Instagram is constantly changing, and we know that can be super frustrating. Wondering how Instagram prioritises different types of content? Today, we’ll explain what you need to know about the Instagram algorithms – yes, there are more than one! And that’s why we’re gonna be talking about them, how to use them to your benefit and decode some myths. Let’s dive right in.
Instagram Algorithm(s) Explained
The algorithm has felt like a really big guessing game, but Instagram actually revealed how it works. Instagram’s goal is to keep you and the other one billion users engaged on the app, and how they accomplish this is through the algorithm. It promotes content that’s gonna keep you coming back and scrolling through Instagram.
And remember that for years, we thought there was really just one algorithm? There are actually multiple algorithms for the different surfaces on Instagram. These algorithms are for reels, feed, stories, and the explore page. And you’ve probably heard that using more of the Instagram platforms, the better results you’re gonna see. And that’s because of these multiple algorithms. The more content you’re pushing out on these different algorithms, the more likely you’re gonna get in front of your ideal followers.
How the Algorithm Ranks Content
For each of these algorithms, there’s three main factors: timeliness, relationships, and interests.
Interest is how Instagram categorises content it thinks you will like based on what you’ve engaged with in the past. This is why it’s really important to be consistent, not only with how often you’re posting, but how you’re consistently posting about those different categories on your own account. Instagram has a lot of data on its users, so the better you can create content around those interest categories, the better it can matchmake your content for those ideal followers.
When it comes to timeliness, this used to be the chronological feed, which was all based on when you are posting your content. But now the algorithms are semi chronological, meaning that the content you’re seeing at the top of your feed most likely is posted sooner, which is that timeliness factor, but interest and relationships also play into what’s curated at the top of your feed. To boost this timeliness factor, the more engagement your content gets after you post it, the more likely Instagram is to push it out to more users.
And the last factor is relationships. This is who Instagram thinks your friends and family are, but as a brand and business, these are your super fans. And this is why it’s really important not to just post and then ghost, you wanna be sure that you’re replying to messages and you’re commenting back to your followers to boost that relationships factor.
Now that we covered the three factors on how the algorithms work, let’s break each down in detail.
Stories Algorithm & Tips
Let’s start with Instagram stories. Timeliness is a huge factor when it comes to the stories feed, because if you look at the bubbles that are closer to the top of your stories feed, those are the ones that have been posted more recently. You ideally wanna post maybe three times a day, morning, lunch, and evening, but you wanna avoid dumping all your stories at one time, because you’re really not gonna boost the timeliness factor.
Along with timeliness, relationships also influence what stories are gonna be at the top of the stories feed. Now, let’s see it in action. If you pull out your phone and you start a direct message conversation with someone that’s asked you a question, or maybe they’ve responded to one of your stories, you’ll notice that their stories are more likely to be at the top of your feed and vice versa.
To increase those story replies or direct messages, you wanna create more engaging stories content, and here’s how to do it.
1. Use more stickers
First of all, you wanna use more stickers like the poll sticker, question sticker and quiz sticker. This is gonna make your stories a lot more interactive and really start those conversations in your DMs.
2. Create conversational stories
Number two is make your stories more conversational. Pretend that you’re talking to one person and not a huge group of followers. This is gonna increase the likeliness that your followers feel invited to respond and react and reply, and not just passively watch.
3. Go behind the scenes
And the third one is share strategic behind the scenes. By strategic, we mean showing you creating your next product before it launches and showing your process, whether it means making a latte with your house-roasted beans, or working on a content strategy for a client. One of the most engaging types of stories are also showing a day in the life. People connect with people. So the more connection points you can give them with your stories behind the scenes, the more engagement and relationships you’re going to build!
Reels Algorithm & Tips
Next, let’s talk about the reels algorithm. Instagram has said they aren’t prioritising reels, but there’s more places to discover Instagram reels. You’ll notice you can share reels to the feed. You also can share them to stories, but reels also have their own feed entirely, which is in the centre of your screen. An Instagram reel is a looping video, which means it’s seamlessly repeating and people can watch it over and over again, which is a really great signal to Instagram that this is a great piece of content. So that’s why short-form reels are more likely to perform really well in the reels feed, but also in the feed algorithm.
Bonus tip, if you’re trying to create more entertaining reels, go to the reels tab and scroll and look at music that has a trending up arrow next to it. This means that the audio is currently trending so if you utilise it, you’re more likely to have your reel prioritised in the feed.
Explore Page Algorithm & Tips
Now let’s break down the explore algorithm. Instagram has hinted at wanting to make the explore page a more immersive place for video. So the more you can utilise vertical video in your strategy, the more likely your content is to be discovered on the explore page. Because the explore page is created for discovering new content, interest plays the biggest role on what’s curated on your own explore page.
For example, if you go and like a bunch of photos about cupcakes, chances are your explore page is gonna have a lot of cupcakes on it. You can’t hack the explore page, but by creating content around a certain topic, and then including those keywords in your caption, you’re gonna make it easier for Instagram to then categorise and prioritise your content on the explore page.
Leveraging the Algorithm
Before we get into some myth-busting around some hot topics like shadow banning, we wanna share some quick tips for leveraging the algorithm.
First, when you’re creating video content, make sure you’re using as many native features as possible. Meaning if you’re posting an Instagram reel, ideally, you don’t wanna have a TikTok watermark or TikTok text on your video.
Two, make sure you’re using as many of the different surfaces as possible in your content strategy. This is gonna increase the likeliness that your content is gonna be prioritised in the multiple algorithms.
And three, make sure you’re being consistent with how you’re posting on Instagram and what you’re posting about. This is gonna really help you gain traction and leverage the algorithm to your benefit.
Now let’s dive into these hot Instagram topics and myths.
Myth one: the more content you create, the better. That’s not necessarily true. It’s more about consistently creating content, less about the exact number of posts you create.
Myth two: hashtags are the only way to grow on Instagram. Or maybe you’ve heard hashtags are completely dead. Both are kind of false. Hashtags are just not as important as they used to be. It used to be all about posting as many hashtags as possible. Less is more when it comes to hashtags. It’s more important that you’re using the correct key words and phrases with the hashtags that you choose, and they actually represent the content your post is about.
Myth three: shadow banning. Completely false. Instagram has said shadow banning isn’t a thing, but they are being a lot more proactive about making Instagram a safer place to be with hate speech and negative comments. So don’t be a troll in comments and avoid talking about politics and you’ll be fine.
Myth four: organic engagement is impossible on Instagram. That is completely false! Check out our posts on how to optimise Instagram posts for maximum engagement, as well as some ways you can increase your Instagram reach and engagement.