Instagram has become an important marketing tool for businesses all over the world. As such, understanding how the Instagram algorithm works can give you a head start over your competition. Knowing the ranking signals can help get your posts noticed and increase visibility, boosting your organic reach.
This article will examine how the algorithm works for Instagram Posts, Stories, Reels, and the Explore page. We’ll also look at the recent changes to the algorithm so you can get the most out of your activity on the platform.
What Is Instagram Algorithm?
Instagram uses a variety of algorithms, processes, and classifiers to decide which content to prioritize for users. The overall aim of the Instagram algorithm is to help users make the most of their time on the platform. The aim is to use technology to personalize the experience for every user so they can see more of the things that interest them.
Millions of people use Instagram as one of the most popular social media apps. However, users can’t see everything posted, so the algorithm helps them find the posts they care about the most. While posts used to be presented in chronological order, things have changed, and the algorithm has become more advanced.
Now, posts are ranked based on the personal preferences of each user. Instagram has separate algorithms for Feed, Explore, and Reels. As a result, content is ranked differently depending on where the user encounters it.
How Does Instagram Algorithm Work?
The algorithm aims to get the most relevant posts to the top so they are more visible to users, which provides a better user experience. The algorithm changes regularly, but a few core signals affect it. It comprises several major ranking factors across all the different parts of the app.
We’ll look at each separately next, but here are the five key areas:
1. Relationship with the User
If a user follows another user and has more interaction and engagement with them, this shows that they are more interested in the creator’s account. As such, they are more likely to see the creator’s posts in the future.
2. Interest of the User
The types of posts that a user tends to engage and react with the impact the algorithm. For example, if someone has shown interest in a post based on dogs in the past, they are more likely to see other posts about dogs. The algorithm wants to provide users with more of the content they like, which is one way it does this.
3. Relevancy and Usage
Relevancy scores are assigned to posts by the algorithm. This helps to determine relevant content for each user based on several factors. The more relevant a post is, the more likely a user will see it.
The algorithm also determines when the content is posted and how often users are on the app. If a user is on the app more frequently, the algorithm may prioritize their content.
The algorithm will prioritize the accounts that a user follows. While Explore tries to suggest things that a user will find interesting, if someone already follows an account, this is an important ranking signal.
How Instagram Ranks Feeds and Stories?
Feed and Stories are places for users to see content from the people they are closest to. The focus is on recent posts by people they follow. The algorithm uses signals to determine which content to prioritize. There are thousands of signals, including what the post is about, who made them, and the user’s personal preferences.
The main factors the algorithm focuses on are:
1. Information About the Post
The post itself is important. This includes how many people had already liked it when the post was posted, the length of the video, the location, and more. This happens because the algorithm categorizes users based on their interests and activity.
To achieve the most satisfaction from users on Instagram, the platform must show them content they enjoy. herefore, if you’re a fisherman in the United States that likes that type of content, it’ll increase your chances of seeing fishing-related videos from US creators.
2. Information About the Poster
This determines how interesting the poster is for the user. In addition, it looks at how often a user has interacted with the poster recently, along with other signals. As a result, users’ feeds and stories will be adjusted to their preferences.
If you like engaging with content from fashion influencers, it’ll prioritize content over Others. It’s just another way how Instagram ensures that all its users are engaged by showing content that makes them stay on the platform for longer.
3. Your Activity
The user’s previous history, including their engagement rate for other posts, is considered. It understands what users are interested in and the posts they have liked.
4. History of Interaction
How the user has interacted with the poster’s Instagram content in the past is important. The algorithm then makes predictions based on how likely a user is to interact with a post and how likely they are to comment on it and share it. Posts must also meet community guidelines, and these factors determine how much prominence a post is given.
How Instagram Ranks Explore Page?
Explore is the place to discover new content rather than just see content from people the user follows. The algorithm uses signals to find posts they might be interested in and then orders them by how interested the user might be in them to make recommendations.
1. Information About the Post
This includes the popularity of the post and how many shares, comments, and likes it has. These factors are more important here than in the user’s feed. The shares, comments, and likes are strong signals that people like the content. As a result, it indicates to Instagram’s algorithm that people are enjoying this content.
With this in mind, it gives the algorithm the idea that “more people would like this content also.” Therefore, it’ll automatically start placing the post on the explore page for other users to see it.
2. Information About the Poster
If a user has interacted with the poster, the algorithm gives the post more prevalence. This makes perfect sense. If you’ve already liked, commented, or shared a post from a particular user before, it strongly indicates that you appreciate their content. Because of this, it’s more likely to appear on your explore page.
Due to this, it’s important to get as many likes, shares, and comments as possible from your particular target audience. These are the people you want to capture the most. And because of this algorithm trait, it means that if they’ve already enjoyed your content before (or someone with the same interests as them has), it’ll likely appear on their explore page.
3. Your Activity
The algorithm recommends posts on related topics to what users might be interested in based on how they have interacted with other posts. If someone has liked, saved, or commented on similar posts, this gives the algorithm the information it needs to determine how interested they may be.
4. History of Interaction with Poster
Instagram doesn’t want to show you any old content. Therefore, how often a user has interacted with the poster in recent weeks is also used to prioritize content. We all go through stages of liking something, whether that’s an influencer, type of content, etc. Instagram’s algorithm understands this.
As a result, instead of showing posts of old interest, it keeps updated with what you like. Because of this, it ensures optimal engagement from users on the platform as it shows them content they currently like, not liked before.
