to deal with complaints on Instagram as long as their content draws users to share with friends.

If you keep scrolling through the Taco Bell Instagram, you’ll find various other ways of engaging customers by having them share fun content.

There you have it: some of the best business Instagrams to exist. Now get out there, and try these tactics out on your own account!

Engaging on Insta

Using Instagram

As we discussed in last week’s post, Instagram is a great opportunity for reaching younger consumers with your product. This week’s post will be in two parts: some tips for posting to Instagram, as well as a look at the paid advertising options Instagram offers.

Posting to Instagram

Instagram’s features are pretty easy to understand: you choose your picture, you add a captions, and you post. But a few quick and easy tips can help make the most of every post.

  1. Make it pretty – Instagram is all about the aesthetic. Every image you post should be visually pleasing, and high quality. Don’t just throw whatever picture you took on your iPhone onto Instagram. If you’re unsure of how to build an aesthetic, read more here. 
  2. Use caption space wisely – I’m sure you have plenty to say in the caption area, but you should be aware of a few rules. First of all, any links put into a caption will not just open for the viewer. Instead, any link you want to share should be placed in your bio. Reference this link by saying “Link in the Bio” in your caption. Secondly, be sure not to be too wordy. Instagram limited the characters view able from the Feed to 3 lines of text. Be sure to keep everyone you need to say within 3 lines.
  3. Hashtag, better – Studies show the optimal number of hashtags to gain follower engagement is 11. Use Hashtag Helper to see what Hashtags are popular to use, and use them to identify your product. Remember, hashtags help categorize your profile for others to see. Use relevant hashtags on all your pictures to increase viewership.
  4. Play nice with others – Don’t be afraid to like or comment on your follower’s posts involving your product. Everyone likes to get noticed for what you post. In a few weeks, I’ll post some more creative engagement options for your followers.


Paid Advertising

Instagram offers various ways to expand your reach past your followers, through paid advertising.  A fairly new feature, Instagram ads come in the form of regular posts you would typically see on your feed, except sponsored by businesses. Paid ads are not only seen by your own followers, but to followers Instagram believes would want to see your post. In this way, Instagram ads help expand your product’s digital reach.

Paid ads can be either Photo or Video content (like any regular post), or a Carousel Ad, made up of a max 4 photos a viewer can scroll through (accessible only by paid advertising). Below is an example of a carousel ad, created by GMC.  carousel ad

Instagram offers various uses for paid advertising on their website, as well as some specific features to fulfill these goals. They include:

  • Click to Website – By touching the image, users are sent to the business’ website.
  • Website Conversions – Similar to Click to Website, expect users are directed to a specific page on the Website.
  • Mobile App Install – By touching the image, users are directed to the App Store to download or purchase the app associated with your product.
  • Mobile App Engagement – Similar to Mobile App Install, except users are already users of your app and instead the app is opened.
  • Video Views – Share a specific video with users outside your follower base.
  • Reach and Frequency – Instagram ads help reach outside your current follower base and attract new fans.
  • Page Post Engagement – By sharing an existing post on your Instagram with paid advertising, businesses can get higher engagement levels (likes and comments) on individual posts, or even attract new followers.
  • Mass Awareness – A feature designed for bigger businesses, posts can be placed at the top of the Instagram feed for specific users to make an immediate impression.

Mixing and matching these paid promotional options will help make your follower base expand!


What’s Next?

Next week, we’ll be taking a break from posting. The following Wednesday, March 16, 2016, we’ll talk about some exemplary Instagram accounts of all kinds. In particular, we’ll discuss what makes their accounts so unique.

An Intro to Insta

A business without customers is just an expensive hobby. As you launch your first business, wondering how you’ll bring in your first buyers is sure to be on your mind.

We’re sure you’re aware of how important a social media presence can be for promoting your business.  Given that, it can be hard to decide which social media you should focus your attention on and which you should stay away from.

For almost all businesses selling directly to customers, Instagram is an essential platform to use. In today’s post we’ll discuss how Instagram came to be, as well as look at who uses Instagram. Through this, we’ll learn if your target customer is easily accessible on Instagram.

What is Instagram?


Launched in 2010, Instagram started as a mobile-only social media platform, designed to allow users to easily share 1×1 cropped ratio images. Instagram allows users to follow each other, like and comment on pictures easily. In its first two months, Instagram pulled in 1 million initial users. Much like Twitter, Instagram allows users to categorize their content with searchable hashtags.


Given the immediate success, Facebook bought Instagram in April 2012 for an estimated $1 billion dollars. Since, Instagram has added short-form videos, various options for image ratio sizes, direct messaging between users, and most importantly of all, advertising options for businesses.

Who Uses Instagram?

Let’s start by throwing some hard statistics out there, before we really explain what it all means.

Instagram has an estimated 400 Million users globally. Of those users, around 75 million check their accounts or update daily. In the United States, around 27.6% of people use Instagram every year. 53% of adults between ages 18 and 29 have an Instagram account in the United States.


In terms of age, Instagram is definitely for a younger population. 90% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35. More specifically, 41% of global users are between ages 16 and 24.

Instagram, like Pinterest, leans slightly more towards a female audience, with 68% of it’s users being female. Instagram is extremely popular in urban areas, with 17% of all residents in cities using Instagram compared to only 11% in suburban and rural areas.

What does all of this mean? Mostly, that Instagram is best utilized for urban businesses, targeting a younger audience. Or as some might call it, Millennials.

What is Instagram used for?

A recent post to Small Biz Trends  has categorized what most consumers are using their personal Instagram accounts for. Users will personalize their accounts by only posting certain types of images. My personal Instagram (@trahlahlah) consists mostly of landscape images, selfies, and food porn.



Instagram is a good platform to share snapshots of your daily life. Accounts focusing on health and wellness, cooking, fashion, and music dominate Instagram’s most popular pages not run by celebrities or businesses.

Beyond the selfies and vacation pics, consumers have a habit of posting pictures of products and businesses they like. In next week’s post, we’ll discuss how to make this habit work in your favor.

What can I gain from Instagram?

Businesses big and small are recognizing the potential Instagram offers to attract and retain customers. It’s estimated that around 85% of businesses will use an Instagram account to promote their product or service. Next week we’ll discuss what kind of posts you should be making to your Instagram, as well as what kind of paid advertising options Instagram offers.

Where can I read more?

Throughout this post, I pulled information from various blogs, all linked below. If you’d like more in depth insights and statistics, feel free to read these posts. 

Business Insider
Expanded Ramblings
Hoot Suite