Ah, the elusive Instagram Algorithm. When the topic comes to mind, we can’t help but picture the algorithm as some mystical beast that many a man has attempted to conquer on their journey towards Instagram fame. And TBH, ever since Instagram began to move away from using the chronological feed in 2016, it really does feel like we’re chasing after some make-believe creature in order to get our content seen.
There are a lot of tall tales out there about how the algorithm operates and we’re here to clear the air for you so you can slay the beast once and for all.
How Instagram Ranks The Posts in Your Feed
Rather than displaying your posts in reverse chronological order, Instagram now relies on machine learning (AKA the algorithm) to show you what content they think might be most relevant to you. To do this, Instagram uses these key factors:
Interest: Content you care about
Instagram predicts how much each post matters to you, with higher ranking for content they believe you’ll care about the most. This is determined by the kind of posts you’ve engaged with in the past. The higher the probability is that you will “like” a post, the more likely it is to appear at the top of your feed.
Timeliness: When your post was shared
Instagram’s goal is to show you the latest and greatest of the content you love. So, expect to see the newest posts within your topics of interest at the top of your feed.
(HINT: This is why knowing when your audience is online is so important.)
Relationship: Who you’re closest to
Content posted by the people who matter to you will be awarded with a higher ranking. The algorithm determines this by people you’ve interacted with the most, such as liking, commenting on their posts, tagging them in photos, and more.
Frequency: How often you open Instagram
Instagram will show you “the best posts since your last visit,” so how much you are on the app matters.
Following: How many accounts you follow
The more people you follow, the more content the algorithm has to prioritize. Therefore, it’s not likely that you’ll always see posts from every account that you follow.
Usage: How you use Instagram
The amount of time you spend on Instagram will determine which posts you see. If you’re a chronic scroller (Guilty 🙋🏻♀️), Instagram will first show you what’s new in your world of interests and then slowly start to filter in older content.
How The Algorithm Affects Instagram Stories
Generally, the Instagram profiles you interact with the most (via stories AND feed) will show up first in your row of stories at the top of your home feed. Timeliness is also a big factor. The Instagram Stories algorithm will focus on showing you the latest stories from the accounts you care about the most.
Naturally accounts that post regularly will usually appear first on your story feed if you consistently watch and engage with them!
Let’s Get Tactical
Now that you’ve got a grasp on the algorithms inner workings, let’s look at some tactics to get more eyeballs on your posts.
Tactic #1: Optimize for Engagement
Since we know that Instagram prioritizes posts by what it thinks users will find most interesting, it’s time to focus on getting your audience engaged.
Start by analyzing posts you’ve shared in the past to see what your audience tends to like the most. Curate your content based on this information moving forward.
Then, when writing your copy, add a call to action (CTA) inviting your audience to engage. A great way to do this is by asking a question for your followers to answer in the comments.
Tactic #2: Keep the Conversation Going
Social media is a two-way conversation. Once your audience is engaged and commenting on your posts, don’t forget to respond (in a timely manner)! Keeping the conversation flowing with your audience is the best way to humanize your brand. PLUS, when users see that you are consistently responding, they are more likely to leave a comment.
Tactic #3: Post Consistently
Posting on a consistent schedule lets the algorithm know that you are a legit, quality account and the more frequently you post, the more opportunity there is for your audience to engage.
Tactic #4: Post When Your Audience is Online
Not to get all philosophical on you, but if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 🧐 While timeliness won’t make or break you, knowing when your audience is most engaged won’t hurt. Remember, the more your content is engaged with, the higher it will rank. So, do some research and make sure your posts are going up when the maximum amount of eyeballs are online to see them.
There’s tons of “Instagram hacks” floating around on the internet these days. It’s hard to know what’s information you can trust. Lucky for us all, Instagram has (finally) taken the time to answer our most burning questions via the @creators Instagram profile.
“Videos perform better than photos on Instagram.”
FALSE. The algorithm holds no bias towards video or photo. Shocking, we know. But remember, it’s all about the kind of content you engage with. If you engage with videos in your feed the most, expect to see more video content. Always double-tapping on gorgeous photos or motivational graphics? Expect to see that content dominating your feed.
“Switching to a business profile will hurt your engagement.”
FALSE. Another popular myth debunked. All account types are treated as equals. Instagram, again, points to engagement being the deciding factor for feed ranking.
“The first 30 minutes will determine how well your post performs”
FALSE. Read it and weep folks, posts will not rank higher just because they get more engagement in the first 30 minutes. BUT for most of us, this is great news.
Instagram will show your posts to those who regularly engage with your content, which means it can still gain traction, even after the first 30 minutes of posting. 🙌
The Bottom Line
Repeat after us: “Follower Engagement.” Are you starting to see a pattern here? Instagram wants to curate your feed with your favorite stuff. Whether it be puppies, pictures of your sister’s baby, or fire memes 🔥, getting in alignment on what kind of content your audience wants to see is the key tactic here.
Eager to sharpen your swords and get to slaying? Not so fast. The algorithm is a fickle beast and changes OFTEN. Do yourself a favor and follow Instagram’s @creators account if you don’t already. This is where you’ll find the most current updates and tips on optimizing your content.