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The Ultimate Strategy for Beating the Instagram Algorithm

Out of all the articles on my blog, by far, my Instagram posts get the most feedback, and I totally get why! Instagram can be a tricky beast to tackle, and when we find someone who is willing to share their Instagram secrets, well, we’re all ears.

And hey, guess what? I want to be your Instagram insider scoop. Well, maybe not insider scoop… because, like everyone else, I have no idea how that pesky Instagram algorithm works. One thing I do know is I had a dip in my engagement, I fought back hard, I tested different methods, and I got my engagement right back up to normal within a week or so.

Basically, in order to beat the Instagram algorithm, it all comes down to having high engagement on your photos. If you have high engagement, Instagram assumes you’re not a spam account and they ensure your followers see your content. But you may be thinking, that’s great but how do I actually get high engagement?

No worries, I got you, girl.

This post contains affiliate links, but just know everything I post about I strongly believe in. I only recommend the good stuff to you guys. Thank you for supporting Hustle and Hearts. You rock 🙂

Here are 5 methods you should try if you’re looking to beat the Instagram algorithm:

P.S. at the end of this post, if you aren’t a part of my newsletter, I’ll tell you how to get access to 5 additional strategies for beating the Instagram algorithm! Stay tuned.

RELATED: Instagram Growth Hacks (now on the the blog!)

Strategy 1: Rethink your hashtags

I know what you’re thinking: you’ve seen this tip before. Everyone and their mother is recommending changing up your hashtags in order to beat the Instagram algorithm, and you know what, those people are right. You can’t continually use the same hashtags, or IG will likely block your account from showing up in search results.

More than that, though, if you want to really skyrocket your engagement, you need to use less popular hashtags. Yes, you read that correctly, less popular. I’m not saying use a hashtag that is totally random and never used on IG. What you should do, though, is use a hashtag that is popular enough that you’ll get seen, but not so popular that you’ll get buried in the mass of people using that hashtag every minute. What this does is increase your chances that your post shows up in the “Top Posts” section of that hashtag’s page (less popular hashtag=less competition=better chance to show up).

When you show up in the “Top Posts”, it looks like this (the image in the first box is a post from my account with use of the hashtag “freelancewriter”): 

instagram algorithm

So, when your post performs well, your image stays at the top of the page for any users searching that tag, which in turn increases the chance that other people will discover your account and like your content. And, like I said, Instagram rewards those with high engagement!

RELATED: Why Instagram Matters + How You Should Be Using It 

Pro Tip:

Go for a mix of wider reaching, generic hashtags (i.e. #blogger #girlboss #newpost etc), but then add tags that are more in that 20K-30K range, rather than the millions.

Also, when you manually enter hashtags yourself, Instagram will recommend hashtags to you based on what you’re typing and tell you the amount of posts that have been made using that hashtag. I find this super useful when I’m trying to come up with new tags and determine their popularity, which is why I now always manually enter my hashtags rather than copying and pasting them from a list. It takes longer, but it’s worth it!

Strategy 2: Post at different times

You know how everyone says to make sure you’re posting at the most engaged times in your community? Yeah, well I’m going to recommend changing it up. I wouldn’t suggest this for every post, but every week or so posting at a different time is not a bad idea.

On an Instagram business account, if you click the analytics bar in the top right corner of your profile, Instagram will tell you when your followers are most engaged. It’ll look like this:

instagram algorithm

For the most part, stick with posting at your high traffic time, but every once in a while, change it up.

I once posted on a Saturday morning (a.k.a. a time where I’m usually sleeping and not posting). The result? The fastest flood of comments and likes I’ve ever had on a picture! This isn’t going to explode your engagement, but it’s the little things you do that will help move you forward.  

If you’re struggling with finding things to post and/or posting consistently (which is key for getting your account noticed), I highly recommend checking out a stock photography membership. And no, I don’t mean some membership with cheesy, generic images. I mean a styled stock photography account that fits within your brand and will give you the Instagram feed of your dreams.

If you have a feminine brand, like mine, I can’t say enough good things about the Styled Stock Society. With this membership you’ll get access to a library of 600+ gorgeous images (with 50+ new images being added every month) and unlimited downloads.

You can also access FREE images from the Styled Stock Society by clicking here. (psst, NEVER pass up on free resources, especially stock photos, which can really help to elevate your brand and business)

Here’s a preview of the kind of images you’ll get with the Styled Stock Society.

styled stock photography

Strategy 3: Stay engaged through following

While it’s important to like and comment on other people’s photos, I’ve also found that it’s equally important to stay engaged by following other accounts. This doesn’t mean following everyone and anyone. What it does mean is regularly reviewing those who have followed you and then determining whether you’re interested in following them back. It also means regularly searching for new (relevant) accounts to follow.

