Two words that hold so much power and can cause so much confusion.
Everybody wants to know how to beat the algorithm so your content can become Insta-famous i.e. reach more people.
Truth is, the only way to “beat” the Instagram algorithm is to understand it. Understand how it works and which factors influence it. Then, simply go ahead and create content that satisfies these criteria.
Sounds simple enough but it’s not as we all know, it’s not always as easy it seems. So we’ve put together this guide to help you understand what affects your Instagram reach, why reach matters, and most importantly, how you can create content that is consistently seen by your audience.
What Does Instagram Reach Mean?
First things first, let’s get clear on what Instagram reach is. Put simply, your reach is the number of unique users that saw your content. The key word here is unique.
Instagram reach is different from impressions, another popular metric to analyze. These two metrics are often used interchangeably however they are in fact very different. Your impressions data on Instagram will show you the total number of times your content was viewed by users.
This means, if the same user watches a video twice, it counts as two impressions, however, the reach count remains at one as it’s the same person viewing the content again.
Reach is often represented in percentages and this is known as the Reach Rate. Your reach rate is simply your total reach i.e. the number of people who have seen your content divided by the number of followers your account has.
Reach Rate = Reach / Followers
So how do you know if your reach rate is good or if it could do with some work? To be honest, the answer is subjective. According to BazaarVoice, the definition of “good” reach varies, depending on the size of the Instagram account:
“Larger: Brands with large followings should aim to meet or exceed an average Reach Rate of 15% for an Instagram post and 2% for an Instagram Story.
Smaller: Brands with a smaller number of followers should aim to meet or exceed the higher benchmark of 36% of their audience through posts and 7% through Stories.”
Why Should You Care about Reach on Instagram?
Now that we’ve established what reach means and what counts as good reach on Instagram, let’s dive into why this Instagram metric matters. While marketers often become obsessed with Instagram engagement numbers alone, reach is still a handy metric to keep an eye on because:
You reach new audiences
It’s simple. The bigger reach, the more the number of people who see it. This is of course not just limited to your followers alone. When a piece of content goes viral, it reaches new audiences who may then start following you and possibly even buying from you.
Leads to more website visits and conversions
Reaching more people with your content also has the advantage of more website clicks and visits, and potentially more sales as well. This can be particularly useful for retail and eCommerce businesses posting product content on Instagram.
Bazaarvoice confirms that reach rate does in fact lead to an increase in website visits and conversions. For example, for brands with a follower range between 10,000-50,000, increased reach led to a 2.2.% conversion rate.
Learn more about your content
When your reach is good, it means your content is performing well. This is an opportunity to learn more about your content so you can try to replicate this success with further new content. Analyze the post by considering key questions such as:
- What type of content was it (eg: image, video, carousel, etc)
- What time did you post the content?
- What was the content about?
- Which demographic did the content resonate with?
Answer these key questions (and more) will hopefully help you get a handle on what caused your content to go viral. Now let’s do more of the same!
11 Ways to Help Your Instagram Content Reach More People
Succeeding—and maintaining the success—on any social media platform (Instagram included) is all about constant experimentation. It’s about trying different strategies
Find the best time to post
Several factors influence how the Instagram algorithm works. One of these is timeliness. When choosing the content to surface to your followers (and beyond), the algorithm definitely takes into consideration when you posted.
So what is the best time to post? When your audience is online. This gives you the best chance of your content being seen and receiving engagement. The best time, of course, varies from account to account.
Dig into your ‘Best time to post’ data on SkedSocial to understand when your audience is online. Whether it’s 7 am on a Saturday, or midday on a Tuesday—be ready for your audience with fire content at prime time if you want your reach to soar.
Pay attention to content that works
Knowing what your audience likes and is responding to is another obvious but effective way to grow your reach. Review your content and identify the best performing posts, stories, reels, etc.
Ask yourself key questions such as:
- Is there a particular topic that resonates with your audience?
- Does one format work better than others?
- Are long captions drawing more people in (or vice versa)?
Pay attention to the content that works and create more of it. When the algorithm sees people consistently engaging with your content, it sees it as a signal that your content is interesting and relevant to them.
This means other people (who haven’t yet seen your content) are likely to find it interesting too. So the algorithm begins to show the content to them as well, which leads to your reach numbers going up.
It’s simple really. Engaging content = increased reach.
Change your posting frequency
How often you post (or don’t post) on Instagram can have an effect on your reach as well.
Review your current posting frequency. If you are currently posting twice a day with little effect on your reach, consider dialing it back. Try posting once a day. It may seem counterintuitive but sometimes less is in fact, more.
