How Instagram Algorithm Actually Works

Harshita Agrawal

Harshita Agrawal is the Founder at eSocMedia. She is a social media and influencer marketing specialist who spends most of her time behind the screen. She's also an avid reader and a travel enthusiast.

If you’re an Instagram fanatic, chances are that you would want to improve your post reach on Instagram by learning about the Instagram algorithm. The secret to being successful on any platform be it search engines or social media lies in their algorithm. The better you understand their algorithm, the faster you can rank your posts higher on them.

Understanding Instagram algorithm is simple in theory but harder in practice. This is simply because when it comes to following the algorithm, there are no essential do’s and don’ts. However, understanding the basics of the Instagram algorithm can help you decide elements like how you can improve the post reach.

Now, let’s understand the essential elements of the algorithm and how to master the Instagram algorithm.

The Core Elements of Instagram Algorithm:

Instagram uses image recognition to decide which posts are to be shown to which user. For example, if their algorithm detects that you interact more with posts that have cats, they will show more cat pictures on your feed.

This aspect of Instagram to show what people are genuinely interested in has also increased the time people spend on the app. Instagram team recently explained a group of reporters how their algorithm works, and here’s the gist of it:

How Instagram Algorithm Actually Works

The three core elements of the Instagram algorithm are:

1. Interest:

Interest is what you are going to love most on Instagram and like/comment when it appears on your feed. Your engagement with the post helps Instagram pick what’s best for you.

If you’ve ever noticed Instagram Explore page, then you would have seen that clicking an image shows all similar posts on your feed. The motive behind is just the same: Flooding the feed with everything one likes so they can stay longer on the platform.

How Instagram Algorithm Actually Works

Takeaway for you: If you’re a brand trying to reach a bigger audience, then you need to create engaging content that people spend time liking and commenting. If people are interacting with your content, Instagram will amplify its reach to similar audiences who are interested in similar content.

2. Timeliness:

The recency of the post is one of the most crucial factors on what is shown at the top of your Instagram page. You would often notice that all your top posts are the ones that have been recently shared. The reason for this is obvious, Instagram users want to see what’s new every time they open their Instagram account.

How Instagram Algorithm Actually Works

This is also one of the reasons why Instagram introduced “you’re all caught up” last year to make sure their users are not looping around old content and enjoy the latest content.

Takeaway for you: For brands and influencers trying to grow their Instagram account, timing of your post is very important. It’s best to post on times when your users are online so your post is at the top of their feed when they are watching.

3. Relationship:

How often you’re tagged in someone’s posts or how often you interact with them also determines what makes to the top of your feed. Last year, Facebook decided to put “friends and family” above advertisers, and Instagram wants to make sure of that too.

Hence, your relationship, interaction, and engagement with other users also decides the content of your feed.

The takeaway for you: Encouraging user-generated content will help you stay at the top. When more and more people are tagging you and you’re tagging them, there’s a higher chance of your posts showing at the top of your followers’ and their related accounts.

The Not-Important Elements of Instagram Algorithm:

Apart from the factors above, Instagram has also highlighted several factors that DO NOT contribute to their algorithm. Some of them are:

  • There’s no preference given to videos or stories over images. As such, Instagram algorithm does not favor video content over images. All content type is considered equal and what’s shown depends on the factors listed above.
  • Accounts are not banned or shadowbanned or down ranked because of posting too often or using repeated hashtags (allegedly).
  • There’s no preference given to business accounts over personal accounts.

Final Words:

I hope the points above have cleared a lot of doubts about the Instagram algorithm for you. If you still have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.