Don’t blame the algorithm! Shift your strategy to capitalize on how Instagram prioritizes content now, not what worked years ago. Ashley and Jaime highlight three outdated practices holding you back from achieving your Instagram goals.
Don’t blame the algorithm! Shift your strategy to capitalize on how Instagram prioritizes content now, not what worked years ago. Ashley and Jaime highlight three outdated practices holding you back from achieving your Instagram goals.
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JAIME: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Jaime Schrabeck.
ASHLEY: And Ashley Gregory Hackett. The one constant about social media is that it’s always changing. What may have worked in the past might not be the best course of action today.
JAIME: If you’re beginning to feel like Instagram is becoming more trouble than it’s worth, today’s episode is for you. Let’s grow together.
ASHLEY: Well, Jaime, are you excited to talk about your very favorite thing today?
JAIME: I still feel so out of the loop when it comes to Instagram. I can’t help myself.
ASHLEY: And that’s totally fine if Instagram is not your number one platform, no problem. A lot of these same principles that we’re going to discuss today can be applied to other platforms like Facebook, or TikTok, or whatever. So if you’re not quite up to snuff yet on Instagram, this will definitely be a helpful episode.
JAIME: Ashley, you’re always on top of Instagram, so that you’ve been able to distill the latest news into three talking points will be pretty useful for our audience.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I thought let’s just do a quick episode where we talk a little bit about what’s going to be coming down the pike for Instagram and as life sort of returns to normal, I think our social media use and some of the expectations around content creation will get back to normal as well. Now that decision is completely up to you if you want to go back to the way things were with regard to social media or if you want to switch it up. But Instagram has been around now for almost 11 years. So Instagram is in fifth grade and it’s not the newest kid on the block anymore. And so the way we use the app has changed or should have changed because the app itself has completely changed from what it was in the beginning, which was taking pictures, applying filters, and having a chronological feed of posts from people you follow.
JAIME: That seems like the good old days.
ASHLEY: Doesn’t it? And that was just in 2011. So even from month to month, there are changes that Instagram makes to its platform. But the reason I thought it was important to talk about it today is that Instagram released information about how its algorithms work and it’s the first time they’ve done it in several years. They really wanted to get out in front of any misinformation that was happening and to help everybody understand that blaming the algorithm isn’t necessarily the most helpful thing you can do. Through that information, I’ve been able to glean the top three things that you’re doing on Instagram right now that actually might be holding you back.
JAIME: That’s amazing. Ashley, that you’ve been able to pull that from this because my first question would be, can we even trust the information that’s coming from Facebook/Instagram when they talk about how their algorithm works?
ASHLEY: I can see why you’d be skeptical. In this instance, I think we can because it’s coming from Adam Mosseri of Instagram, and it’s not coming from Mark Zuckerberg. So even though Facebook owns Instagram, Instagram still sometimes tries to be a little bit rebellious and tries not to be under the thumb because it’s actually a more successful platform than Facebook, and is just more popular so I don’t think they have any motivation to mislead us.
JAIME: Well, let’s jump right in with your first practice that might be holding us back as we’re using Instagram.
ASHLEY: Definitely. And some of this advice is advice I’ve even given in the past because at the time, that’s what was working. So as of this moment in time, if we were to stick a fork in June, 2021 and say what on Instagram is working and what isn’t, number one would be focusing solely on feed posts or those static photo timeline posts that go up and you see when you pull up someone’s profile. If you’re focusing solely on that type of content, I don’t blame you because that was once the bread and butter of Instagram and it was actually the only feature they had available. But as Instagram has evolved, feed posts are pretty basic. They’re considered entry-level. They don’t carry a lot of weight for I think what a lot of our listeners’ goals would be which is to grow your account and find new clients.
JAIME: What I’m hearing is that the one thing that I might’ve felt comfortable with or just getting comfortable with is the thing that doesn’t count for much anymore. I get it. I’m always going to be behind.
ASHLEY: Listen. If what you can accomplish on Instagram or what you’re comfortable with is putting up feed posts, then keep doing it. This is definitely not an episode to discourage you from posting static feed posts on Instagram. But if your goals are to grow your account, grow your following, which is a topic that we’ve covered before, or to find new clients to maybe replace some that have fallen off through the pandemic, this might not be the best strategy. So I’m not trying to discourage you from posting because your feed posts are what people see when they pull up your profile and it’s a great way to communicate your brand. It’s a great way to communicate what you’re about, and it is how people make the decision of whether or not to follow you. So it’s something that we still need to keep up, but making it the be all, end all of Instagram just doesn’t work anymore.
