Surviving Instagram in 2018

Instagram has over 800+ million engaged monthly users. The photo-sharing platform is on track to hit a billion users this year, and currently boasts an estimated $100 billion market value. And while it falls behind its parent company, Facebook, in size and value, it outpaces Facebook’s engagement rates by over 15%.

While using Instagram may seem as simple as posting an image and calling it a day, the Instagram algorithm plays an important role in determining what each person sees when they open their phone. These parameters are an ever-changing puzzle, but if you understand how to leverage the rules you can take your Instagram—and your business—to the next level.

You won’t reach 100% of your audience. 

As a baseline, Instagram puts your content in front of a (somewhat) random grouping of users that make up 10% of your following. From there, it’s a race to get as much engagement as possible in the shortest amount of time. If your post shows an early burst of engagement, the algorithm determines that it’s content relevant to your audience, and puts it in front of more people. How do you get those infuriatingly necessary bursts of engagement? Read on.

Golden hour isn’t just for sunsetsBy posting at peak traffic periods, you increase the chances that your engaged followers will be online and ready to give your post the boost it needs to climb higher on the feeds of your followers. Users who regularly interact with your content are prioritized in the first 10%, so make sure you’re playing into their schedules. Trampoline’s prime posting time is Saturday at 1:00 pm, followed closely by Sundays at 2:00 pm. As a rule, weekday posts are optimal around 4:00 pm.

How do you know when prime posting time is? For the average user it’s as easy as trial and error. A safe bet for most accounts is early afternoon or late evening; times when people are taking a break or unwinding after a long day. Avoid the morning or right after the work day ends, people are traveling and not on their phones. Hopefully.

Shadowbanning; not as scary as it sounds. Ever wish you could put someone on mute? Instagram went ahead and did it. Shadowbanning is Instagram’s way of dealing with accounts that they consider spam. It’s a temporary ban that stops your content from appearing in search results and on most of your followers feed, a measure that the algorithm thinks will improve the average user’s experience. Engagement drops off dramatically, new followers will slow to a stop. Luckily, many of the ways you can avoid shadowbanning are also great for engagement (coincidence? Think not.), read on to find out more.

Think those hashtags through. The beauty and the nuanced headache of the new algorithm (which will probably have changed by the time I finish writing this) is the key role that hashtags now play. The days of engagement pods, purchased followers, and bots are screeching to a halt, and in their place rises the era of savvy hashtag leveraging. Where hashtags like #like4like #instagood #photography used to be a safe bet for legions of bot likes, now the only thing they’ll accomplish is a quick and silent shadowban on your account. A few quick hashtag tips below:

  • Five is plenty, less is better. Five relevant and well considered hashtags will do far more for your post than 30 irrelevant ones. The average amount of hashtags on posts made by accounts with over 100k followers is just two.
  • Don’t reuse hashtags too often. Want to gram something with #graphicdesign 12 days in a row? Instagram will flag that as spam, earning you a shadowban. 
  • There is strength in (small) numbers. Whatever you do, do not use hashtags that have over a million existing posts. There are few quicker ways to get shadowbanned, and by using a collection of hashtags with depths of 5,000–500,000 existing posts you drastically increase your chances of being seen in a search.
  • Don’t put hashtags in the comments. If you’ve been on Instagram in the last year, you’ve seen users commenting on their own posts with lists of hashtags. There’s logic in this approach—relegating the hashtags out of the caption and into the comments cleans up your post, diminishing the risk of a “read more” scenario. Starting in January of 2018, Instagram no longer includes images hashtagged in the comments in the search feature. All your hard work putting together strategic hashtag groups ends up wasted unless you keep them in the caption.

Engagement goes both ways. The best way to drive engagement is to engage in-kind. Spending an hour or so each day interacting with your followers through likes and comments is essential to a well-rounded social presence. While likes are great for getting the burst you need to climb the feed, genuine comments are even more valuable. In an effort to cut down on bot comments, the algorithm has deemed comments less than four words to be spam comments which don’t count toward engagement in a valuable way. If your followers are commenting less than four words, it’s no big deal, you can boost your own engagement numbers by replying back to them within the first hour with a four-or-more reply. Bonus points if your reply facilitates a conversation in your comment section. YOU get a comment, YOU get a comment, EVERYBODY GETS A COMMENT!

Utilize the valuable tool that is Stories. There has never been a better time to use the Instagram Stories feature. Instagram has positioned itself as one of the most valuable tools on the market for businesses, and Stories are more important than you may think for keeping your engagement numbers up. The new algorithm rewards accounts for posting stories, so dust off that iPhone and get to boomaranging!

