Conquering the Instagram Algorithm

A friend asked me how I beat the Instagram search algorithm and there’s two answers.

The abridged version:  I am hyper-focused.

The extended version:

When you have limited resources, whether it be financial, staffing, etc. you’ve simply got to understand that you will have to work harder than the next person – essentially, you’re up against an engineered set of rules, battling your way to beat the system and attain victory, until, alas the algorithm is changed yet again! A never-ending saga of mind vs. machine. You carry on because you know if a person built the machine that was able to create the algorithm in the first place, certainly another person can conquer the engineered formula if they are hardheaded enough, full of heart and driven to succeed because failure for them – is not an option.

What does that mean? That means while your competition, your clients and your clients’ competition are spending time with their friends and family, enjoying their weekends or perhaps vacationing in the South of France (where ever), you are always glued to your computer, tablet or phone. You are reading, you are observing behavior patterns, you are testing and targeting hashtags like an absolute psycho. Now, are you up for that challenge?

Most people aren’t. That’s why they hire me. I am hyper-focused at testing and full of determination, because for me, failure is not an option and that’s how I beat it. I will keep testing and trying variations of everything, timing, imagery, competitor tag targeting. Entering numerous variables, my fingers will keep striking my keyboard with the ferocity of a group of sugar-crazed seven-year olds bashing into a piñata until it bursts open with glitter and candy. Now, I don’t know about you but, that’d sure break up the monotony of the hours upon hours of staring into the digital cosmos for me.

Ok, let’s bring it back down to earth. Sometimes it is either when we are at our most barebones in life that we are able to summon up our most creative strategic energy because it’s all we’ve got. Sometimes when life is going just peachy, we have to tap back into those moments for perspective to fuel our drive again. If you’ve ever been in a place of having very little even once, you never forget it. What drives you? What pushes you further to succeed than the competition? I am driven by the fact that I never again want to be on the verge of homelessness as I was shortly after I started my business. There is not one single day I do not remember what that feels like. Talk about having a fire lit under you to succeed – there is a light that never goes out! Most of my colleagues do not know this as I had some shame surrounding it. Looking at it now, I am proud it is part of my story, showing how hard I have worked to overcome economic adversity, and to grow my business and how hard I will continue to do so. There I go humanizing my own brand, everyone loves an underdog story, am I right?

Oh, but you came here for the quick and easy answer on to how to beat an Instagram algorithm right? Well, ok here’s the deal, that and many other things in life aren’t so simple! That’s why it helps when someone’s looking out for you, so with that said… I’m looking out for you! Here’s a few methods that I’ve used and a few tips that may help guide you in a positive and productive direction to conquering the current Instagram algorithm – the dedication and effort of how far you’re willing to take is all up to you. unless of course you hire me. 😉


It is important to note is that in terms of case studies presented within, while going off of either my own personal results or others’, the amount of your own potential personal success will also be dependent upon how well you have studied YOUR OWN online demographics and their behavioral patterns. To best manage expectations, understand that in social media as in marketing in general there is no “one-size fits all” type formulaic solution or road to success. All audiences are special and therefore the implementation of following these guidelines, studying your results and then evolving your own tactics accordingly is key to your developmental and continued success of your overall marketing mix.


Hashtags Are Your Homies. To know hashtags is to love them. How well do you know them? How well can you really know them? Well, you’ve got to start somewhere. You’ll need to observe and identify how your targeted demographics are utilizing them. If you haven’t you better get started! This in itself is an article topic right here, but in the short of it do your homework or hire someone who has the time, knowledge and talent to do it for you.

Factor in The Competition and Target. Target. Target. What’s you competitor doing on Instagram? Oh, you don’t know? That’s not good. Start analyzing who they are following and who is following them, keep an eye out for micro-influencers and influencers. If you can afford social listening software – invest in it. It’ll cut down on the number of manual actions you’ll need to take to accomplish this, but don’t just set that and check in occasionally as a crutch – do both (because most people won’t and want to have the edge) and scale back on the manual slightly. Track hashtags your competitors are using, observe where they are in-relation to the utilization of these hashtags within the algorithm search results.

Engagement. Commenting Is Key. Targeted Liking Is Also Important. Commenting, keep it short, polite, enthusiastic and targeted. Make a list of one-word comments, keep it in your Notes app and copy and paste away on images located within the top search results of the hashtag of which you would like your future post to potentially populate. Also make sure to like and comment on posts of influencers and micro-influencers who may also be utilizing this specific hashtag.

Make Friends in High Places. “Power Likes” and “Power Comments” are real things. If you can get a micro-influencer with an Instagram following of over 50K to like and/or comment on the post your trying to get to the top of the search within a short time period of posting said image, you’ll be on your way! But Dylan, I don’t know anyone micro-influencers or people with large followings. No prob! Flattery will get you everywhere in life and on the Internet! 😉 Networking baby you’ve either got it or you don’t. If you’re one of the ones out there who doesn’t, try this: create a post that relates to and is positive for a micro-influencer in which you are trying to target. Now, even if your product or brand is not included it will still boost your account positively in the eyes of the algorithm. Be certain to utilize the hashtag in this post of which you will be continuing to try to achieve top search results in your future branded posts. If you’re really struggling here a simple (properly tagged and cited) complimentary repost may also be a good starting point (just don’t overdo it, if you still don’t get this and are in general are a little socially awkward in life, hand the wheel over to someone else – bring in an expert if you can afford to or ask a friend for guidance).

A real-world example:

For an arts based client, I went to an event, I took a photo of a sculpture, complimented and properly credited the work, mentioned and tagged the artist’s account, making sure to tag the location and also making sure to event’s account and… badda bing, badda boom the post on the client’s account was both liked and commented on by the artist – who has over 100K Instagram followers. This was an important catalyst to frequently registering in the top of the Instagram search for a number of the associated hashtags from that post, the highest result being within the top 9 out of 300K. Keep in mind not everyone is going to react or respond in the same manner.

Timing and Frequency. Less is more my friends, less is more. Focus on quality and don’t stress on quantity. The algorithm seems to do best with 1 to 3 posts per day. Choose times that your demographics are most engaged. Generate reports to monitor so that you may tailor and evolve your plan according to best meet your audience’s behavior.

Imagery. Save the text for the actual text field! If you want to conquer this beast just don’t use text in your photo – same goes for Instagram’s parent company Facebook’s posts. It drastically cuts down your posts reach. If you simply must use text in your imagery understand that your search results will suffer and plan on investing ad dollars for your post to better support its reach but don’t expect it to get to the top of Instagram’s search algorithm.


The most important thing to keep in mind here is to not give up.

Keep trying, keep testing and then when you get to the top, screenshot it and send it to me!


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