How Instagram Ranks Reels?
Reels are for entertainment. Like Explore, most are recommended from accounts the users don’t follow. The algorithm finds the reels most likely to entertain the user and often avoids recommending low-resolution and watermarked reels. It then orders them and makes predictions based on the following signals.
1. Your Activity
The reels users’ had liked before and commented on are an important signal. This determines whether the content is relevant to the user. Due to this, you’ll only see reels that you find interesting based on your previous activity on the platform.
If you’ve liked and interacted with many “fishing” videos, the algorithm won’t show you “Motocross” content. Instead, it’ll show you “fishing” videos, as this is the content you normally interact with.
2. Information About the Reel
The algorithm uses signals like the content of the video and how much interest has been shown in the reel to determine how much priority it is given.
3. Information About the Poster
Popularity is important, and if the poster has more engagement and followers, this can impact its reach. Like all algorithms, Instagram wants to showcase the best content possible. One certified way of achieving this in the Reels section is by increasing the visibility of posters with a lot of engagement and followers.
If users on the platforms are engaging with a poster’s content and following them, it’s a strong indication to Instagram that this is content that people want to see.
4. History of Interaction with Poster
Whether a user has interacted with them before is a signal. This is usually not the case with reels, but where a user has interacted with the poster, this can make their reels more prevalent.
New Instagram Algorithm Changes
Instagram is always updating the algorithm, and things come and go. For example, the Swipe Up feature was removed in 2021. In 2022, Instagram brought back the option to see the feed in chronological order. It also introduced a feature to view a curated list of the most recent posts from top accounts users are following to see more of their favorites.
2022 has also seen more prominence given to video content. There is a much greater focus on Reels when determining what is suggested. This may be due to the popularity of TikTok. The focus on Reels in the Home Feed has led to a drop in visibility for photographers.
As such, it’s important to evolve how you use Instagram to make the most of it. Instagram also introduced Subscriptions in 2022. However, this is only available in the United States for now Overall, there is a greater focus on prioritizing original content, while things like content with visible watermarks are getting deprioritized.
How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm?
Now we’ve covered the key factors to consider when it comes to the Instagram algorithm; how can you use them to your advantage? You want to increase engagement with your posts and increase your follower count. Here are six strategies to focus on:
1. Do Post Creative Reels
Using Instagram Reels is one of the best ways to boost engagement. Instagram promotes them across the app, and reels get more visibility in “Explore.” So using Reels is a good tactic to encourage new followers to discover your content.
Focus on creating high-quality Reel content that adds value. These are typically short videos that are unique and creative. Add them to your content calendar to post Reels more consistently, and help to get content prioritized and increase your reach. Invite users to participate.
Reels are a great place to focus on viral trends and use Q&A content, and you can encourage viewers to get more involved by using a call to action. This is what the algorithm wants, so use Reels to make the algorithm work in your favor.
2. Add Relevant Hashtags
Hashtags provide users with an easy way to quickly find what they are looking for, and you can use them as part of your content strategy. Using the right hashtags can help get your posts in front of the right people and boost your views. It’s not just about reaching more people but about reaching more relevant people – those who are likely to engage more with your content.
To make the most of hashtags, it’s important to find the ones that are most relevant to your brand and to your audience. You can use keyword research to identify the hashtags that are most likely to be used by your target audience.
Learn more about Instagram Hashtags here.
3. Post Consistently and on Peak Hours
How and when you post is also important. You should, therefore, schedule your posts to get maximum reach. If your followers are sleeping when you post, you’ll get less interaction and engagement. As such, the algorithm will not prioritize your content. You must post during audience active hours to get more audience interactions and more views.
That means when they are awake, for a start. But there may be more relevant times of day, in the evening or perhaps in the morning. You may, therefore, want to experiment by posting at different times of the day to find out which posts get the most engagement.
4. Use Instagram Stories Stickers
Use Instagram Stories Stickers to get more engagement. These are great for encouraging people to get involved, and more engagement leads to the algorithm prioritizing them. Stickers include polls, question stickers, and the emoji slider. These provide a quick way to boost engagement and can work for any user.
5. Respond to Every Comment
Comments show engagement, which is good if you want to beat the algorithm. Likes and comments are always good, showing that people are engaging with your posts and that they, therefore, have value. The best influencers engage with their users in conversations.
Responding to comments can help to increase comments further. In the Feed ranking, comments and likes are especially important. So, make sure you get involved in meaningful conversations.
6. Use Instagram Analytics
You can use tools to find out what you are doing right on Instagram. For example, by checking your analytics in the Insights tab, you can find out what works and what doesn’t to improve ranking opportunities and understand which type of content works best.
Track and monitor the performance of your content to spend more time on what is working and make the best use of your time. Don’t just check it once and leave it. Instead, make checking your analytics a regular thing. Track your key metrics over the weeks and months and use what you find to improve your results.
The Instagram algorithm is constantly evolving, but a few signals will always play an important role in determining the most important content for users. Understanding how it works and what ranking factors affect your content is the first step in knowing how to beat the algorithm and get more of your content in front of your audience.
When you know what is important for the algorithm, you can focus on the strategies mentioned above to improve your Instagram performance and encourage more engagement. This will help you to get more of your posts in front of a more relevant audience. Then you can take full advantage of Instagram as a marketing tool for your business.
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