As an Instagram user, you will have noticed that your newsfeed now is filled with the best content rather than the most recent content, as it was a year ago. Logically, it would follow that by creating great content, you will appear higher in your followers’ feeds. Unfortunately, it is a little more complex than this. Instead, you need to understand how the Instagram algorithm works to gain top rankings.
Popularity of Posts
The more engagement a post receives, the higher it appears in others’ feeds. Social media algorithms typically work by first showing a post to a small sample of users. If a large percentage of these users like, comment, share, save, or view (in the case of videos and stories) the content, the post receives a higher rank in other feeds. The algorithm also ranks content higher for users if someone they follow has engaged with the post.
Genres of Content
Instagram goes a step further to ensure users see content they will enjoy. Regardless of popularity, the algorithm gives posts a high ranking if it judges the content will be relevant to the user. It does this by showing content to users according to the genres they seem to like.
The algorithm knows what genres users have interacted with in the past thanks to photo recognition technology. Although we know that the algorithm uses this to categorize posts, it is uncertain whether the algorithm uses broad categories, like food, pets, and travel, or more detailed subcategories.
Instagram combines this information with hashtags to gain a better idea of what users enjoy. If you are not already using descriptive hashtags for search purposes, you should start doing so for better targeting.
Direct shares are another way Instagram sees which pieces are popular and determines what types of posts users find interesting. The algorithm also uses this information as a sign that the users sharing the content will like other posts from the same account.
Instagram promises users that they will see posts from their best friends before those from anyone else, no matter how many accounts they follow. It is likely that the algorithm gathers information about relationships between users from Facebook since Facebook owns Instagram. However, the algorithm can also gain this information from interactions including likes, direct messages, searches, and direct shares.
This aspect of the algorithm is a downside for businesses. The best thing you can do is publish posts that make users want to see more of your content. Although you may never be able to rank as high as the best friend of a user, you can at least stay near the top.
Better news for businesses is that the algorithm also places content near the top of feeds from accounts users check frequently. Instagram uses this as an indication that a user is interested in posts from these accounts. By giving content high rankings, there is no need for users to search for profiles. It appears that users appreciate this change, as after the algorithm was introduced, searches decreased.
Users want to see fresh content, as recent posts tend to be more relevant. This means that even if you garner a huge amount of engagement on one of your posts, the content will only remain at the top of feeds for a couple days at the most.
Some users have noticed that Instagram displays new posts every time they visit the platform. For these reasons, it is critical to constantly produce more content (of course, without overwhelming users) and to publish at a time when your followers are most active.
Time Viewing Posts
Facebook uses the time a user spends looking at content on the newsfeed as an indication of the relevancy of this post to the user. For instance, even if users pause for just a few seconds, this action shows Facebook that the post caught their attention — after all, they did not just scroll past. It is likely that Instagram also uses this as a factor in its algorithm and uses the information to rank similar posts higher in feeds.
Other Possible Factors
It is impossible to know all the criteria that the Instagram algorithm uses. If it is anything like Facebook, it takes into account of hundreds of factors. A few other factors that could contribute include:
- how frequently a user accesses Instagram
- how frequently a user posts
- the type of post (giving more weight to videos)
- whether the content is from a business account or a personal account
- and the number of hashtags attached to a post.
Advantages of the Algorithm for Businesses
If you are creating content your followers love, the introduction of an Instagram algorithm has been great for you. When posts appeared in reverse chronological order, users missed 70 percent of all the posts on their feeds. Users likely would have appreciated the posts they missed more than the content they did see.
Previously, the accounts that received the most views were the ones that posted the most often. Now, to ensure users see your content, you simply need to post high-quality pictures, videos, and stories that resonate with your audience.
Although this change may mean adapting your strategy, try to see it as a positive. There is now less pressure to post frequently and more incentive to create engaging content — an aim you should have anyway.