Like many social media platforms today, Instagram has an algorithm designed to keep users engaged. Prior to 2016, Instagram feeds were organized chronologically with no real personalized algorithm. However, in March of 2016, Instagram announced they were moving away from chronological feeds and implementing an algorithm based on what users engaged with most. This algorithm is individually tailored to each user based on the types of content they’re most likely to interact with.
Today, this algorithm is still set in place. Every time a user opens the app, the algorithm automatically sorts through content to decide:
- Which posts belong at the top of your feed
- The order in which stories, live videos and reels are organized
- Which posts should be featured in your explore tab
What are the algorithm’s ranking signals?
Instagram ranks content based on a number of factors, similarly to how Google ranks and orders websites on the search results page. The key elements that the algorithm looks for include:
Relationship between users
Instagram takes into account the relationship between users when deciding which content to prioritize. Key factors that determine the relationship include:
- Whether both users follow each other
- How often they comment or like a specific users posts
- If users have tagged each other in posts
- Who users have searched for by name
For brands, this means engaging with your followers directly will help you stay at the top of their feed. Additionally, promoting engagement, such as asking followers to leave a comment or tag a friend can help keep the algorithm on your side.
Instagram retained the chronological sentiment in the new algorithm by marking the most recent posts as important. Instagram states that all posts will at some point show up on everyone’s feed, however most users will not spend hours scrolling through content to view every single post.
What does this mean for brands? Choose a time when most of your followers are online to post. This will capitalize on the timing factor of the algorithm, ensuring that new posts will always appear at the top of your follower’s feed.
Frequency of use
User’s who open the Instagram app more than 12 times per day are more likely to see your post than those who open their feed twice per day. Those who don’t check their feed often experience the algorithm’s work more, since Instagram has to sort backlogged content that is posted while they’re away. This means that beating the algorithm and ranking top on some users’ feeds is easier than others.
The goal of the Instagram algorithm is to give users the experience they are looking for by providing them with the types of content they like best. Instagram does this by tracking:
- The types of content users interact with most
- What users are searching for
- Posts that users directly share with others
- The number of likes and comments left on a post
For brands, this means producing interesting, unique, and engaging content is critical for the Instagram algorithm. Find out what your audience is interested in and produce content that matches. This will help increase the amount of engagement your posts receive and boost them to the top of your followers feed.
What are the best ways to work with the algorithm?
Once you understand how the algorithm works, there are a number of ways to work with the algorithm and ensure that you’re posting the best content for your followers. The best ways to work with, not against, the algorithm include:
- Post consistently
- Take advantage of new Instagram features, such as stories and reels
- Choose relevant hashtags for your captions
- Build relationships with your audience
- Don’t try to outsmart the system by buying followers or investing in Instagram automation. They just don’t work
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