Video marketing vs. the Instagram algorithm

To round out our series on video marketing vs. algorithms (you can read about Twitter here and Facebook here) we’re covering Instagram.

Got a question or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

What we know about the Instagram algorithm

We’ve written about the Instagram algorithm a few times recently, from everything you need to know to examples of how some brands and influencers are working with it.

Here are the biggest takeaways from both of those posts, starting with the basics of what we know about how it works:

At the Machine Learning @ Scale event in February of last year, Thomas Dimson from Instagram gave a presentation (you can watch it here) about shifting Instagram’s algorithm from chronological to the format we have now, which seems to be primarily weighted by the following factors (or at least these were the factors they used when designing the new feed; some may have changed since last February):

  • People whose content you like
  • People you direct message
  • People you search for (signals that you’re interested in an account but not seeing their content)
  • People you know in real life (this information could come from Facebook or photo tags)

We don’t know exactly how each of these factors is weighted, or even if they are, but it can give brands an idea of how to allocate their time on Instagram; perhaps more should be spent interacting with fans, followers and influencers if a brand isn’t spending much of their time doing that currently.

Features like Stories most likely play into the algorithm as well, especially since you can respond to Stories and those responses are sent as DMs.

Also remember: The API and the algorithm are not related, though you’ll want to take recent API changes into account for your strategy as well. If you’re not sure where to start, see 5 metrics to pay attention to now on Instagram.

What we know about Instagram video

There are several different video formats on Instagram:

  • Upload a video as a regular post to your profile (can be up to one minute long)
  • Upload video to or record video in your Stories (up to 15 seconds)
  • Upload a Boomerang as a regular post or in your Stories (external app by Instagram; loops video similar to a GIF)
  • Upload a Hyperlapse video as a regular post or in your Stories (external app by Instagram; records timelapse video)
  • Stories-specific video options (read more about particulars here)
    • Rewind (reverses video you record)
    • Superzoom
    • Stop-motion
    • Hands-free
    • Live

We don’t know that any of these are favored more than others, except that Instagram does inform followers when you go Live if they’re using the app at that time, so it stands to reason that they’re favoring Live video slightly.

Put them together

Wherever your current video strategy is, there’s probably room for some experimentation. What are you already doing that’s performing well? What has absolutely tanked with your audience in the past?

It might not be that the content was the problem, either; sometimes timing is off or using some different hashtags could have gotten your video in front of more of the right audience for it from people either searching the hashtag in question or following it. You can always try tweaking past video content and posting it again at in a different time, maybe in a slightly different format.

Consider a Live video strategy for your brand as well. What would make sense? Don’t go Live just to do it, but consider what would be useful to your fans, followers and target audience. If you do regular webinars, consider going Live behind-the-scenes. If you get a lot of the same FAQs, consider how your video strategy could address these. Perhaps a Live demo, then you could repurpose pieces of it in the future— in Stories Highlights, for example. (A note: You can’t add Live Stories directly to Highlights, but you can save the video after you’ve gone Live to repurpose it.)

Try all the different formats in Instagram Stories several times- at different times and covering different things- and see which your audience engages with the most. Remember you can also use the Polls feature in Stories to ask direct questions, too.

As with most things on social, it’s a cycle of doing the work and research to know as much as possible about what your audience wants, then trying different things to see what succeeds.

Measure your baseline, then decide which metrics you’ll focus on to help you reach your goals on Instagram.

You can get started for free with our checkup, below, if you’re interested. We’ve got more in-depth metrics too, if you’re interested in that. Let us know what you need.

Want more engagement on Instagram? Our checkup analyzes the last 30 days of posts, likes and comments on your account to quickly give you key insights into how to improve.

Free checkup