Instagram’s and Facebook’s algorithms change all the time, which makes it difficult for business owners and marketing teams to stay on track on what is hot at the moment and what’s in the past.
In this article, you’ll find out:
- How Instagram algorithm ranks posts
- How the Instagram algorithm works for Stories, Reels, and IGTV
- How to use the algorithm to increase your content reach
What is Instagram Algorithm
The way Instagram ranks content and “decides” who sees what and in what order is run by the Instagram algorithm. The complex algorithm decides:
- What content goes to the top of the newsfeed and then in which order
- How stories will be lined up
- Which posts will be featured on the Explore page
- In which order will Reels and IGTV show
The algorithm does not apply to paid content, it rather controls the organic reach of your content.
There are a few factors that affect how well your content is going to be positioned, like engagement, how recent the content was posted, frequency of Instagram use, number of users following, session time, etc.
How Instagram algorithm ranks posts?
You probably noticed that, when browsing through Instagram, you almost always see posts from the same accounts. And you are sure that you follow a lot more accounts. So, why is that happening?
As you know, the Instagram algorithm is run by several factors.
The Instagram algorithm will show the users what they like the most. The algorithm remembers the user’s behavior, like
- The accounts they interacted with the most
- Types of posts they like and comment on
- Accounts in whose content they were tagged in
The content ranking depends on what the user will most likely “like”. The more appealing content to the user is, the higher it is ranked. That way, the algorithm is trying to engage Instagram users as much as it can, so they will want to spend more time on the platform.
User’s engagement with your account
If a user interacts with your account often, the algorithm assumes that the user will be interested in your new content, too.
The most important types of interaction are:
Besides that, the algorithm will try to calculate the relationship a user have with your account and his/her interest level to find out if the user truly cares about your content. That’s why posts from friends and family are usually top-ranked.
To calculate the relationship, the algorithm will take into account the different types of interaction, and:
- People who the user direct message
- People whom the user search for
- People whom the user knows in real life
Most recent posts
Another factor that affects whether your content will be shown as top-ranked is how old it is.
The algorithm is trying to show Instagram’s users the latest and most interesting posts. So, if you posted something two weeks ago, it isn’t likely that people are still going to engage with that post.
You’ll see – the more often you post, the more people are going to react to your posts because they will have more opportunities to engage with your content.
Find out the best time for you to post content (based on your audience’s behavior) – go to Instagram Insights and find out when most of your followers are active.
How active users are
This is something you can’t control.
If a user is more active, they will more likely see the most (if not all!) posts accounts they follow posted. So, the newsfeed will look more chronological.
But, if a user uses Instagram now and then, then the algorithm will sort out the content it “believes” the user will like, regardless of the time the content was posted.
Number of accounts the users are following
The users who follow a lot of accounts probably won’t see everything that was posted recently. Instead, the algorithm will choose the content with which you are more likely to engage.
Those who follow a small number of accounts are more likely to see everything that was posted.
Still, how much of the posted content a user will see depends on how much time they spend on the platform, too.
The algorithm for Instagram stories is a bit different
The Instagram algorithm takes all of the above-mentioned factors to decide whose stories to show you first.
Usually, those accounts you engage the most, through likes, story views, comments, DMs, and reactions, are those who will appear the first, even if you already watched some of their stories that day.
Time is of the essence for ranking the stories – the algorithm is trying to always show you the latest stories from the accounts you are the closest to.
That being said, if you post regularly and consistently to Instagram stories, over time your stories will get pushed further ahead.
The Explore page has a different set of rules
As you already know, Explore page is made for users to discover new accounts and profiles they don’t follow at the moment, but they might like their content.
So, the algorithm works similarly – it calculates what a user might like based on previous behavior and shows new content based on that calculation.
Users can search for the content they are interested in by typing in:
That means that the Instagram algorithm considers what you write in the caption, which hashtags you use, and the visual content.
You might think that being featured on the Explore page is impossible, but it’s not that difficult. You need great content, strong captions, and hashtags that are closely related to your niche.
Reels and IGTV
Video marketing became one of the most popular and effective ways to spread a brand’s message.