JAIME: Would you say that those feed posts then need to be even more, and I hate to use this word, curated?
ASHLEY: Ooh, I knew you were going to say that. Yes, these are the posts that you can sort of Ron Popeil set it and forget it. These are the ones you can schedule well in advance. You can make sure they all look pretty together. This is the part of Instagram that I think is the engine that keeps it running, but it’s what you build around that engine that makes it exciting. So that’s really how I would say if you’re going to create a baseline on Instagram is through your feed posts, and they should be absolutely very curated, and really focus on what you’re about as a brand, what you do for your clients, and how you can benefit your clients.
JAIME: The bare minimum.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I hate to put it that way because it does take a lot of work to create content and I never want to discount that, but feed posts are pretty much the price of admission when it comes to Instagram.
JAIME: So let’s move on to the second practice that may be holding us back. And I’m shocked that this is number two, but now that I think about it, it almost makes sense.
ASHLEY: When someone really takes a deep dive into Instagram and makes it part of their digital marketing strategy, one of the things I see asked quite often is, well, what hashtags do I use? Should I use all 30 hashtags? Should I just use five? Does Instagram penalize me for using them? What if I use the same hashtags all the time?
Should I post them in the caption or the first comment? Should I do three big hashtags and four very niche hashtags? Here’s the thing. Sweating your hashtags is very 2014. Worrying about all of the things I just mentioned, it’s just a waste of time. Hashtags are really helpful, but they’re not as important as they once were. Hashtag strategy used to be about making your posts and content discoverable, and finding it and connecting you with an audience that doesn’t yet know about you. That’s not the case anymore. Hashtags are now more about categorizing your content instead of making your content findable or found. What I would suggest is keep doing what you’re doing with hashtags. Don’t give it another thought as far as hemming and hawing, and trying them out, and trying to get a hashtag generator to work for you. Whatever hashtags you’re using, keep using them. But just make sure that they describe your content so that Instagram can recognize who your content would be relevant to.
JAIME: What I’m getting from what you’re saying is that the accuracy of your hashtags in being descriptive of your content is important. Is tagging location still important?
ASHLEY: Yes. I would say definitely continue to tag locations. That information is still something that signals Instagram and its algorithms how relevant something is. So using a location tag does exactly that. It categorizes your content. It categorizes it to a location, and to a place, and to a moment in time, but it also gives it a bit of a relevancy score. So you’re more likely to see content that’s tagged with a location if you are near that location, or if you have been to that location before. And that gets into the explore page, which is where you’re going to see that type of content more and more often. So hashtags used to be about what people would type into the search bar, right, in order to find something. No one is really doing that anymore. They might click on a hashtag that’s already there and see more content that’s like that, but now it seems that everyone is looking at the explore page. And what Instagram puts on the explore page are accounts that you’ve likely not interacted with before, but maybe your friends have, or it’s content that it has a subject matter similar to things you’ve interacted with before, but maybe you just haven’t seen that person, or that salon, or that account, or that location. That’s why you still want to use the hashtags because it tells Instagram, hey, if you’re going to put it on the explore page for someone who likes balayage, then this is a balayage and it should go there. Essentially, it helps Instagram put your content into the correct file folder. And instead of trying to jump on a viral hashtag trend or for something that’s really time bound, like the Olympics, or the World Cup, or whatever, that’s not going to get you the eyeballs that it may have in the past. So don’t sweat your hashtags. Still use them, but understand that they’re not the main way your content will be found by new clients.
JAIME: Ashley, I have a quick question about the explore page.
JAIME: We’ve been hearing a lot recently about geo tracking and privacy. Is that something that plays into our considerations?
ASHLEY: It definitely could now with Apple and what’s coming out in iOS 14. There’s been a lot of conversation around, well, if the social media apps can’t track us as much as they have in the past, we’re not going to be able to reach the audience we want to reach. If we were to say, buy some ads. I don’t think that the average consumer is going to be savvy enough to turn all of those permissions off because it is kind of a process. So I don’t think we really necessarily have to worry about that. But just knowing that the moment you sign up for a social media account, you’re giving permission for that account to track how you use the app. And that’s really how the content on the explore page is going to show up because you’re teaching Instagram what’s important to you, what you like to see, who you like to interact with, and the same thing for your clients. So you’re more likely to show up on the explore page if you are creating content that’s very relevant. But I don’t think you necessarily have to worry about it knowing your social security number.
JAIME: And what’s the third practice that we should be concerned about?
