Optimizing for Instagram: Three Ways to Help Your Videos Rise to the Top

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We’ve seen a lot of changes since Instagram first brought video to its feeds back in 2013, and the past few months brought us some big developments. In addition to quadrupling the maximum video length to 60 seconds and beginning to show the number of views for each video, the social network announced plans to switch to an algorithm-based feed rather than serving up images in chronological order.

Naturally, along with that announcement came a flurry of content creators protesting the change and photos urging followers to turn on post notifications, concerned their content would be buried in a flood of paid advertising.

It remains to be seen how the algorithm will work for users of the platform – when Twitter switched over to an algorithmic timeline back in February, users complained and Twitter quickly added about an option to view posts in chronological order instead. So it wouldn’t be surprising if Instagram fine-tunes the user experience to give people some control over how they see posts.

Why make the switch?
Despite the uproar, there are some clear benefits to switching over to an algorithmic feed. For users that follow hundreds of people, it’s already too easy to miss interesting posts in the flood of images and videos that roll by while we aren’t looking at our phones – Instagram estimates that people miss about 70% of their feeds on average. The new algorithm will present posts based on what a user likes and who they interact with, so presumably users will see the posts that are likely to be the most interesting first.

The switch to an algorithm-based feed also presents better opportunities for marketers, who will now be able to get content in front of viewers without posting update after update.

Of course, the switch to an algorithm-based feed also means the stakes are higher for all creators because the best content rises to the top, so it’s more important than ever to fill your feed with compelling content. Here are just a few of the things you should be taking into consideration when creating new videos for Instagram:

1. Create content to fit the culture
Each social media platform has its own culture, and it’s important to create content with the individual platform in mind (this may ring a bell if you’re a regular reader of this blog). So it’s never a good practice to create one-size-fits-all content and splash it across all your social media pages. While other platforms are more conducive to sharing links and promoting your products, the visual nature of Instagram makes it an ideal place to showcase the personality behind your brand.

2. Catch the viewer’s eye
Because images have been the focus of Instagram since the platform got its start, you should always take the time to select a fitting thumbnail image. Instagram now makes it possible to change your video thumbnail by scrolling along the progress bar, so it’s easy to grab an eye-catching image in a matter of seconds. Choose an image that is likely to capture the attention of someone scrolling by, and which also ties in nicely with the rest of the thumbnails on your profile page.

It’s also worth taking the time to drag the image around as you play the video in its entirety, so you can make sure the most important aspects of your video are lined up with the gridlines of Instagram’s cropped square.

3. Regram content from your followers
User-generated content is a proven way to connect with your audience in an authentic way, and it also eliminates the time and expense of producing the video yourself. As we discussed in previous posts, slick video production isn’t always a prerequisite for creating great content. By encouraging followers to post using your hashtags and featuring content from fans, you’ll foster engagement with your brand and your videos will gain more views on the whole.

While each social video platform has its own set of attributes that video creators and marketers should pay attention to, there is also a lot of overlap – particularly in the importance of interacting with your audience. You can build a considerable amount of brand loyalty just by responding to comments in a timely manner and showing appreciation for your audience. And while the nuts and bolts of Instagram’s new algorithm aren’t clear yet, it’s a pretty safe bet that having a high level of audience engagement will help to promote your posts.