:Marketing / Social media marketing

The Instagram algorithm: Myth vs. reality

woman filming Instagram woman filming Instagram

The Instagram algorithm: It’s an ever-changing enigma. Just when you think you’ve adjusted to the changes, it can seem like everything switches the following month. And, when you’ve spent a lot of time creating original content, it can be really disheartening to see your hard work fall short.

Even with that being said, it’s hard to turn away from Instagram when there are an estimated 1.074 billion people that use the platform worldwide. Regardless of what’s going on with the algorithm, Instagram is still a valuable place to find fellow creators in your niche, reach new audiences, and experiment with different content formats to see what lands and what doesn’t.

Ready to fight back against the myths? We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of what’s accurate and what’s not when it comes to how to beat the Instagram algorithm. Plus, we’re sharing the Instagram myths and methods you can use to rise above the crowd.

Myth #1: You should only care about the numbers

We’ll start this off by saying that while understanding your Instagram insights and analytics is important to monitor your growth, the numbers are not the end-all-be-all to the platform.

It’s important to remember that no matter how often the Instagram algorithm may change, the app was always a human-centered social media platform to begin with.

“The algorithm is based on human behavior and they want to create a user experience where people will stay on the social platform longer,” says Lissette Calviero, influencer coach and founder of Influencer with Impact. “With that in mind, creators need to stop focusing on numbers and specific data points which can consume our mental energy.”

Since users typically spend one to two hours on the platform every day, you’ll want to focus on creating content that draws people in and keeps them engaged. This can look like a variety of different types of content: an eye-catching Instagram Reels that shows the behind-the-scenes of your work day as an entrepreneur or a fun process video of your craft or skill.

It goes without saying though—community is everything.

Reality: Focus on building a community first

When you think about a content creator on Instagram that consistently produces great content, what comes to mind first?

Maybe it’s the way they approach storytelling (Humans of New York is a fantastic example). Maybe their posts are hilarious or insightful, and you share them with your friends to spread the word. Or, perhaps you turn on every post notification and tap the countdown reminders for their Instagram Lives because the content is always that good.

Those are all examples of an engaged community on Instagram.

“When you build community, it makes people want to stick around your content longer, engage and share your content more, and they’ll find themselves binging your content to make sure nothing of value was missed,” Lisette emphasizes. “All these behaviors surely help your rank with the algorithm over time so that you do find growth, but the real magic is in the change from within that happens where you put more value on the human interactions you’re getting—not the numbers.”

Myth #2: You have to post every single day to be relevant

Any time we have an opportunity to tell you that quality is better than quantity…well, we’re going to take it. The Instagram algorithm doesn’t change this fact.

Carole Bardasano, marketing expert and creator of The Digital Buzz school, stands by this rule. “One of the biggest myths of the IG algorithm today is that you need to post every day for your content to be seen,” she says. “That is simply not true. Your post has a shelf life of one to three days for the feed and one to three weeks for Reels if it’s a post that is providing value to your specific target audience.”

Creating tons of content for your Instagram is a full-time job. You can still make an impact on your followers and make sales, without having to sacrifice time from the other important areas of your business.

Reality: Take notice of the content that has value and stick to it

That beautiful word—value! That’s the key to content that sticks, not posting every single day. Finding out what your audience finds valuable can be as simple as going live and holding a Q&A or asking your audience questions through stickers and polls on Stories.

Or, if you’d rather have a more one-on-one conversation, reach out to some of your trusted peers and ask them what you could be doing better. Feedback is always important.

“By posting every day, not only are you risking lowering the quality of your content but also, your posts will cannibalize each other,” explains Carole. “Additionally, let’s not forget that Instagram is a tool to help you grow your business, it’s not your business. You should tend to other important strategies for your brand, such as website SEO, customer retention, business growth, and learning new skills as an entrepreneur.”

Myth #3: A perfectly curated feed is the key to success

Let us stop you right there.

In a time where we’ve all realized that virtual connection is more important than ever, there’s been a major shift in the way we operate on social media. According to Oberlo, 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.

Think twice before applying all those filters and seeing if your post will be color-coordinated with the rest of your Instagram feed. We promise you that your audience just wants you to keep it real.

Kaylie Anne, founder of Social Success Hub, can attest to the power of authentic content. “As creators, we often slow down our progress by worrying about the algorithm and if our inspired content is going to be enough to get the most reach,” she says. “I’d much rather connect with a real human whose feed may not be perfectly curated but has incorporated their personality into the brand than someone who is following the rule book just to get the most reach, likes, and comments.”

Reality: Just be you

Cliche? Not at all. By tapping into the power of vulnerability, you’re opening yourself up to deeper connections with your audience. And, the closer the bond, the higher your engagement rate.

Here’s a challenge we have for you: dedicate a post entirely about your failures and how you overcame them. Remember: Your social media shouldn’t just be a highlight reel.

Here’s to creating engaging content, getting close with your audience, and focusing your energy on the things that matter the most. Don’t let the algorithm get you down.

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Author: Haleigh Fullilove, Haleigh is Teachable's senior social media strategist and host of the Everything Is Teachable podcast. When she's not finding new desserts to bake, you can find her exploring NYC for thrift stores and coffee shops, making playlists, and laying in the park with friends.