ASHLEY: All right. So this is one that is going to make a lot of people groan, but this is the reality of if you are using Instagram to grow your following, your reach, your clientele, any of those things, if you’re avoiding Instagram Reels, it’s time to stop. There is no tool greater for organic reach, potential growth, or getting noticed than Instagram Reels. And Instagram introduced Reels as sort of a TikTok killer and they are really pushing Reels adoption by rewarding that kind of content with big time reach. So it’s so much easier to get thousands of new pairs of eyes on your content through a reel than any other type of Instagram content. if you’re on the fence about reels, this is your sign. This is your push. Reels are the way to get new engagement and new eyes on your content.
JAIME: And what exactly makes a good reel?
ASHLEY: Well, that’s a great question. And it’s a little bit, it’s one of those questions where I could say, well, it depends. But this is according to Instagram, straight from the horse’s mouth, reels are designed to entertain. So if you have content that’s funny, or really sharable, or topical, that will perform really well. And we are very simple creatures. I know it can seem really intimidating, like, oh, I don’t want to shoot a video. I don’t know how to do that. You can create it right in the app. All you have to do is just hold your thumb down to take video. You could have a video of your client shaking her hair in the sun in slow motion, and that would perform really well because it’s kind of mesmerizing. But it’s really easy. That’s an easy video to take. Just think about, you know, you can watch some reels and get some ideas from that, as well as TikTok has some great ideas that translate really well into reels. And it doesn’t have to be something that takes you half of your day to create. It can be done in the moment as well.
JAIME: Ashley, is it my age showing, or do these, do these practices seem to skew towards a particular demographic in terms of age?
ASHLEY: Well, yes and no. I think that these video platforms initially are very popular with people probably under 25. If we look at the trajectory of something like Snapchat and how it being a video app drew a younger demographic to begin with. But if we think about how the attention span of just the collective population has changed, especially through COVID, I personally spend a lot more time on YouTube and TikTok than I do just watching regular TV. I find that I can find content in those places much easier. Content creators are creating things I want to see versus having to flip through the channels or whatever. Our attention spans have gotten so much shorter and we are so much more drawn to video than anything else, no matter your age. So if you were to pull up a Pinterest page, let’s say, right now your eye is going to go to the pin that’s moving, and that’s a video pin, and those are really outperforming everything else. And Pinterest is definitely a platform that does not skew to the under 25. So if we kind of collect all of that data, and look at it, and analyze it for what it is, I think that the pushback is maybe coming from a 30 plus generation that doesn’t want to create video because they know of the time involved in doing something like that versus consuming video, which is something we all do.
JAIME: I feel very attacked.
ASHLEY: Don’t feel attacked. I promise it’s not as painful as it sounds. It really isn’t. If you’ve ever been to a concert and taken a video, you have the skills that you need in order to do this. If you’ve ever taken a video of your grandchild, you have the skills needed to create a reel, a TikTok, a story, whatever.
JAIME: I think one of the challenges that I face as one of these older individuals over 50, I’ll put it at that, is that when I think about learning styles, which is something that I was taught when I went through my education program, and I think of the way that I like to consume information, I guess what I need to do in my brain here is separate, and maybe not so much separate, but think of it in a different way, information versus entertainment, and that I like to read.
JAIME: I like to read and I like to write. And so setting that aside for just a moment, let me ask you a question about reels and whether or not reels are accessible.
JAIME: In terms of reading any sort of captions, or subtitles, or anything like that.
ASHLEY: Definitely, great question. I agree. I think for some people their learning style, they’re able to take on information more readily by reading. And that leads into the fact that both TikTok and Instagram Reels have struggled with accessibility at their outset and through community feedback and pushback from some of their top creators, they have now both added the option to add auto captions. So it is something on TikTok you need to turn on and on Instagram, it’s a button you need to press. But you can, if you’re speaking to camera or if there’s sound coming through that’s spoken, you can create an auto caption, which it gets it right about 90% of the time. But that is something that you can do in order to make sure that everybody can consume your content no matter their ability, but also something like 90% of video is watched without sound. So you want to make sure that if you have something happening that requires being able to hear the video, adding something like an auto caption or just typing the captions out yourself is important to do so that somebody’s chilling in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or on the bus, or somewhere loud where they can’t hear maybe under the hairdryer, they can still consume and understand your content without being able to hear it.
JAIME: That does make me feel better because I think that then solves two different problems. One would be the accessibility for those who wouldn’t be able to process it otherwise, and then someone like myself who prefers a particular style of input.
