How the Instagram algorithm works

How the Instagram algorithm works

The Instagram algorithm has never been so important. Now that the network has reached 700 million monthly active users, there is much more content on the network than anyone might expect. In fact, according to Instagram’s own numbers, users lose an average of 70 percent of the content on their home pages.

With this in mind, the network introduced the Instagram algorithm, which uses a variety of signals to determine which posts appear at the top of a user’s home page. The idea is to make sure that each user sees the posts they are most likely to care about, increasing overall interaction with the network as a whole.

Table of Contents

What we know about the Instagram algorithm

How does the Instagram algorithm work?

Benefits of the Instagram algorithm for brands and marketers

How to make the Instagram algorithm work for you

What we know about the Instagram algorithm

During its first six years of life, Instagram was a simple inverse chronological wall of the posts of the accounts that each user followed. Simply put, when you went to Instagram, you saw the most recent posts first, whether from your mother or your favorite brand, and regardless of the quality of the post.

Then, in March 2016, Instagram announced that it was going from a completely chronologically reverse wall to incorporating the use of an algorithm, and people weren’t happy. A petition called “Keep Instagram Chronological” earned 70,000 signatures in 24 hours. However, the implementation of the Instagram algorithm progressed during the following months.

Although some people still complain about the algorithm today, Instagram says that since the algorithm was implemented, people have been liking and commenting on more photos, and “in general, engage with the community in a more active way.” .

Whether users love the Instagram algorithm or hate it, it certainly hasn’t slowed the growth of the network. Instagram grew its user base by nearly 50 percent in the 10 months after the algorithm was introduced, from 500 million users in June 2016 to 700 million in April 2017, with the last 100 million users joining more. faster than ever.

Like most social networks, Instagram protects its algorithm a lot, but the network has revealed some elements that compose it.

How does the Instagram algorithm work?

According to an Instagram blog post, the Instagram algorithm change allows users to “see the moments that matter to you first.” Essentially, it’s about figuring out what content will interest you and driving it to the top of your home page.

So how does Instagram figure out what is most likely to catch your eye? The only specific factors that Instagram mentions are “the likelihood that you are interested in the content,” “your relationship with the person posting” and “the time of the post.”

Speaking to Business Insider, an Instagram spokesperson was a bit more specific, noting that the following signals are among those that he considers the algorithm to be.


Instagram may no longer be completely reverse chronologically, but the Instagram algorithm takes into account that people want to see fresh and timely posts every time they log in.

What this means for brands: While people won’t necessarily see your posts at the exact moment you share them, it’s still important to post at the right time to maximize early engagement. Which leads us to …


Since engagement indicates that a post is, well, interactive, the Instagram algorithm increases posts that generate more likes and comments. And since comments take more effort for users, they are weighted more than simple “likes.”

Early engagement is particularly important, because an initial flurry of activity tells Instagram’s algorithm that a post is worth getting to the top of other users’ homepage, leading to even more engagement. >

What this means for brands : Discover the best time to post on Instagram for your brand. This will require some testing and getting to know more about Instagram Insights (we dive into this in more detail below). Then continually post interactive visuals associated with engaging headlines that encourage followers to engage with your posts. Put the most important words up front to attract followers and encourage them to keep reading.


Beyond whether you follow someone, this factor looks at the depth of your relationship with the person or brand based on how often you tend to interact with their posts over time. If you often like and comment on someone’s photos and videos, you will see more of these from your home page.

This helps ensure that you see content from people you have close relationships with, even if those people don’t have enough followers to get a substantial amount of likes and comments. For example, your mom’s posts will never have as many likes as Kendall Jenner (thank goodness). But since you probably like and comment on your mom’s posts often, the Instagram algorithm understands that you want to see what she’s posting, even if no one else is interacting with her content.

What this means for brands : It is important to develop ongoing relationships with your followers. Consistent interaction is more valuable than sporadic interaction, so you already know what your followers want to see, and what they want to interact with, so give them more of that content. Use Instagram Insights to keep track of the posts that perform best, then design that content to build a profile that inspires a loyal and active following.

Search for profiles and share directly

Searching for someone’s account sends a pretty clear signal that you’re interested in seeing more of their content. And sharing someone’s posts with your network via direct messages indicates that you’ve found that content engaging, even if you haven’t publicly commented or “liked” the post. Both actions provide clues to Instagram about “how likely you are to be interested” in the posts of a particular account.

What this means for brands: Direct messages are a form of social darkness, which means that you cannot follow up on this interaction. Even though you can’t see those shared posts, Instagram is secretly monitoring them. This is another reason to create engaging content that users want to share with their contacts. To maximize the impact of profile searches, make sure your profile is easy to find, with a comprehensive and optimized Instagram bio.

Benefits of the Instagram algorithm for brands and marketers

The most important benefit of the algorithm for all Instagram users is that it increases engagement, according to Instagram’s recap of the initial deployment of the algorithm. But there are a couple of additional benefits for brands that are using Instagram correctly.

Quality publications rise to the top

As Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram, told the New York Times, “It’s all about making sure the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.” If you consistently deliver quality content that aligns with the expectations of your brand’s followers, you will have an advantage over those who are only producing a large number of lower-quality posts.

