04 Sep DEBUNKED: Instagram Algorithm Myths

One of the reasons we at SocialCow love what we do is because social marketing is constantly changing. While this is frustrating to majority of the world, it’s like Christmas to us when an algorithm change occurs.


Why, you ask? Because Moo likes puzzles! But besides that fact, we recognize that algorithm changes are always to improve the user experience. While there are sometimes short-terms marketing drawbacks to some algorithmic changes, in the long-run, they are beneficial to the platform and to business owners using those platforms to advertise their business.


While most platform’s release the specifics about their algorithm changes, Instagram has been rather secretive. Prior to the most recent change (Q3 2018), the information floating around the internet was only speculative. Nonetheless, we tested the theories and found some to be true, others to be conditional and most to be downright wrong.  And you can’t possibly expect to gain followers and improve your engagement rate with wrong information.


Let’s take a look at the 5 theories we have confirmed to be myths:

1. Posting frequently is not going to get you down-ranked or deactivated.

The wicked rumor that posting three times in a row is going to get your account deactivated or pushed to the bottom of the pile is simply not true.


Instagram’s algorithm focuses on quality of the content and robot-like behavior. While posting 12 times in a day may put you on their radar, if your posts are genuine, unique and not spam – you are unlikely to get shut down. You may receive a security message notifying you that your account has suspicious activity and prompt you to change your password.

MOO SAYS: We recommend our clients post 3 to 7 times per week. But not because posting more would get their accounts shut down. The frequency at which you post will either hurt or help your engagement rate. If you have a highly engaged audience and they gobble up every post you put up, go for the daily post. However, if you are still feeling out how your audience responds to different post types, it is best to start with 3-5 posts per week, posted once a day, and focus on quality of the posts. Keep in mind that if you are posting 3 posts per day and your audience is not engaging with 2 of them, Instagram will push you down because your overall engagement rate is low and the algorithm gives preference to posts that are engaged with.


2. The spooky shadowban is a figment of your imagination.

In case you haven’t heard, “shadowban” is based off of the idea that if certain “spam” hashtags and/or too many hashtags are used, then the account using it will get punished by being semi-banned. This means that they will no longer be ranked and that essentially, their account is not visible to the Instagram algorithm. What’s worse- Instagram wouldn’t tell you that they banned you, leaving you confused as to why your engagement has plummeted.

Did this scenario have you feeling like you just watched a horror story? Us too! Thank goodness that it’s on our list of myths!

MOO SAYS: Instagram limits each post to 30 hashtags. You can use all 30 without getting a chancleta thrown at you by Instagram (we’re a Miami company, mi gente). However, you should narrow down your hashtags to the most relevant ones. Why not use the 246M #life? Because your post is significantly less likely to be seen for that than it is for #miamilife (2M). We recommend using hyper-relevant hashtags that are under the 1M mark (but over the 100K) if you can help it to get the most relevant engagement.


3. You’re not going to get a higher rank by posting videos.

While it is true that videos can get you more engagement because they’re more eye-catching and entertaining, the algorithm itself is not going to give you an automatic boost for posting a video. Both picture and video are treated the same and just like your mom doesn’t have a favorite child, Instagram doesn’t prefer one more than the other.


4. A verified or business account doesn’t give you an ‘insta-boost’.

Setting up your Instagram account as a business profile or getting the ‘IG-official’ badge is not going to win you any favors with the algorithm. Your posts show up the same. So, if there’s a person out there who predominantly follows and engages with cat video accounts, and you’re a dog account, you’re not going to get ranked higher on the cat lover’s account because you have a verified account. (Darn).

MOO SAYS: The business profile does have tools such as analytics that help account users to make better informed decisions on which of their posts perform best and why. So, while you won’t get insta-favor, you will gain knowledge of your performance and be able to leverage that data in your favor.


5. Using IG stories will not put you ahead of the line

Finally, our beloved IG stories which are home to some pretty great filters…but we wish they’d steal more of Snapchat’s filter ideas. Using stories will not make IG put your feed posts in front of those people who are not using stories. Instagram neither rewards nor punishes anyone who is or isn’t using one part of the app and not another.

MOO SAYS: Using Instagram stories does, however, put you on top of the app, quite literally. Those who use stories appear on the top of the home screen, giving them more visibility than account which do not use the feature. PLUS – and this is a BIG plus — you can gain a more hyperlocal following by using location tags in stories than you can in feed. Stories also allow you to tag your accounts, including brands, places and friends, increasing your chance of being seen and shared. How cool would it be to get featured on your favorite restaurant’s IG page? Pretty mooo-ool.


Final thoughts.

Now that we have separated fact from fiction, we can tell you what’s what.


Instagram put its algorithm in place in order to inspire organic and genuine interaction between users. It is in place to help protect users from accounts such as ‘likeforlike’ or ‘willgiveyouabillionfollowerz4’ and instead get content from accounts that they care about. That being said, just because you won’t get placed ahead of the line for simply using stories, doesn’t mean that users don’t love to see stories.


Chances are, if they’re following you, they’re interested in what you have to say and would love to watch them. Also, while shadowbanning is just the oogie boogie monster under our bed that doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean that having less yet, more meaningful hashtags won’t benefit you. They will attract an audience that is more interested in what you have to share which will get you more engagement!