Staying up to date with the constant change of Instagram’s algorithm is exhausting. You need to rewrite your whole content strategy every few months it seems, because those previous one-liners just don’t work anymore. Before you start your daily anxious morning routine that consists of scrolling through your feed and testing the plethora of tactics that others have suggested, stop for a moment. Forget about blaming the algorithm, your niche, or your profession, and just try the Instagram expert Alex Tooby’s advice below. Consider it medicine for your “insta-anxiety.” I promise you; it will work better than any painkiller.
1. Everyone’s engagement is down
“You just need to look at other people’s engagement–everyone’s engagement is down. That’s the new norm,” Alex Tooby says. “I know it sucks, but it comes down what actions people are taking: if 10 people saw your post, and 6 ended up buying your stuff, that’s worth more! But it’s all relative, for sure, it matters to influencers.” Here’s a tip for something that works all the time, no matter how the algorithm is changed: it’s being relatable.
2. It’s time to learn how to engage
The secret of engagement is being relatable. It’s not enough if you just have a beautiful feed, Alex points out, “The visual aspect is the core. After that, it’s really about providing value,” Alex Tooby says. “Lot of people just post pictures about food, and they think they are bloggers. If you are a food blogger, I want to know what it is you are eating, and why you chose that. If you are a mom blogger and you are posting about the struggle that you haven’t slept in the last three nights, that’s what makes people follow you, not just the nice pictures.”
3. Whatever makes you uncomfortable is the thing you should be doing
“Should I really post this?” Every single time this question has crossed my mind in the last 5 years, I knew I had to do it. Alex has the same experience. “Showing your flaws makes you relatable,” she says. “Anytime you open up on the internet, all you get back is positive reinforcement. You have to take the risk. Whatever makes you uncomfortable–is the thing you should be doing.”
4. Forget IGTV
When IGTV was born, everyone kept asking: is IGTV or YouTube the future? But the truth is, there’s no way that Instagram can make it as huge as YouTube for many reasons. “There’s no searchability. The only way you can search [on IGTV] is by username,” Alex Tooby says. “If you are trying to grow your audience, IGTV doesn’t help in that sense. I’ve just started my YouTube channel and am already seeing an amazing return on that. I am finding it much easier to rank on YouTube than on Google by the same blog post.”
5. Forget expensive apps
You may be surprised that upping your Instagram game is easier than you imagine. That’s also Alex Tooby’s mindset when it comes to building a business on Instagram. It’s so easy to overthink it, and spend a ton of money buying all the popular apps. But if you are creative, you could manage all of your edits inside of Instagram, as Alex does. “I do almost everything inside of Instagram,” Alex says. “You can get really creative if you just use the stickers, the highlights, all of it. You can learn to figure out what your style is.”
There are many contrary beliefs when it comes to hashtags. Some say that the algorithm only wants you to use five, but others have different opinions, including Alex. “I use all 30 of them,” Alex says. “I have few guidelines when it comes to hashtags: they should be descriptive of you and your audience. You need to get into the mindset of your target market and what they would search. I usually suggest using hashtags that have less than 500k posts associated with them. A lot of people just use the most popular hashtag but so many people use those hashtags that your post is just going get buried and that’s a waste. Try using 5 popular ones, and 15 unique ones.”
7. Instagram puts an algorithm in place to benefit the user
No matter how stressful the algorithms seem to be, they’re here to stay. “Even if it doesn’t seem like it, Instagram wants you to see the content that you previously said you liked. They want you to find the accounts they think you are going to engage with. They are trying to do it for you,” says Alex Tooby. “People have a hard time understanding that. They think, ‘my post didn’t do well because of the algorithm.’ But there’s usually a reason why it didn’t do well, and it’s not because of the algorithm.”
8. Never buy followers
Buying followers is equivalent to killing your own brand. Once you do it, you can spend as much money as you want on ads, yet Instagram will never let you grow organically. “That’s where the algorithm comes into place,” Alex says. She suggests that Instagram’s algorithms know: “‘you gained followers, but none of them are liking your photos, none of them are visiting your feed, and none of them are clicking your link. You must have shit content. We probably shouldn’t show your content then.’ If you made the mistake of buying followers, it can be difficult later on,” says Alex Tooby. What can you do if you’re in this situation? Start over and forget buying fake followers. The number one rule of social media: If you don’t pay your friends to be around, don’t do the same with your followers. Create engaging content, and people will come and stay.
9. Content: How much is too much?
Since entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk rose in popularity, we see the tendency of people starting to create long format content even on Instagram. “I am finding that longer captions work,” Alex says. “I need room to explain the tip I am trying to get across, and if you are going to tell a story, you need space to get it all out.” That’s where formatting can be very important. For some weird reason, Instagram still doesn’t offer the kind of formatting that is the most important: line breaks. “You can use Later for that. [Before using Later,] you just had to search for an invisible character, and you can paste it in,” says Alex Tooby.
Using Alex Tooby’s pointers, you may see Instagram as more simple and accessible. I’m not saying that it’s easy to come up with great content ideas several times a week, but if you really test these tips and try to follow Alex’s mindset, you will realize that there’s not much to stress about. Go and continue building your empire and release your “insta-anxiety” for good.