ASHLEY: Definitely, and I think back to your point as well, about the younger generation adopting video faster. Gen Z, for as much as the media likes to hate on them, Gen Z is really the force driving the accessibility movement when it comes to these video creation platforms. They’re the ones who started giving the feedback saying, hey, we as a generation are much more inclusive because we haven’t really known anything else and, you know, because we’re 15. But, hey, we need to have an option to be able to create captions in a more organic way that doesn’t take 30 minutes after creating a video in order to make sure that everybody can enjoy it. So it’s a pretty cool thing that’s happening and these platforms are being responsive.
And so just think about how many potential clients, new clients, brands that you can reach by creating video content that gets seen by thousands of people in maybe the first 10 minutes of posting. It’s definitely possible.
JAIME: Ashley, if you’ve created this video content, and you’re posting it on reels, is there a way to advertise that to put it in front of more eyeballs?
ASHLEY: Yes, you can share your reel also to your feed, if that’s something that you’d like to do, and you can kill two birds with one stone at that point by creating feed content as well as reels. You can download the reel and share it to other platforms. Just knowing that depending on the type of account you have, there may be some issues with the music coming along with it, due to licensing reasons, but you can share it to your story. You can share it to your Facebook story. There’s lots of potential collaborative options when it comes to creating a piece of content. Then you can put it on Pinterest. You can send it to TikTok. Like once you create this one piece of content, you have so many different options to share to pretty much every platform you’re active on.
JAIME: And once you’ve shared that, you can let it just be discovered organically through the work that you’ve done to create something that’s entertaining and you’ve used the proper hashtags, but otherwise, if you wanted to, and I’m not sure you’d want to, you could pay to get it in front of more people?
ASHLEY: You could, but I really think that that is not the best use of anybody’s money. I’ve created reels personally where I have seen, really there’s no better feeling than getting the alert from Instagram saying your reel has more than a thousand plays two minutes later. So I would say that if you’re creating the right type of content, meaning something that’s immediately engaging, entertaining, and relevant to the type of people you’re trying to reach, you don’t need to spend any money in order to have those promoted.
JAIME: That’s encouraging because I think that the metric of measuring the success of whether or not your efforts have produced the results you want can’t just be views.
ASHLEY: Exactly. It has to translate to dollars in your pocket. And I think one of the first places people go when they’re frustrated with their results is, okay, now I have to pay. I have to pay for an ad. I have to pay to promote a post. I have never, ever, ever advocated for paying to promote a post because it works on a totally different plane than an ad and a lot of it is based on the interaction it has already received, whereas an ad, you can create the audience you want to show it to and get a little bit more bang for your buck. If you’re looking for organic reach the way Instagram quote unquote used to be, you have to be in reels and I’m going to stand behind that.
JAIME: Let’s mark the date.
ASHLEY: Definitely. So in the show notes, we’ll include a couple of resources on how to start using video for your beauty business and the actual blog post from Instagram explaining all about how their algorithms work. Yes, there are several and how content is prioritized across all of the different content types.
JAIME: Ashley, I so appreciate these updates because even though this is not something I’m really involved in, I think it’s fascinating to observe how it’s evolving when there are so many competing platforms.
ASHLEY: And it may not be something you’re really involved in, but soon it may be something you’re reel, really involved in.
JAIME: Ooh. Maybe it’ll just land on something that I feel comfortable doing and that I make time for. I think that’s one of the things that it’s just not been a priority and that needs to change.
ASHLEY: Well, it all depends on your goals. And so I would highly encourage everybody listening to create their first reel and tag us in it. And I would love to see what you’re out there creating and offer any feedback if that’s something that you’re interested in.
JAIME: And speaking of feedback, we’d love to connect with everyone through Instagram, and we’re just talking about it now. You can always comment on episodes at @outgrowthpodcast.
ASHLEY: And if you want to really give us some feedback, you can leave us a review on Apple podcasts, and you can do that now with just one click. Visit bit.ly/outgrowthpodcast.
JAIME: Thank you for making this more understandable.
ASHLEY: Well, Jaime, it is my pleasure. I love talking about social media and how beauty professionals can better utilize those platforms more efficiently to achieve their goals, so much more to follow.
JAIME: Until next time.
ASHLEY: All right. Be smart.
JAIME: Be really safe.
Described as the best beauty podcast in 2020, Outgrowth Podcast is for hairstylists, nail techs, estheticians, massage therapists and lash technicians. Hosted by beauty industry experts Ashley Gregory Hackett and Jaime Schrabeck, PhD, this salon industry podcast has helpful interviews with guests that teach topics from increasing salon clientele, salon marketing, covid guidelines, beauty industry insights, starting a salon, renting a salon suite, salon Instagram tips, and how to run a successful salon. Join us for weekly episodes of hair podcasts, nail podcasts, esty podcast, and more.