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‘Sandwiching’: How to outsmart Instagram’s algorithm to drive engagement

The article I read describes a particular advertising strategy used on Instagram to increase the number of people who view certain posts. Instagram has a special algorithm when it comes to which posts are shown where and to whom. This is based on a number of factors including engagement, relevancy, who the user interacts with most frequently, timeliness, which accounts the user searches for most frequently, whose posts the user shares most frequently, and time spent by the user viewing a given post. With so many factors, careless posting can mean only a fraction of the potential viewers see a post. This can be quite harmful to companies that rely on social media to get attention. Additionally, many marketers believe that Instagram purposely takes promotional posts and ranks them lower causing even more difficulty.

To combat this, Authentic Brands Group has begun using a technique they call “sandwiching”. The strategy has this name because it involves placing promotional posts between two posts that are predicted to be very popular in the near future. After testing their strategy, the found that when the strategy was not used, their posts received less than half the amount of views they would have gotten had they employed the strategy.

This article reminded me of structural balance theory. Any two posts that are both predicted to be popular have a positive connection. Any connection involving ads is a negative connection. You can take any three posts and if the graph is balanced, all posters would be satisfied. Three promotional posts could not use the “sandwiching” strategy and this is evidenced by the three negative connections, which means that the graph is unbalanced. As such, these posts would not receive many views and the posters would be unhappy. Three potentially popular posts would all have strong connections, meaning the graph is balanced, and all posters receive a high amount of views. One promotional post and two potentially popular posts would have one strong connection and two negative ones. In this case, the graph is balanced and the “sandwiching” strategy could be used so all are happy. Finally, both remaining combinations would create unbalanced graphs and at least one poster would not be receiving high viewership.


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