The Instagram algorithm is a confusing concept for many brands and social media marketers.
It’s essentially the combination of rules Instagram uses to determine which content should appear in front of which user.
As such, if you want to thrive on Instagram, you first need to master the algorithm.
Without an algorithm to help guide users to the content most relevant to them, finding the posts you really enjoy on Instagram would be almost impossible.
The Instagram algorithm aims to make it easier to browse through Instagram and consume the content you enjoy most. But it can be a real headache for businesses to understand, particularly as the rules are constantly changing.
If you’re planning on optimizing your social media marketing strategy this year, here’s everything you need to know about mastering the Instagram algorithm.
What Is The Instagram Algorithm?
The Instagram Algorithm is a combination of different rules, processes, and classifiers, designed to personalize the individual experience of every user on Instagram.
Initially, Instagram used a chronological algorithm to display posts to uses based on the order in which they were created.
While users do have the option to arrange their feeds chronologically for the news feed, the majority of the Instagram app is designed to help consumers find relevant information and posts specific to their interests, as quickly as possible.
Throughout 2022, The Instagram Algorithm also introduced updates like:
- The introduction of “Following” and “Favorite” feed home views to help users customize what they see on their chronological feeds.
- Adding more “suggested content” into the default Instagram feed, particularly with a focus on Reels content.
- Prioritizing “original” content which hasn’t already been shared elsewhere on the app.
- De-prioritization of content with visible watermarks from other apps.
- Enhanced content categorization. The algorithms are getting better at identifying what a video or image contains based on keywords and content.
How Does The The Instagram Algorithm Work?
Primarily, the Instagram algorithms focus on three key signals:
Instagram still looks at when content is posted to help provide consumers with access to the freshest information first.
The algorithms evaluate what kind of content each user engages with, to determine what sort of new posts they might want to see.
Instagram will examine whose posts you interact with frequently, and show you more content specifically from their feed.
However, as Instagram has evolved and expanded, the company has updated its algorithms in an effort to further enhance customer experience.
As of 2022, each part of the Instagram app has its own algorithm. This means the “Explore” section works differently to the “Reels” section.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Instagram Algorithm works for different sections of the app:
The Instagram Algorithm On The Explore Page
If you want to grow your Instagram presence, getting on the Explore page at the right time is a good way to do it.
The Explore page is where customers find new content. The Instagram algorithm here focuses on delivering the content it believes users will be most interested in, based on their prior interactions with existing content.
While the Instagram Home page is made up of content mostly from accounts a user already follows, the Explore page features mostly content from new accounts. According to Instagram, the content shown on the Explore page is based on the way users like, share, and engage with other posts.
The algorithm looks at how popular a post is, what kind of content the user has saved or liked in the past, and even where the person posting the content is located.
Hashtags and shares can also make a difference to the appearance of a post on the Explore page.
Instagram Stories and feed posts are both organized to show users content from the accounts they interact with most before anything else.
However, the algorithm has been gradually pivoting towards a greater focus on user “interest” in recent years.
When deciding which content to show you both for Stories and Feed posts, the Instagram algorithm will determine the likelihood of certain user interactions, such as:
- Time spent: How long will a user spend on the post?
- Likes: How likely are you to “like” the post?
- Saves: How likely are you to “save” this post?
- Comments: Are you likely to leave a comment?
- Profile taps: Are you going to visit the profile after seeing the post?
While most of the interactions predicted by Instagram for Stories and Feed posts are the same, there is one slight difference.
The short-lived nature of “Stories” means timeliness is generally more important with these posts too.
The more recent the story, the more likely it is to appear on your timeline.
The Instagram Algorithm For Reels
Reels have emerged as one of the most popular content types on Instagram in recent years.
According to Instagram, to succeed with this kind of content, companies and creators need to create videos that are inspiring, entertaining, and creative.
You’ll also need to avoid posting Reels that are blurry, or low-resolution, include watermarks from other apps, or have already been shared elsewhere. These kinds of Reels are “deprioritized” by the app, which means they’re less likely to appear to new viewers.
In order to show the best Reels to each customer, Instagram’s algorithm will also track things like engagement rates, taps on a user’s profile, saves, completion rates, and re-watches. The popularity of the poster, and the data included in the post (such as music) will also play a role.
5 Tips To Beat The Instagram Algorithm ;
While beating the Instagram algorithm can seem challenging, it’s an excellent way to make sure you’re rapidly gaining new followers for your social media channel.
