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Instagram Algorithm: How does it work?

So, how does the Instagram algorithm work?


It is always a question that caused a lot of confusion since Instagram moved away from the chronological feed.


In this 2-part series of our blog posts, we will be showing how the Instagram algorithm works for feed posts, stories, Explore page, IGTV videos, and Reels.


Basically, the whole of Instagram!


This week we will only be covering Part 1, which is feed posts and stories and for part 2 (next week) we shall cover the rest (explore page, IGTV videos, and Reels).

The Instagram Algorithm in 2021


If you have spent much time on Instagram, you will know that the algorithm can act in strange ways.

However, once you comprehend how the elusive algorithm operates, you can use it to tailor you content strategy to your benefit.


So, let us get you up to speed on the Instagram algorithm.


Here is everything you need to know:


I. FEED POSTS: How the Algorithm Works

According to Instagram, there are 6 important factors that influence the Instagram algorithm for feed posts.


1) Interest

2) Relationship

3) Timeless

4) Frequency

5) Following

6) Usage


Factor #1: Interest


Your feed isn’t only based on who you follow, it’s also based on the type of accounts and posts you’ve like or followed historically.

The more the algorithm thinks you will “like” a certain type of post, the higher it will appear in your feed.

Basically, what you see in your Instagram feed is a mixture of all of your behaviour patterns on Instagram. The accounts you interact with the most, the people your are tagged in photos with, and of course, the type of posts that you like and comment on.


Therefore, consistency is crucial on Instagram.


It sends positive signals to the algorithm – and gives your audience more reasons and opportunities to interact with your content.


Factor #2: Relationship


The Instagram algorithm actively looks to prioritise posts from your family, friends, and other accounts you have an interest in.

So, in order for Instagram to show you what might interest you (your true interests), the algorithm used your interactions to piece together what might bring the most value to you.


Thomas Dimson, software engineer at Instagram, has shared the way Instagram figures out who you care about the most, based on sever principles:


  • People whose content you like (possibly including stories and live videos)

  • People you direct message

  • People you search for

  • People you know in real life


Therefore, the algorithm will intelligently calculate this relationship (including your interest level) immediately after you follow someone by offering you content and monitor the way you engage with it.


Factor #3: Timeless


Not only does the algorithm pay attention to how much engagement your Instagram post gets, but it also looks at how long ago the photos was posted.

The algorithm cares about when you posted, because it always wishes to offer you the latest, most interesting posts.


Therefore, by trying to figure out when is the best time to post on Instagram, you can basically “hack” the algorithm to work towards your benefit, increasing your reach and receiving more likes and followers.


Additionally, if you post when your followers are online and most active, you allow yourself a better change of receiving more likes.


Factor #4: Frequency


How often your find yourself on the Instagram app? If you’re a frequent scroller, your feed will look more chronological, since Instagram tries to show you the best posts since your last visit.

If you check the Instagram app less often, your feed will be arranged into what Instagram believes you might like, instead of chronologically.


Factor #5: Following


How many individuals do you follow on Instagram? If you follow many people, Instagram has more options to choose from, so you might not see all the posts from every account.

On a similar note, it might be to systematically remove inactive or “ghost” followers from your account.

If a large percentage of your following is inactive, it might cause more harm than good for your account’s algorithmic ranking.


Factor #6: Usage


The more time you spend on Instagram, the more you are going to see Instagram showcasing its catalog.

If you (somehow) manage to spend enough time on Instagram, you can eventually run out of new content to consume. Once this happens, the algorithm will try to serve you suggested content from new accounts – based on your previous interactions.


However, if you only spend a few minutes in the app each day, then you’re going to only see the day’s highlights from the algorithm.


II. Instagram Stories: How the Algorithm Works


Typically, Instagram Stories appear at the top of your feed, coming from accounts you engage with the most, whether that’s through likes, comments, story views, reactions, or DM’s

The Instagram Stories algorithm also puts a lot of focus on timeless content, as it wishes to always show you the latest stories from your favourite accounts.

If you regularly engage with an account, their new stories will be bumped to the front of your feed every time they post – even if you’ve watched all their stories from the previous day.


So, with this in mind, it’s always a good idea to post consistently on Instagram Stories.

Posting on Instagram Stories frequently, gives you have a better chance of reaching viewers as they browse their daily stories – and the more views you obtain, the better your ranking will be.

Posting can be easily be achieved via your mobile phone or there are many tools online that allows you to schedule all of your stories in an organised manner.

One of our favourite scheduling tools is Later.


There you go! This is Part 1 of our Instagram algorithm series. Part 2 will be published next week around the same time, so stay tuned for that!

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