Forget “Likes,” Hack the Instagram Algorithm by Focusing on “Saves”

Mike Speer
Sep 18, 2019 · 4 min read

I’ve always been wary of using social media “likes” as a useful metric. Although it may feel good to see that like counter tick upwards, it doesn’t tell you a whole lot about why that post resonated or if it was successful in achieving any of your broader marketing goals. That’s why I call it a “vanity metric.”

And it seems that Instagram agrees.

Not long ago, we reported that Instagram has started hiding like counts in certain test groups, and it’s clear that the platform is deprioritizing likes as a useful engagement metric. Saves, however, seem to be rising in importance within the Instagram algorithm, which makes sense. While both saves and likes indicate that the content is valuable to the person viewing it, saves signal to Instagram that this is a post that the user wants to return to again and again. Naturally, that carries more weight than the content that someone just “liked” in the moment.

Basically, saves count as better quality engagement than likes, so if you have two posts, both with the same number of likes but with one post having significantly more saves, the post with more saves will be prioritized in the Instagram algorithm and shown to more people.

That’s why if you’re looking to hack the Insta-algorithm, it’s time to start focusing on improving the quality, not just quantity, of engagement. So, stop obsessing over likes and start encouraging saves!

3 Ways to Encourage Users to Save Your Posts

1. Tell a Story

Instagram gives you up to 2,200 characters for a reason.

While many users stick to short captions, Instagram is also a popular hub for so-called “micro-bloggers.” Micro-bloggers use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to tell short stories about their lives, usually sharing inspiration, useful advice, or just funny anecdotes.

Shorter than full-length blogs and longer than your average throwaway caption, micro-blogs strike a sweet spot for social media. They provide interesting a valuable information while also taking the average social media attention span into account. While some users may not feel like sitting down to read a story at that moment (sometimes you’re just in the mood to scroll), if they’re interested in the first few sentences, they’ll likely save content to dig into later.

Keep in mind that 125 characters is the visible limit for captions (meaning you need to click “See More” to reveal the rest of the text), so make sure to grab your readers’ attention in the first couple lines and give them a reason to read on.

2. Pack Your Post with Valuable Information

Again, sometimes you’re just not in the mood to read and absorb a lot of information when you’re just scrolling through pretty pictures on Instagram. However, if you come across some very useful information, you’re sure as heck going to save it to come back to later.

Posts that contain a lot of information take longer to read, absorb, and memorize, which encourages people to save them for when they may need them in the future. For example, you’re probably not going to read a full post on motivation techniques when you’re looking for fashion inspiration, but you might save it for the next time you’re feeling undisciplined.

In addition to detailed captions (how-tos, numbered lists, statistics, etc.), infographics are another way to pack your post with information. Plus, they appeal to the visual nature of Instagram.

3. Just Ask!

Sometimes we all need a little nudge to do something, even if it’s good for us in the long run (like doing the dishes or reading an article for work). When you want your audience to save your post, the best thing to do is just to ask. That little nudge in the right direction is often enough to make someone say, “Oh yeah. That’s a good idea.”

With that being said, don’t expect to get something for nothing. Give your audience a reason to keep your post in their collection. Consider how your post could be valuable not just today, but in the future as well. A hair stylist, for example, could write, “Save this post as inspiration for your next summer wedding!” under a styling how-to video. Or a personal trainer could caption a workout infographic with “Save this post to mix up your routine on leg day!”

Hacking the Instagram algorithm is all about increasing the value of the content you produce, which in this case, means that you want to start fine tuning your posts to appeal to people not just in the moment but also for months, even years to come.

Thanks for reading! I love chatting with everyone that takes the time to read my content, so shoot me a message and let me know what you think. Reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn if you’re interested in talking more about social media, business, marketing, or life in general.

The Startup

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Mike Speer

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An Entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant. Let’s discuss how I can help with your organization’s biggest challenges.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +584K people. Follow to join our community.

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