Learning how to cater your content to the algorithms used on each part of the app should make your posts more visible, and improve your chances of reaching new customers.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Find Your Best Times to Post
Although timeliness is considered particularly important for the Instagram Stories algorithm, it can also be crucial to standing out elsewhere on the app too.
Instagram still prioritizes “recency” when determining which posts to show to customers first.
This means it’s extremely important to have a clear idea of when your followers are most likely to be online and checking their feeds.
Choosing the right time to post your content on Instagram can be a little tricky.
There are a lot of reports out there offering insights into the best time for engagement.
For instance, Sprout Social recommends posting between 11am and 2pm on Tuesdays.
However, the actual best time to post can vary drastically depending on your location, niche, and audience.
The best way to get a good idea of when to post, is to check out your Insights page, and find out which times and days generate the most interactions.
2. Get Creative With Reels
Instagram is heavily invested in making “Reels” a big part of their app.
As such, you’re more likely to see Reels promoted on the Explore page and in other parts of the platform. Reels get twice as much real-estate on the Instagram Explore page too, making them ideal for growth.
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to create eye-catching and powerful Reels for growth.
You can create short snippets of video with just your smartphone, and add filters, music, and other creative elements into your posts using the Instagram app.
It’s also worth making sure you infuse your Reels with plenty of hashtags, to get them in front of the right audience. Plus, adding music to your Reels is a fantastic way to strengthen your chances of recognition.
If a customer has viewed a Reel with the same music in the past, they’ll be more likely to see your Reel, too.
3. Encourage Engagement In Your Post
As mentioned above, most of the Instagram algorithms work by trying to predict how likely a customer is to engage with your content in different ways.
The more you encourage customers to interact with your posts, the more likely you are to be prioritized by the Instagram algorithm.
There are tons of ways to drive engagement on Instagram.
You can start by using engaging captions and asking customers questions to spark conversations in the comments section.
You can even ask customers to share their thoughts about a statement, or “double tap” if they agree with something.
Engagement is particularly easy to curate within Stories, thanks to the use of Instagram Stickers.
There are various stickers you can use to drive action from your audience, such as the poll sticker, emoji slider, and question sticker.
These tools will not only drive engagement from your audience, but they could also give you more of an insight into your user personas.
4. Use Relevant Hashtags
Hashtags are one of the most important tools you can use to generate reach and engagement on Instagram.
People can search for posts using hashtags, and Instagram uses the hashtags consumers interact with as an insight to determine what kind of posts they might be interested in.
Don’t be afraid to use plenty of different hashtags in each post.
You can use as many as 30 different tags for each Story, Reel, and standard post, to boost your brand reach.
Try experimenting with different kinds of tags too, such as:
- Branded hashtags: Tags specific to your company, product, or service which encourage customers to share user-generated content, and start talking about your brand.
- Location tags: Geo or location tags are excellent for reaching a community in a specific space. These are helpful because the algorithm sometimes prioritizes posts from companies and creators who are closer to their intended audience.
- Niche tags: Niche tags help you to specifically reach out to the kind of customers you most want to reach. They’re less competitive than trending tags, and ideal for reaching unique customers and followers.
Mix and match your hashtags as you create new posts, and keep a close eye on which tags generate the most interest, reach, and engagement.
5. Track & Study Your Analytics
Finally, Instagram has its own dedicated analytics page where you can learn more about your target audience, your top-performing content, and what you need to do to master the algorithm.
With insights into where your customers are located, and when they’re most likely to be online, you can customize your content to reach the right people.
Diving into your Instagram analytics will show you what kind of content your followers are most likely to engage with, like Stories and Reels. It can also help you to understand what your followers like to see from you, such as how-to posts, or competitions.
You can build on the analytics available within the Instagram platform with other third-party social media marketing tools if you want to take your insights to the next level. There are plenty of tools to help you compare different posts, and learn more about your target audience.
Master The Instagram Algorithm
The Instagram Algorithm can seem like an overwhelming concept to many businesses.
With different algorithms managing different parts of the application, there’s a lot to keep track of.
However, most of the time, all you really need to do is think about your target audience and create engaging, relevant content that’s unique to them.
Enhance your posts with hashtags and powerful captions, focus on building engagement with your followers, and take advantage of new features like “Reels” as they emerge.
With a few simple strategy changes, you can master the Instagram algorithm in no time.