The pressure of having to continuously post on Instagram often means the quality of the content begins to decline. As soon as this happens, it starts to affect how much your audience engages with your content. As a consequence, when the engagement drops, the reach also drops.
Post less and use the time saved to create better more engaging content. It’s better to post one quality piece of content instead of several sub-par pieces of content. You will get better results from it.
Reset the content fatigue
When we see the same type and style of content in our fees, our eyes eventually start to glaze over it. We don’t sit up and pay attention to it as much. We scroll on by until the next shiny thing stops us and makes us pay attention.
Content fatigue is real.
Take a look at Upwork’s Instagram. Previously, the brand primarily stuck to one or two colors for their posts. While they’re each slightly different, the overall effect is the same. For someone seeing this in their feed, it’s a bit more of the same every day and wouldn’t always stop the scrolling.
However, this has now changed. Upwork’s newly rebranded Instagram now uses a variety of colors, styles, and post formats. The content is still on-brand but each post is slightly different, making sure their audience doesn’t get bored of looking at the same thing over and over.
If all your posts look the same, consider changing things up to catch your audience’s attention. This catches their eye and leads to them engaging more with your content.
This applies to your feed content but also to your Stories or any other type of content you create regularly. Also, if you’re only sharing images, consider mixing things up. Experiment with video, carousels, reels, and more.
Review your hashtags
Ever heard of the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”?
Using the same set of hashtags on every one of your posts is lazy. It also does more harm than good. You risk becoming invisible as the algorithm starts to think you’re spamming the system with the same (sometimes even irrelevant) set of hashtags each time.
Besides, using the same old hashtags will only help you reach the same old audience each time. Basically, you’re doing the same thing every time and hoping for different results (i.e. definition of insanity.)
A well-thought-out hashtag strategy will help you get the most out of every piece of content you put there. Take the time to research the hashtags you’re using. How can you vary it up each time? Different hashtags reach different audiences, therefore expanding your reach.
Also, consider using smaller, less frequently used hashtags over hashtags with millions of posts. A hashtag that has 30,000 people using it versus 30 million means your content is more likely to reach your target audience.
Create shareable and saveable content
Comments and likes have always been a big part of the Instagram engagement puzzle. In 2021, shares and saves are also a huge part of it.
These metrics signal to Instagram that your content is resonating with your audience. They enjoy it and find it interesting enough to share it with their friends or even save it for future use. Could there be a bigger compliment for your content? We think not.
So how do you get people to share and/or save more of your Insta content? Create content that is shareable (relatable) and saveable (useful) of course. This requires knowing your audience and knowing what they respond to.
Create content that is so relatable for them that they can’t help but share it along with a caption that yells “THIS! 100% THIS!” This reel from @betches is a great example of shareable content. This content is so relatable that it would feel compelling to share with their friends.
Also, if relevant to your brand, create content that is useful and informational for your audience. You may have noticed, carousel posts and reels are the most popular way to do this on Instagram now.
This post from @soyouwanttotalkabout is a great example of saveable carousel content that teaches something. In fact, this account is all about creating useful, informational content that makes people want to share or save for future reference.
The more your audience shares and saves your content, the more Instagram shows your content to users. Shareable/saveable content = better reach.
Host a giveaway
Instagram giveaway contests have been around forever because they work. Who doesn’t like free stuff? And if all it takes is a like, a comment, or following an account, then it’s worth a try in the eyes of your users.
This giveaway from @rockwearaustralia offers users a chance to win the brand’s activewear in exchange for follows, taggings friends comments, and shares. It’s an easy enough ask and an attractive prize. It allows Rockwear to reach new audiences by boosting their engagement rate and also through the additional eyes on their giveaway thanks to the tags and shares.
Brands can use many different styles of giveaways to create a boost in reach. Loop giveaways are also a popular tactic. It consists of a “loop” of Instagram brands and influencers who collaborate on a giveaway to increase their followers and reach.
Note: Giveaways are exciting and interesting for your audience but use this strategy sparingly. Constantly hosting giveaways may give you a temporary boost but you want to make sure the reach and new followers you gain result in actual business as well.
Incorporate user-generated content
UGC is used to describe any type of content created by users of your brand. In this case, of course, we’re specifically talking about the Instagram content your users create. Think of UGC as word-of-mouth but for Instagram.
Curating UGC on your Instagram account is a great way to build relationships with your community. It humanizes your brand. Don’t forget that these relationships and how often your users interact with your account are also important signals for the Instagram algorithm.
Target’s @targetstyle account is all about leverage UGC (including influencer-created content) to drive sales. This styling advice reel is useful, shareable content created by a user/influencer. It is saveable but also encourages the user to buy that dress from Target—now that they know how to style it!