For a client, I was managing their Instagram account with the exclusive goal to simply engage and not worry about following other accounts. The result? This account suffered. Following regularly and following back relevant accounts is important! I go over my strategy for finding new people to follow extensively in my Instagram Growth Hacks’s post. If you haven’t had the chance yet, give that a read (guaranteed you’ll start getting some new followers once you use those methods).

instagram growth hacks

Strategy 4: Write engaging captions

Now, I already mentioned this tip in my Instagram Growth Hacks’ post, but it’s worth mentioning again here. Why? Because the more you can get people to engage with your content, the more likely it is that Instagram will reward you and put your account at the top of the feed.

If you’re interested in me writing a post on how I write captions, let me know in the comments below, but basically you want to write the kinds of captions that people can relate to. Something like this:

instagram caption

See how I tried to get people to go, oh yeah I totally know what you mean! When people “get you”, they’re much more inclined to like or comment on your photo. This has been a game changer for me! You can also use calls to action by specifically asking people to double tap or comment (asking questions is a great way to do this).

Strategy 5: Spread out engagement time

Rather than doing all your engagement in one sitting, when possible, try and spread out the time you spend on IG throughout the day. So, if you usually spend 30 minutes engaging with followers, instead, break that 30 minutes up into 3 sessions of 10 minutes. This might not seem like a big deal, but when you spread your engagement time out, Instagram rewards you. Trust me, I’ve tested this and it works.

Have you tried any of these strategies? I would love to hear what has and what hasn’t worked for you! Just leave me a comment below.

And remember, like I said, you can find 6 strategies on the blog now for boosting your following on Instagram.



I also recently wrote an ebook on the topic of Instagram, where I even further expand on how to build your Instagram following.

I suggest starting with my blog posts, and signing up for my email newsletter; however, if you’re really serious about Instagram and want to dive deep into 6 additional tips, I’d love for you to check out, “Instagram Rediscovered.”

grow your instagram account

In “Instagram Rediscovered,” we chat about:

1) Writing captions that inspire engagement

My full-time job is in copywriting, so I have quite a bit of expert knowledge to share on this topic.

2) Why you need to build relationships off of Instagram

Plus I’ll give you a strategy for how to do this in an impactful way that helps you build your following, create connections, and expand your business.

3) The truth about the follow/unfollow trend on Instagram

I’m not going to sugarcoat this topic, like most people do, and instead I’m going to talk to you about it in a way that you’ve probably never heard before. By doing this we’ll be able to get clear about how people actually grow on Instagram.

4) We’ll talk about how consistency is key on Instagram, but I’ll also share with you what exactly you need to be consistent with

Oh, and bonus strategies for streamlining your posting, so you’re not on your phone 24/7!

Plussssss other tips and tricks to ensure you’re following the right people on Instagram, and using the platform in a strategic way that serves you and your business!

This is a 39 page ebook, and I promise it’s jam packed with action based strategies that are different from everything you’ve read before.

If you’re ready to tackle Instagram, and start thinking about the platform in a new and strategic way, check out the ebook for only $15

If you have any questions about the ebook or Instagram in general, just leave a comment below and I’d be happy to chat


    • That has for sure been the biggest difference maker for me! I hope it works for you too 🙂 Good luck, Selina

  1. Loved all these tips! Instagram can be so fickle sometimes. Some days I’ll get a bunch of followers than the next day I lose them all and then some. Trying to grow organically isn’t the easiest but it definitely leads to more engaging followers! Can’t wait to use some of your tips!

    • I’m so glad you found these tips useful, Krystal! 🙂 And I totally know what you mean, Instagram can be a pain to work with, but if you’re consistent with it and give it some love and attention, it’ll pay off! Good luck 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this! I’ve just started out blogging and I’m so overwhelmed by much of a balancing act social media is. This was very helpful! Thanks again! -Joahnna

  3. How do you mix up hashtags? I do a Charleston lifestyle blog and do set hashtags for Charleston specific posts and everything. Should I just do a couple each time. Or can I just add a few more to these specific sets?

    • Hey Ryann! Hashtags are a tricky one. Since writing this blog post, I now actually only add in a couple relevant ones to end of my captions. One thing I would definitely recommend is trying to pick hashtags that are relevant to the image itself. Not all of them, but at least a couple
      (i.e. if you post a image of a dog, use hashtags that are dog focused). I would experiment with the number you’re using, for sure as well! But honestly, just focus on really connecting with people who are already interested in your content. If you’re posting awesome content (which I’m sure you are!), you’ll find new people who are interested without having to rely on hashtags 🙂 hope that makes sense!

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