Posts have a longer shelf life

Before the Instagram algorithm, the half-life of an Instagram post was 72 minutes, which meant that you would get half of your total engagement in the same time. Now, you can notice that people like and comment on your posts hours or even days later.

That’s especially good news for a brand with a global audience. Keep in mind that 80 percent of Instagram users live outside of the United States. Even with extensive research and testing of the best time to post for your audience, it’s impossible to reach everyone at the same time.

Now if you’re posting great, interactive content, users around the world are more likely to see posts that they may have missed while offline.

How to make the Instagram algorithm work for you

Not all brands will benefit equally from the Instagram algorithm, so let’s look at some ways to help your content send the right signals to get noticed.

Focus on quality

Have you already understood that the Instagram algorithm now makes quality content more important than ever? The algorithm will surface quality posts while burying those that aren’t. Check out our complete guide to using Instagram for many tips, strategies, and best practices to help you create quality content on Instagram.

Know your followers

Interaction is the key to success in an algorithm-driven world, but it’s important to remember that not all audiences will find the same interesting things. That means you have to get to know your specific audience and understand what is most attractive to them, and what types of photos and captions are most likely to inspire engagement with your posts.

You can gain great insight into your followers on Instagram Insights, including gender, age, and location information. You can use those details to help create audience personas; Doing this will help you make meaningful connections that increase engagement over time.

Location information will also help you determine the best time to share your content on Instagram, to maximize early engagement and send positive signals to the algorithm.

Use appropriate hashtags

Hashtags can help you connect with existing communities on Instagram and find new followers to engage with their content (and, in turn, send valuable signals to the Instagram algorithm).

Instagram offers the following guide to using hashtags:

  • Specified : For example, choose #vwvan over #van
  • Be relevant : Relevant hashtags help you connect with people who are genuinely interested in your content, rather than people who are fishing for random content.
  • Be an Observer : Keep an eye on the hashtags that your followers and competitors are using and look for one that you have not yet incorporated

For more hashtag strategies and best practices on Instagram, check out our complete guide to Instagram hashtag for businesses.

Avoid the “Shadowban”

We just said that using appropriate hashtags can be a good way to broaden the reach of your posts. But abusing hashtags could lead to the dreaded “Shadowban”. Shadowban, which Instagram does not yet recognize, is said to exist when your account is partially blocked with no notifications. Generally, your posts stop showing up in hashtag searches or on the Instagram Browse page.

The best way to avoid Shadowban is to be authentic. Only use hashtags that are relevant to your content, don’t use too many hashtags in one post, and don’t buy followers or use bots to post comments. (Posting comments or repetitive content is actually against the guidelines of the Instagram community.)

Share live videos

The amount of time people spend watching videos on Instagram increased by 80 percent between June 2016 and June 2017, so posting videos can be a good way to grab the attention of your followers and make them spend a little more time interacting with their home page.

But live video takes things to another level. Unless you’ve turned off notifications, your followers will see an alert when you start streaming a live video on Instagram. This notification appears at the top of the screen, above the messages ordered by the Instagram algorithm. The notification doesn’t last long, but it does capture the old-school Instagram content feel where content was shared in real time.

When you’re done streaming your video live, you can save it to your Instagram story so it stays on for 24 hours after you’re done.

Try an Instagram pod

Since early post engagement is so important to your algorithm ranking on Instagram, smart groups of Instagram influencers are coming together to provide comments and likes on each other’s posts.

A “pod” is simply a small group of Instagram influencers who have agreed to support each other in this way. Every time a pod member posts to Instagram, she sends an Instagram Direct Message to the entire private group. Each group member then looks at the post, “likes” it, and posts an actual comment (no bots allowed).

Instagram has so far not indicated their thoughts on the pod strategy, but since they are real people posting real comments and offering real likes, the strategy seems to fall on the right side of the community guidelines. from Instagram.

We provide more details on how to find and participate in a pod in our post on Four Instagram Secrets You Can Learn About How Teens Use The App.

Work with Influencers

Working with influencers is a way to expose your posts to people who are not yet following your account, which can help increase engagement by sending important value signals to the Instagram algorithm.

There are three ways you can use a relationship with influencers to beat the Instagram algorithm:

  1. Influencer creates original content related to your brand and publishes it on their own account. While this will not directly increase any of your specific posts on the Instagram algorithm, it is a way of drawing attention – and new followers – to your account, causing the algorithm to grow and drive engagement over time.
  2. You share the influencer’s posts on your account, making sure to tag them and using whatever hashtag the influencer is known for. This will help to draw attention and a new audience to your publications, creating interaction and increasing the publication in the Instagram algorithm.
  3. You organize an Instagram “takeover”, in which the influencer literally takes over your account for a day, a week, or whatever length of time makes sense to both parties. The influencer must let his followers know that he is going to post to your account, again sending his followers to you.

We go into much more detail on how to implement these strategies, offer some examples of successful influencer campaigns, and explain how to find influencers in our post on everything you need to know about influencer marketing on social media .

Invest in Instagram Ads

Well, it’s not an organic strategy, but a surefire way to beat the Instagram algorithm is to pay to boost your posts. This can be anything from promoting an existing post, which only takes a few taps, to developing an ad campaign and running your ads through the Ads Manager or Power Editor.

Instagram offers the same ad targeting options as Facebook, so you can get very specific to get the most out of your ad budget.

Via: Hootsuite

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