How does the Instagram algorithm work?

by Emma Jeanpierre

When Instagram first launched in 2010, the news feed was organized chronologically. That means you would see the freshest posts first each time you logged in. This worked out great for Instagrammers who posted very regularly, but it wasn’t ideal for the users. The risk was high that you had missed posts by your family and friends. 

In fact, according to Instagram, people used to miss up to 70% of their feed posts when it was showing the latest posts first. That’s why, in 2016, Instagram changed the chronological classification of the feed for a categorization made by their algorithm in order to show you the most relevant posts first.

Let’s take a look behind the scenes to discover how this tricky algorithm works…

The Instagram algorithm
in a nutshell

As mentioned, Instagram feeds are no longer organized in chronological order, but this does not affect the quantity of content displayed to each user every day. 

It simply means that if your latest post does not appear at the top of your follower’s feed, Instagram analyzed that your content was not the most relevant for this user. 

What does it change? In concrete terms, it changes your posting strategy on the platform as the freshness of your content is not the only criterion of classification anymore. 

How does the algorithm decide which
content should be displayed to people?

The notion of “algorithm” caused a lot of confusion among Instagrammers and brands. As Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said his social media uses "a variety of algorithms, classifiers and processes". Each one has its own process and criteria for stories, reels, and posts.

instagram-feedTo avoid any misunderstanding, we are now talking about how your feed is organized, thanks to an algorithm. We will not discuss the Explorer ranking of content in this article. For more information, check out this tremendous resource: Shedding more light on how Instagram works. This article was written in June by Adam Mosseri. 


How is content ranked?

To understand how you should adapt your posting strategy, you should take your follower’s place to see how your posts are displayed on their feed. Posts are now ranked on your followers feed according to 6 criteria:

  • Interest: the first posts to appear will be the ones that are more likely to fit the user’s interests as they have recently engaged with similar content.  It means that your content has to be appealing and correspond to your follower’s interests. Otherwise, they will never see it.

  • Relationship: Instagram analyzes the relationship between profiles and ranks those with a stronger relationship higher in the feed. A strong relationship means that people follow you, you follow them back, you tag each other and like each other’s posts, etc. The higher your relationship intensity with the other user the higher up your content will appear in their feed.

  • Timeliness: a vestige of the chronological feed; Instagram tries to rank most recent posts higher.  For your business, this means that you should still post frequently when your audience is more likely to be online. 

Some additional factors are also taken into consideration: 

  • Frequency of use: the more your followers open Instagram, the more likely they are to come across your posts. You should post at least, each week, around 2 posts, 4 to 5 Reels and 8 to 10 stories. 

  • Following: the more accounts they follow, the less likely they are to find your posts on their feed, as it's flooded with a lot of content.

  •  Time spent: if someone briefly visits Instagram once a day, the algorithm will provide his feed with the most relevant content in a concentrated way. Whereas if they used to spend significant amounts of time on the app, Instagram would provide a larger amount of content… at the risk of diluting the relevance. 

Which factors don’t affect the Instagram algorithm?

Some factors do not weigh into the classification of the feed:

  • Whether you post videos or photos does not matter. Anyway, be careful: if your audience interacts more with videos, post more videos and vice-versa. Be flexible!

  • Business and personal accounts are treated the same by Instagram. 

  • Your posts will not be downranked if you post too often. 

Which strategy should you adopt to
gain more visibility on Instagram?

Knowing how the Instagram algorithm works is a good start, but now that you are aware of the various criteria involved in the ranking of posts, you can put your knowledge into practice. 

4 tips to overcome the
Instagram algorithm’s challenges

There are many ways to make the most of your knowledge of the Instagram algorithm, but to make it short:

  1. Follow the trends. The algorithm does not favor a certain type of post. But still, some posts are considered more engaging as users interact more with them. For instance, according to Hootsuite, carrousels make up 17% of the posts of the feed.

  2. Interact with your community as much as you can. Instagram favors the accounts that build a real relationship with their followers as they consider the audience keener on their content. 

  3. Analyze the performance of your posts. This will help you find out when your audience is online,  what posts generate the most engagement, which content they prefer, and so on.

  4. Tailor your posts to their customs. Analyzing your posts can help you redesign your strategy to fit your audience’s needs the best. 

If you want more details, take a look at our dedicated article: How to outsmart the Instagram algorithm?”. 

MakING the most of THE
Instagram Algorithm

The changes brought by the reorganization of the feed have undoubtedly enhanced the user experience of the platform as the user is shown top-relevant content, but it alters the strategy that your business must adopt to appear on your follower’s feed:

  • Follow the trends
  • Post often and consistently 
  • Use analytics to tailor your content to what interests your followers the most.

If you want to read more on Instagram, we advise you to dig in Reels, a high-converting format available on this social media. Please check our article: What is the power of Instagram Reels? 
Want more information about this specific topic? Don't hesitate to call upon our devoted agency Better&Stronger! We'll be pleased to help you!

Contact us

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Oct 15.2021

Why are Instagram Reels powerful business opportunities?

What are Instagram Reels? Where can you find Reels on Instagram? How long are Instagram Reels? What aspect ratio are they? Why do they have a high engagement...