March 21, 2018

There’s really only one way to say this: THERE IS NO NEW INSTAGRAM ALGORITHM

Seriously.

What happened in January 2018 was an update to the Facebook algorithm. In case you weren’t aware of this obviously true statement: Instagram and Facebook are NOT the same thing. Yes, Facebook owns Instagram. No, they don’t do the same things. No, an update to one does not mean the update to the other. No, they don’t work the same way.

So, yes, there was an update to the Facebook algorithm in January 2018, and if you really want to, you can read my thoughts on that here.

But there were no significant changes to the Instagram algorithm of late.

Unfortunately, there was one person, who had never written a social media strategy/update/information piece (as far as I can tell. She’s an artist and blogs about art related topics most of the time). In her article, she outlined a long list of “updates” to the algorithm. All of which were (in her own words) “rumors”, things she had “heard”, or things she “believed”. Nothing was stated in fact or with proof to substantiate her claims.

The article was brought to my attention within hours of it going live, shared with me by someone who had read it and who was questioning the validity of the statements. Let’s just say, the look of shock on my face would have made for a viral meme or gif!

I went on a personal mission to reverse the damage her article created. I literally spent three days of my life commenting on endless numbers of blog posts, in group chats, on various posts on social media (including my own), trying to mitigate the chaos that had swept the world. I’ll still never understand how one, so obviously questionable article, could be taken so seriously as gospel. But whatevs, it happened.

And I honestly never wanted to write a blog post on this topic. I’ve talked about it plenty, including in a very NSFW rant that you can now watch on YouTube below if you really want my unfiltered thoughts. Warning: after about the 12 minute mark, the language gets colorful and offensive to some – my passion is quite obvious.

However, for all the work I did trying to combat this false information, this “new Instagram algorithm” continues to haunt me. And I just can’t leave it alone when it comes up. Because the advice and information people are sharing is actually damaging to your Instagram strategies. If this was something that was just annoying, I wouldn’t care so much. But the “advice” these people are spewing will actually hurt your reach, engagement, and results on Instagram and I take serious issue with that.

So, alas, I write a blog post TWO months after I started trying to combat this thing originally.

Hashtags

You can use more than 5 hashtags. You can use up to 30 hashtags.

Hashtags are not “spam”.

Guess what? Instagram LIKES hashtags! They encourage us to use them, and even to follow them. Why then would they “ban” their use or restrict their use? Think about it!

Keep using your hashtags. As many as you want, up to 30. The more you use, the more exposure you can get to new audiences and reap the benefits of all of that.

Shadow Banning

I have nothing more to say on this. It’s not true – at least not in the way people keep saying it does. Read this or watch this. What is happening, it’s an algorithmic sort on hashtags. Not a ban. Get over it.

Moving on.

Where to Put Hashtags

Good lord people. Again, Instagram doesn’t flipping care about where you put your hashtags.

Put them in the comments or in the caption. IT DOESN’T MATTER.

I promise.

Both have been tested repeatedly. They both work. There is absolutely no preference given to where they are placed. It’s entirely a matter of personal preference. I’m lazy so they go in my caption. Some people like them separate in the comments. Do what makes you happy.

10% of Your Audience

This may be one of the biggest pieces of BS that came out of this article. It was stated that Instagram will show your new posts to 10% of your audience and based on their interactions with your post, Instagram will determine if it will show the content to the rest of your audience.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

I actually had to pick myself up off the floor after reading this. I was literally laughing that hard. This is beyond comical and proves how little people understand the Instagram algorithm. Oh, which by the way, if you want to understand that, here’s an article that will answer that for you.

But let me explain something really quick. Instagram doesn’t selectively show your content to a specific portion of your audience. No. Really.

Those people who frequently interact with your content will see your content high in their feeds. Same as always. Those people who don’t typically interact with your content will have it appear lower in their feeds. Like before.

The algorithm is based predominantly on individual interactions of each user with each account they follow – not so much on general popularity.

Oh, and to clarify again: INSTAGRAM DOES NOT HIDE ANY CONTENT FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS. The content is simply sorted by the algorithm. Technically, any user that scrolls far enough in their feeds will see each and every post of everyone they follow.

Responsiveness

In addition to the thrill of the previous statement about showing content to a selective group first, the article also said that your content exposure is based on your personal responsiveness to comments on your post. It was proposed that you must respond to all comments on your post within one hour in order to let Instagram know you’re active and ensure they show your content to more people.

My stomach is starting to hurt from all the laughing I do from these statements!

And on an added fun side note, every. single. person. that claims this statement fails to respond to comments on their own Instagram within an hour. So, obviously they think this shiz is serious! Hahahaha

Ok, so let’s clarify.

Yes, Instagram wants you to be responsive and engaged. But there has never been any algorithm update or notification stating anything about you “needing” to do anything for responsiveness. Now, for the record, I highly recommend (and encourage all of my clients) to respond to all legit (not obvious spam) comments because genuine conversations are great community building practices.

But there is no requirement to do so, nor is there an actual time limit on this!

So, go interact, be normal, and stop stressing out about how quickly you responded. Life’s too short for that kind of stress.