  • Temporary by design, permanent by choice. The introduction of the Story Highlights feature took stories from a 24 hour blip to a permanent feed of dynamic content. Take your audience on a tour of your office, show them the behind-the-scenes process, or let your staff take the Story for the day and give a birds eye view of what it’s like to be part of the team. Want to feature a glimpse of everyone on the set of a video? Let it live for 24 hours. Want to give a tutorial that explains the basics of logo design? Save it to your Highlights—your followers and your engagement will thank you. 
  • People will watch, and that matters. Instagram Stories don’t live in a vacuum from the rest of your account. More stories equals more engagement, which in turn equals a higher placement on the feed.  
  • Prioritize interactivity. Tools like polls and hashtags allow you to get more engagement from each audience member, utilize them!
  • It’s all trackable. Like every other aspect of Instagram, Stories are trackable. Experiment with different tactics and styles and keep track of the swipe-through rate for each. You’ll be amazed by how much of what you thought was boring content is actually engaging, and vice versa.

Post it and leave it alone. One of the easiest ways to ruin your feed positioning is to edit your post in the first 24 hours. Making any changes to the caption will automatically kick you back to the bottom of your audience’s feed. You have two options if you spot a typo: ignore it and pray everyone else does too, or delete the post and repost it with the edits. Third option: proofread.

You have 215,000 new friend requests.

Here at Trampoline, we create a lot of content. How much content? Check out our “30 Days of Logos” series on Instagram. It’s easy to share rebrands and video clips on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but it’s harder to condense what we do for social media down to 1920 by 1080. Our work for Warren County Tourism has been a case study in growth and maintaining long term success. As our three-year contract comes to a close, we’re taking a moment to reflect on our time with @LakeGeorgeArea.

In the summer of 2015, we jumped at the chance to apply our take on the region we call home. Warren County tasked Trampoline to increase their online footprint, drive traffic to their sites, and add followers. Our solution was to push high quality content with a consistent brand voice on a regular basis. Rather than telling people to come visit, we wanted to show them exactly why a trip to the Lake George Area was worth their time and money.

Pinpointing the Lake George Area audience was one of the most important factors in content creation. On Facebook, the average fan is a 35-44 year-old woman from New York State, likely from a rural area. The average Instagram follower is a 25 year-old woman from an urban center in the Northeast. The average Warren County Twitter follower? A 25-34 year-old Republican woman who is married, owns a home and has a household income from $150,000-199,999. Oh, and she only buys name brand. Details like this may seem insignificant, but they paint a picture of what content we need to be creating, boosting and strategically placing across our channels to optimize engagement.
For Facebook, we took a family-focused approach. Blog posts about back to school fun and lists of family-friendly weekend events filled our followers’ feeds. Our audience was more than happy to pitch in, often commenting their own recommendations and fond memories. Blog posts, image sets and Facebook contests kept people engaged on a daily basis, but it was the video content that stood out as a clear audience favorite. Our video depicting Warren County Events even won the County a 2017 Telly Award!

Instagram was a different case altogether. Where videos and images with text overlays went viral with the older Facebook audience, they only saw a small trickle of likes from young Instagram users. This audience clearly wanted an escape. They didn’t want to see other people having fun or to read a list of everything happening in the region, they wanted an attention grabbing image, free from the context of someone else’s vacation.

In 2017, the same filter heavy shots that received rave reviews in 2015 were the worst performers. High resolution images of sweeping mountain views and saturated sunsets far outperformed images showing people. Instagram, which as a platform has gained over 300 million users since the Warren County account began in 2015, is one of the most dynamic accounts in the Lake George Area suite.


With Twitter we found that the fast paced nature of the platform made it perfect for letting our audience know about the events happening in the area. Although not conducive to in-depth copy, 140 characters is a perfect amount to tell people what’s going on and where.

Living in Warren County gave us the distinct advantage. We drive, bike, hike and ski in the region on a daily basis. As a creative agency, we have the skillset to generate organic content with our audience in mind. Living our lives, camera in hand, has allowed us to create a library of active, first-person material.

 

The Results
Warren County gave us the broad goal of driving growth on their sites. By all accounts, we’ve surpassed this goal with an average fan growth of 2,645.6% across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Over the course of our contract with the Tourism Department, their Facebook likes have increased by 3,322.4%, with the account on track to surpass 300,000 likes before the end of 2018. The increase in audience engagement (likes, comments and messages) is even more staggering, sitting at 88,064% over the last two and a half years.

Instagram followers have increased by 4,245.8%, with audience engagement up  21,101%. 2017 alone saw the @lakegeorgearea account reach follower milestones of 4, 5 and 6 thousand.

Twitter experienced slower growth than Facebook and Instagram, with a 368.6% increase in fans. With Twitter’s growth as a platform flatlining in the past three years, we consider our success on the site a testament to the quality of the content being pushed.


The numbers are impressive enough on their own, but more so when you realize that for every like, there’s a real person engaging with Warren County. To put the numbers in context, the Census Bureau cited the population of the county as 65,707 in 2016. The combined total followers for Warren County social media is over 3.67 times larger than the county’s population.

What Next
Successful social media management is a balance between analytics and instinct. In the daily battle to reach wider audiences, having the ability to create content is perhaps a smaller factor than having the knowledge to get that content in front of the correct audience. While we couldn’t have anticipated the level of success we experienced with Warren County Tourism, we weren’t altogether surprised. Through strategic planning, regular analysis and a willingness to adapt, we’ve seen results and learned valuable lessons, preparing us for many years of social media management ahead.

