Do you have a love/hate relationship with Instagram? It’s hard not to! It’s like the Land of Oz with the wizard behind the curtain pulling all the strings! And while it can be frustrating at times, we have no choice but to try to comply and work within the parameters or be kicked out of Oz. We find it a bit ironic that this visually dominated platform of IG is actually controlled by the invisible forces of the Instagram algorithm. But it is true. We tend to focus on all that we see to try to understand the workings of IG. But it is the mystery behind the curtain we need to understand. This behind the scenes evaluation of your Instagram account is measured by what some refer to as your “Trust Score”.
What is a “Trust Score”?
Big Brother is watching. I know, kinda creepy to think about. However, as much as we’d rather not think about it, we need to remember this if we want our Instagram efforts to pay off. So, what are we talking about when we say “trust score”? Imagine Instagram keeping a tally card of your account. Every action you perform on their platform they see and interpret. This all adds together to create your “trust score”…Instagram’s ranking of where you fall on the continuum between trust-worthy and spam-like.
Why do they care about your every action? Because IG is looking for automated activities and spam accounts; they want to stop the bots. They are continually working toward improving their ability to detect these accounts. Right now, IG uses a kind of continuum to weigh all the data to try to determine who is fake or using automation and who is real and organic.
It Goes Without Saying…
We HOPE it goes without saying, but just in case, let’s just cover our bases.
- Never engage a company to “manage” any part of your account.
- Never, ever purchase likes or followers.
We really don’t understand why anyone would do this, but just in case you’re not convinced here are more reasons. Now that Instagram has made it incredibly clear that their goal is to eliminate all robotic activity and accounts it should seem obvious that of all things to do, this is what NOT to do. If you are still willing to “risk it all” to appear bigger than you are know that it will backfire with the new algorithm in place.
- Engagement matters more than anything.
- Engagement is based on percentages.
- Fake followers significantly lower your engagement.
- This is the whole reason that Instagram has made engagement KING! It sifts out the fake activity and the fake accounts.
Ignorance is not bliss
Jodie and I used to think, “we’re not involved in any of that, so it doesn’t matter.” Sadly, ignorance is dangerous as well. It’s not enough to be a real account. You’re not safe just because you don’t use any automation or anything non-organic. Sadly, the computers can’t tell for sure. All they can do is interpret your actions.
The only way your account is protected from being hurt is by knowing how Instagram views your actions and responding accordingly.
Even though you are not a robot the following activities can be interpreted as robotic. Therefore these activities are RISKY and will ultimately lower your Trust Score. A low enough Trust Score can eventually lead to your account being banned.
- over posting
- over liking (there are hourly limits and daily limits)
- repetitive comments (using the same words)
- following too many people at a time
- unfollowing too many people at once
- following too many people in general (can be viewed as a growth strategy)
- using hashtags that don’t connect to the content of your post or the content of your photo
- repetitive hashtag use
- tagging people in your photo that aren’t in your photo
- overlapping people’s names tagged in your photo (viewed as tagging people just to increase your reach/engagement)
- adding a bit.ly link to your profile (viewed as “known spammer link”) This was news to us until recently! Yikes!
- direct messaging lots of people that don’t follow you (seen as soliciting)
One of the latest strategies people have been trying recently are Comment Pods. This is when a group of accounts agree to comment on each other’s posts reciprocally. While this should not hurt your growth it actually will not benefit. It is a waste of effort. IG sees this activity and regards it as “fake”. Anything done in a regular pattern, such as the same group of people always commenting on each other’s posts, is easily detected by the IG computers. Your time is much better spent spreading out your comments in a natural, organic way. This is just one more example how a “trick” or “strategy” actually backfires.
Does it sound like everything we do can possibly be misconstrued?? Not to worry. Here is a good list of what you can safely do:
- post regularly, 1-2 times a day is our recommendation (after that there is a serious law of diminishing returns in affect!)
- comment back on your own feed with sincerity
- comment on others’ feeds with original wording
- follow some people suggested by IG
- as IG suggests, connect and follow your Facebook friends (only real people do this)
- use only relevant hashtags. Hashtags that:
- relate visually to the photo as easily determinable by a computer
- are topic related
- source objects in photos
- relate to the content of your post
To learn more about how to use hashtags to grow your Instagram account read our blog post ‘Are You Using Hashtags to Win on Instagram?’
- tag relevant people or brands only
- people or brands mentioned in your wording of the post
- place them spread out on your photo and never overlapping
- people that are actually in your photo
Things that raise your Trust Score
- lots of organic engagement on your posts
- when verified accounts follow you, or like & comment on your feed
- when high Trust Score accounts follow you or like & comment on your feed
Benefits of a High Trust Score
When you have a high Trust Score you can get away with activities that low Trust Score accounts could not. For example, having a bit.ly link or posting a ton.
Important to Note: Don’t look at a large, successful account and think, “If they can do this I’m sure it’s fine and the right thing to do”.
Huge Successful Accounts with high Trust Scores can get away with all kinds of things
that others either cannot or at least would suffer if they did.
This concept is hard because we are taught to look at the successful feeds and do what they do, and this is not always the case on IG. Remember the man behind the curtain. What you can see is not the whole picture.
Instagram is a Fluid Platform
- Instagram is purposefully mysterious. They don’t want anyone to know the algorithm because then people (and robots) would create ways to outsmart it.
- If you are trying to create ways to manipulate and outsmart IG, or are doing anything that could possibly be seen as such, then look out. This is risky behavior.
- If you are using a new “trick” it will probably backfire..
- Instagram’s number one goal is to create an authentic platform, one that rewards quality content and real engagement.
- Engineers at Instagram are continually tweaking and testing. Every hour of every day changes are being made.
- This is why what worked last month may not work this month.
- Comparing what’s happening on one account to another is never reliable because IG tests certain accounts.
- A more accurate understanding of the Instagram algorithm is to imagine many different algorithms constantly in play at once.
The Mysterious Land of Oz
Instead of being frustrated by the challenges Jodie and I choose to regard Instagram as a fascinating mystery to solve. In order to succeed we have to pay attention, stay informed, and be ready to shift our efforts as Instagram evolves. In the end, success seems fairly straight forward: To succeed on IG we must play by the rules of the game. It’s their game, they make the rules. Those who try to cheat the wizard will be banished from Oz!