Comments More than 2 or 4 Words

There was one sort of truth in this whole article which was related to the interpretation of certain comments being spam. Last year sometime, it was proposed that Instagram would view comments of two words (like “great photo” or “nice work”) as spam and not qualify them as interaction, and may also have you labeled as a spam or bot account if this is what you did.

Let me be clear, I have never seen anything from Instagram to corroborate any of these statements or assumptions. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not true – sort of.

If you always comment with the same “nice photo” on every single photo you comment on, then yes, you may look like spam and Instagram will likely flag your account. But, if you are an actual human being and comment with unique comments when you comment, Instagram will know you’re not a bot, and even if that one time you write “great pic” or “love it!”, you’ll be ok.

Stories

It is often suggested that if you watch someone’s Stories frequently, that their regular content will appear higher in your home feed as well. This is a common misconception that I and others have tested multiple times.

It’s not true.

If you regularly watch certain people’s Stories, the Stories will appear “higher” (more to the left) in the Stories banner. But it has no impact on where their regular content appears in your feed. If you never interact with their regular content, it will continue to rank low in your feed.

Editing Posts

This one got me to chuckle too! Seriously, why would Instagram care if you edit a post? I have news for you: they don’t!

You can edit a post 30 seconds after you share it, an hour later, a day later, or whenever you feel the need to. Without risk of penalization. It’s ok. I promise.

Deleting Posts

To be honest, I don’t know why people delete posts. I mean, you can archive them if you don’t want them on your profile anymore and that way you retain the data, analytics, comments, etc. for your own reference.

And, even if a post “sucks” in your mind, it’s still something you made a commitment to share. So, if it failed you, figure out why and don’t do it again. But leave it there as part of your dialogue. Unless it’s actually offensive or something really bad.

So, deleting is weird, in my opinion, anyways.

But if you really want to delete something, go for it. There is no penalty for doing so. Go nuts!

 

There you have it. A complete debunking of the “new” Instagram algorithm. Because there isn’t one to talk about!

I can promise you that if changes come out, if testing shows something, or if I find out an update to anything currently known to be true, I will share it with you.

Those of you who know me, know this.

If you’re just finding me via this blog post, and you’re wondering who the heck I am, I am happy to let you know (even though I typically don’t blatantly list my accomplishments). Because, yes, everyone believed a random artist with no credibility in the social media space, but everyone questions my proof sources!

I have literally written the book on Instagram: Instagram for Business for Dummies (yes, of the actual Dummies series). I am the world’s forefront blogger on Instagram marketing. I have written well over 100 blog posts dedicated to Instagram marketing here on this site alone (plus hundreds more on other social media topics). I have written for various reputable publications. I have been interviewed on countless podcasts and interviews. I have been featured in Inc., Yahoo Finance, and Fox News. I have been interviewed multiple times on CBS Radio LA and been interviewed on camera for TV news broadcast. I have spoken at and keynoted some of the biggest social media conferences in the world.

I work with a variety of people around the world and collaborate with professionals, including many 3rd party tools you all use, to get accurate information as it happens and as it changes and to understand how it will impact you. I work with people around the world to test new and beta features as they roll out. People share information with me when they get it so that we can make sense of it and share it with you in an accurate way.

This is why, on occasion, things “break” and lots of sources write about them but I don’t – because I’m testing and proving before I share publicly. Because I value the credibility of the information before the hype.

If you still have questions about me or any of this algorithm stuff, the comments below are open for you to leave a question. I will personally answer you – openly and honestly.

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Thanks Jen for the heads up. There’s a lot of crap on the internet. We understand your frustration and glad you took the time to make it right.

    1. Thanks Michelle! I’m glad you appreciate the effort to correct the information 🙂

  2. This is unbelievable, I learned all these lies from the Influencer Podcast by Julie Solomon! I have been wondering if I was shadow banned too smh. Thanks for letting us know!

    1. I’m so sorry! Unfortunately, so many people claimed this to be true that even reputable sources and people believed it “must” be true and then they started sharing it too. It’s crazy how fast the wrong info spread but I’m glad you found this post to help clarify all of that.

  3. I’ve been reading your articles. I even sent you an email. I want to believe there are no Shadowbans….but why can’t I find ANY of my posts I made several months back in niche hashtag categories I used?

    Maybe there is no ban but I feel like Instagram has blocked my account since I posted a video with music content that wasn’t mine (I was told to and immediately deleted it and reposted without the music).

    This just doesn’t make any sense. There is one post in particular I posted back in April for a skincare company and I tagged with their logo. I remember checking and seeing the picture pop up immediately. under the hashtag category. Now? I went back and scrolled all the way back to posts tagged in the same manner, all the way back to April…my picture isn’t there.

    I feel like I’m going crazy over here 🙁

    1. Hi Giselle! And now that I’m reading your comment and seeing your IG account username, I realize I did actually email you back… sorry, I might be losing my mind this week 😉
      I hope the email I sent you about the post being pulled from copyright issue made sense to this. And hopefully your account and your posts are restored to normal soon!

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