Well, the Instagram algorithm has changed once again, just as we were beginning to master the last iteration. Curses!
Never fear- we have scoured the internet to get to the bottom of every change and what you need to know about them. Remember, the main reason the folks at Instagram make these changes is to try to ensure that users are consistently being delivered things that they will likely enjoy. You are rewarded for creating great content, and you are penalized for being a digital headache. This post from Later does a great job of really spelling things out. But if you don't have time to trudge through a long article (who does?) here is a quick run-down of what you need to know:
You need to start using the stories feature.
People's engagement with your stories will now factor into your overall engagement "ranking".
Stop spamming with hashtags
You can get ghostlisted for using certain hashtags or spamming your comments with hashtags. Selectively choose a few (my recommendation is 5) hashtags per post that are relevant to that post in particular. You may be a #foodie by trade, but you shouldn't use that hashtag on a picture of your puppy...unless you are trying to get tagged as spam.
Respond to comments tout suite
Did you get a comment on your post? Awesome. Respond within 60 mins or you will be punished!
Make people linger
The longer people's eyes stay on your post, the higher your "engagement ranking" will be. Videos, long captions, and carousel posts are all great ways to capture people's attention for just a bit longer.
At the end of the day, all of these algorithm changes and unspoken rules are all in an effort to ensure that users are consistently seeing things they want to see and will enjoy. No amount of research and algorithmic "hacks" can replace good, genuine posts. So, get out there and create things that make the world (well, the insta-world) a better place. While doing so, keep in mind what the great Oscar Wilde once said (and everyone with a pen and time to kill in a bathroom stall has since reiterated), "be yourself; everyone else is already taken."