When you share UGC and tag your users, they are more likely to share the content with their followers as well. Instant boost in reach! Plus, UGC is often deemed way more trustworthy than slick branded content. In fact, according to Clickz, UGC is the key to Instagram success. 55 percent of consumers trust UGC over other forms of marketing.
Going live on Instagram is more than just another way to create content for your Instagram audience. It’s a clever way to boost reach.
When you go live, you will appear at the very front of the Stories queue for your followers. This alone makes it more likely that your audience will watch your Live. Plus the Live logo also makes it stand out in the feed.
You can host a Live with another brand or influencer. This not only makes the content more interesting for your audience but also exposes you to your co-host’s audience. More reach, FTW!
There are many creative ways to make the most of your Instagram Lives including Q&As, product launches, behind the scenes at company events, and more. Invest the time and energy to learn how to make use of Instagram Lives as it’s definitely one of the most popular Instagram trends around.
Ask more questions
Ask questions isn’t a new social media tactic but it’s one that continues to work. It’s an easy engagement prompt and provided you keep the questions simple enough, you’re almost always likely to get responses.
There are so many creative ways to make use of questions on Instagram:
- Ask a question in your caption.
- Create an image with a question in it.
- Use the question sticker in Instagram stories
- Ask a fill-in-the-blank style question
- Host a poll in stories.
- Ask a simple Yes/No question in stories.
Questions are a fun way to invite your audience to interact with your content. And as always, when the algorithm notices your audience engaging with your content more, it’s going to show your content to more people as well.
Create content specifically for Instagram
With limited time on our hands, it’s tempting to regurgitate the same content across every channel. Don’t do it.
Have an Instagram-specific content creation in place. Create interesting, engaging, and most importantly, visually appealing content in the right format for the platform. Repurpose content from other social channels to make sure they are suited for Instagram.
Speaking of repurposing, think twice before reposting your TikToks to Reels. According to this post on the @Creators account:
“We’ve also heard that low video quality reels (i.e. blurry due to low resolution) or content that is visibly recycled from other apps (i.e. contains logos or watermarks) makes the Reels experience less satisfying. So, we’re making this content less discoverable in places like the Reels tab.”
Basically don’t recycle your TikTok content. If you do share videos that you rip from TikTok, your followers will still see them in their feeds but it probably won’t be easily discoverable for new audiences.
Of course, all these strategies would amount to nothing if you don’t pay attention to what actually worked and what didn’t. To be able to assess that, you must first start keeping good records of everything you post. The more details you have, the more data you have available to analyze.
Here are some things to keep records of:
Instagram has so many different formats to choose from. Record the format type for each post so you can compare the data. Note that each format receives a different kind of reach so you may not always want to compare an in-grid image post to a story.
However, it’s important to know which format is resonating with your audience. So if you notice a particular format consistently receives high reach, you probably need to work on more content in that format.
Instagram post formats include:
- Single image
Type of content
What type of content did you post? Sometimes a particular type of content resonates more but without analyzing the data we may never know. Keep a record of the type of content you shared so you can see if this had an impact on reach.
Some popular types of content shared on Instagram include:
Time and day posted
Take note of the time and day you shared content that went viral. As mentioned in the strategies above, a particular time or day may be particularly great for your audience. Keep track of this information so you can analyze if a Saturday 3 pm post performs better than a Monday 2 pm post, for example.
Length of caption
How short (or long) are the Instagram captions? For certain types of content and certain audiences, longer, more meaningful captions are a winner. On the other hand, some industries demand short captions. Make a note of the character length of your captions so you can assess if this has an impact on your reach.
Original vs user-generated content
Was the content original (i.e. created by your brand) or did you use content from your community? As mentioned above, user-generated content can be a great way to spark engagement and increase reach.
Put the Data to Work
Finally, with all this information in hand, it’s time to analyze the data and draw some insights from it. By keeping good records and constantly analyzing your data, you can keep a closer eye on what is working and what isn’t.
All of this information, stacked up against each other will help you measure the success or failure of any content you put out on Instagram.
You can reverse engineer which posts are most likely to increase your reach. Then go forth and create more of that content. Understand what people need or desire, and then give it to them. For example:
- You learn that your audience loves your how-to reels and they consistently get shared more than any other post format. Simple—create more how-to reels.
- The data tells you that videos posted on Saturday mornings seem to reach more of your audience. Continue posting more videos at this time when your audience is online.
The possibilities are endless. It’s your job to analyze, learn, implement and experiment with your content. Rinse and repeat for maximum reach benefits.
Most businesses on Instagram want their content in front of as many people as possible. Reach is the best way to determine how to make that goal a reality.