The Lowdown on the Instagram Algorithm

From its launch in 2010 up to 2016, Instagram had already grown to 500 million accounts! With so many accounts to filter through, it was nearly impossible for users to interact with content from every account they followed. This led to a major drop in overall engagement as users were only seeing about 30% of content shared on the platform. The solution? The infamous IG algorithm.

What is “the algorithm”?

By 2016, people were missing 70% of all posts in their feed, including almost half of posts from their close connections. The Instagram algorithm was implemented to make sure the 30% of content users were actually seeing was the most relevant to them in order to improve overall user experience.

Oftentimes the algorithm gets a bad rep because many people believe it was the reason engagement dropped when in actuality, it was Instagram’s solution for that exact problem. Even so, despite backlash about the switch from the reverse chronological feed, Instagram now says relevancy sorting has led to its 800 million-plus users seeing 90% of their friends’ posts and spending more time on the app overall.

So, how does it work?

There are three main components used by the IG algorithm to order your feed:

  1. Interest: The accounts and types of content you engage with the most will be given higher priority

  2. Relationship: Accounts who interact with each other the most, and who are tagged in the same posts will see each other with higher priority

  3. Recency: The algorithm does favor newer posts, but how often you use the app will determine exactly how old the posts they show you will be

Some other things to note about the algorithm:

  • Fake interactions don’t count

  • Comments, likes, reshares & views all impact feed ranking

  • Photos and videos are ranked equally despite IG’s recent push towards more video-based content

  • The type of account (personal/business/creator) has no effect on overall ranking

  • The algorithm is powered by a learning machine, so it’s constantly changing.

Okay, so how do I “beat it”?

The IG algorithm might be tough to crack but is not impossible. Here are some tips for outsmarting the algorithm and improving your account's performance and reach.

Pay attention to what content performs and what doesn’t using Instagram Insights. Creating content that provides value to your followers is a surefire way to increase your engagement. You should also consider posting when your audience is most active and in the right mood for the type of content you’re sharing.

Make sure to prioritize creating real connections with your audience by tagging people in posts (when appropriate), and using strategic community engagement (don’t forget to respond to EVERY comment).

Another thing to remember is that captions are just as important as the content you post. Using calls to action gives your audience a reason to engage with you, while longer captions drive conversation and add more value.

Things to Think About

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to “beat” the Instagram algorithm in 2021. However, you can use the tips we’ve shared in this post to help you create content that will trigger Instagram’s signals and key factors.

If you create engaging feed posts, stories, IGTVs, and Reels, the Instagram algorithm will continue to serve your content to the right people.

Being consistent and building a genuine relationship with your followers is the most powerful way to “hack” the Instagram algorithm — and it will work wonders for your brand too.

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