Videos are viewed more than photos on Instagram as well as on Facebook. That’s why it is very important to incorporate a video marketing strategy into your Instagram content strategy, to be able to attract as many interested users as you can.
Your Reels and IGTV videos will be shown to users who already follow you but can be shown to the users who can discover you at the Explore page.
There are a few tricks you can use to “spread the news” about your video content.
When making IGTV videos, you should make a 1-minute preview of the video and share it to your Instagram feed. That way, you’ll increase initial exposure and you’ll give positive signals to the Instagram algorithm.
When making Reels, share them to your Instagram feed and add as many relevant hashtags as you can. Include a few very specific hashtags and a few popular ones, so you can increase the visibility and discoverability of the Reel.
How to use Instagram algorithm rules to increase your content reach
There are a few tips and tricks on how to use the Instagram algorithm to your advantage. The algorithm is constantly changing, but there are a few rules you should always follow.
Remember when Facebook introduced videos on its platform? All posts with Youtube links suddenly had a much lower reach and Facebook videos exploded considering the number of views.
Both social media platforms work the same – when they introduce a new feature, their algorithm pushes the visibility of the feature so the users can adopt the new concepts more easily.
Right now, that’s Instagram Reels. Use the extra boost the platform is giving you and use Reels to your advantage.
But make sure to follow what is happening with features of Instagram and stay on track if there are any changes or introducing of some new features.
Interaction through stories
Instagram is constantly evolving its Stories features and Stories stickers are very popular at the moment.
You can drive engagement by using interactive Stories stickers, like the poll, emoji slider, and question stickers.
Drive engagement through captions and comments
You need to encourage users to write comments on your posts since that kind of engagement is something the Instagram algorithm loves!
Writing powerful captions with simple CTAs, questions, or calls for opinions combined with great-looking content should do the trick.
Stay on top of your hashtag strategy
Popular hashtags are constantly changing and the way users search for relevant content is also updating and improving.
What you need to do is define what are your niche hashtags, and then find out which are related hashtags by using one of many hashtag software.
Use all the Instagram features you can
The idea is to cross-promote your content, using all the channels Instagram offers. You can share content on your Instagram feed, on Stories, Reels, And IGTV.
Think about where your target audience is and what channels they use the most. Use one channel to promote content on another one (like sharing a preview of your IGTV video on your Newsfeed).
Here is a list of all photo and video formats of different Instagram channels so you don’t get lost about what content goes where.
Answer all the DMs in a timely manner
Just like the content from those users whom you interact with the most is pushed to the top of your Instagram Stories and Newsfeed, the same will happen for those users who interact with you.
When you answer someone’s DM, you are pushing your account a bit further ahead.
You can even encourage your audience to DM you with their suggestions, questions, or feedback.
Use Instagram Analytics to find out what works best
Make sure to follow up and track how your content is doing by using Instagram Analytics.
You can only do that by having an Instagram business account. Here is a comprehensive article on how to set up a business account on Instagram. You will need to connect it to your Facebook page. If you want to find out everything about Facebook ads, here is a complete guide to mastering Facebook advertising.
Instagram Analytics can show you what works and what isn’t working, what time of the day is the best to post content, who sees your content, etc.
You will need some time to understand the Instagram Analytics tool and to use it to make a content marketing plan that will be finely tuned. Always follow the key metrics over time to find out what helps you improve your Instagram ranking.
Come up with the brand guidelines
When you have a concept that can be seen and felt throughout your social media account, users will then notice it, remember it, and recognize it when they come across it in real life.
That’s why you should come up with your brand guidelines to preserve the “feel” of your brand wherever you post your content.
Your brand strategy will increase the number of relevant followers and slowly grow your business.
To always post compelling and strong content, check out this simple tool which will help you make appealing presentations. You can learn from the tool and use the knowledge to create awesome content for Instagram.
You now know everything there is about the 2021 Instagram algorithm, how it works, what it likes, and what will it push forward.
Now you can use this knowledge to help your business thrive!
Mariya is an SEO consultant and she loves to write attention-grabbing content, when not writing you can find her playing her guitar