Summer Favorites; Beverage Edition

It’s no secret that the staff here at Trampoline enjoy a good drink or two. So much so that we’ve dedicated a significant chunk of our working lives to them. Visit the office and you’ll find a well stocked fridge, bar, kegerator, and coffee pot. Catch our team on the weekend enjoying a variety of alcohol related pastimes, from brewing beer (Staci is our fearless leader in this regard) to jamming out at a local watering hole. It’s safe to say we take our fluids very seriously.

For most of us, the competition for our beverage of the summer was stiff, no pun intended. The following list is a collection of drinks, artwork, and thoughts on what it means to be refreshed in the summer months. Pour yourself a beverage of your choice (we don’t judge!), sit back, and pick our brains.


Allison
:

My favorite summer drink is kind of a cheat answer because it involves two of my all time favorite drinks: gin and champagne. Mix those two with some lemon juice and simple syrup and you get my favorite cocktail: the French 75. It’s fizzy and botanical and just plain delightful. Drink it pinky up!

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Rob:

Oh G and T, Oh G and T,

You are the summer drink for me,

You’ve got the lime, you’ve got the bubbles,

Have 1 (to 10) and forget about your troubles,

Its fresh and crisp and easy to sip,

Great for a back porch or a boat trip,

Oh G and T, Oh G and T, the summer drink for me

Is it 5 o’clock? Alas, I long for thee

John:

Call me old fashioned, but I’m a fan of an ice-cold beer – preferably a strong IPA — after a long work week. It helps when your client, Druthers, serves up one of your favorites — the All-In IPA. A close second to IPAs are wheat ales like UFO, Hoegaarden or Allagash White. Unlike some craft beer connoisseurs, I won’t turn my nose up at a Bud Light or a cold PBR on a hot day! Hoo-ray Beer!

1stCup

Amanda:

My favorite drink is always my first drink. Which, in the summer, means at dawn. Yes, I’m deviating from the largely alcoholic list, but the truth is that coffee will never let me down-iced or hot, espresso or straight joe. The sensation of that first sip, no, even before that, the anticipation of the first sip, feeling the mug in my hands, smelling the sharp aroma and feeling the warmth from the pot, it is exquisite.

The perfect cup has cream, not creamer, thick, white, and ideally poured from a glass vessel. Not much sugar, but enough to stir a couple of times with a small spoon, the clinking of metal on ceramic priming me for the sensation of that first sip.

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Derek:

My fave summer sipper/slammer is also non-alcholic (surprise), as seen in a creative brief.

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Leslie:

My favorite summer beverage is refreshing and crisp with New York State apples and a hint of sweet: Peach! and more Peach! This cider pairs great with lakefront and adventure, two pups in the water and humans tagging along with their thirst-quenchers. Cheers to never-ending summers and Nine Pin Specialty Peach Tea Ciders!

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Sean:

In a home with three pre-teens…you drink what’s available.

I could fill a steamer trunk with Capri Sun™ straw wrappers.

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Oliver:

The Uinta Detour double IPA packs a delicious punch, and sends me deep into aromatic memories of a Rocky Mountain Pine Forest on a warm summers day. Both me and Uinta were made in Salt Lake City, Utah, and appreciate the allure of a refreshing brew paired with a big mountain view. The Detour is my go-to companion for any summer adventure.

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PaulaYou get the gist.

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Staci:

Bell’s Oberon

When our Communications and Media Specialist Megan asked what my favorite beverage is, it took me about three days to really wrap my mind around it. You see, I take my beer very seriously. My husband and I are homebrewers, plus I’m 4 months pregnant, so I wax nostalgic about the memory of it quite frequently.

Bell’s Oberon is my favorite Summer beer. It’s an American Pale Wheat Ale: a limited release with a smooth, citrus taste and fruity aroma. It has a brightly-colored, funky sun label design that draws me in, too. Brewed in the great mitten state, it takes me back to my Michigan roots. It wasn’t always readily available here in New York, so when I discovered that they started distributing here, I was excited.

Oberon is a great beer for a backyard barbecue, a camping trip, or a nice dinner out with friends. Now, if only Bell’s would release a clone recipe so I could brew some myself, I’d be thrilled.

Cheers!

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Megan:

I’ve been trying for a long time to be a beer person. As a brand spankin’ new college graduate, I have a special place in my heart/liver for $2 Busch Lattes and Natty Light pints (Busch Light and Natural Light respectively, for those with anything resembling self-respect). Craft beer is a staple in the office, with packaging (and samples!) coming in and out faster than you can pay your bar tab.

But honestly? If I’m ordering myself a drink in the summer, expect it to be mixed.

There, I said it.

It’s summer, it’s warm, it’s the only time of the year that it’s acceptable to sit outside under an umbrella with a nacho in one hand and something cold and fruity in the other. Does this make me less “chill”? More high maintenance? Do I care? Ask me again after a few refills.

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