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Instagram users upload 95 million photos and videos to the platform each day. Of course, no one sees it all, so how does Instagram go about choosing what to show you? The answer lies in the Instagram algorithm.
What Is the Instagram Algorithm?
The Instagram algorithm is a complex system used to decide what content to show on users’ feeds. Its goal is to show users content they will find most relevant and engaging.
The IG algorithm considers various ranking factors aimed at keeping users on the app longer and increasing overall engagement. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- Interest: The algorithm analyzes each user’s behaviors, such as the posts they engage with, to show similar content that aligns with their interests.
- Timeliness: Recent posts are given higher priority, so newer content is more likely to be seen by users.
- Relationship: The algorithm takes into account the users with whom you interact or the accounts you follow or engage with.
- Frequency: If you open the app frequently, IG will show you the best content since your last visit.
- Usage: The amount of time spent on the app during each session can influence the content displayed.
Instagram uses different algorithms across each of its features: Feed Posts, Stories, and Reels. This is because users interact with each of these features differently and expect different experiences and content from them.
Instagram Algorithm 2023 Changes
Instagram hasn’t released a big update about its algorithm this year. However, some recent changes in the last year or so may affect your content marketing strategy on Instagram. A few notable changes include:
Not all videos are watched from start to finish. But those that are might find favor with the algorithm, at least on Instagram. If people are watching your videos for the entire duration, you may be more likely to show up on feeds.
Photos Over Videos
Content creators were doubling down on videos until recently because the algorithm told them to. But now, IG has announced it “over-indexed” on videos and is now showing more favor to photos. It’s estimated that the algorithm will prioritize photos and videos 50/50, give or take.
One of Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri’s goals for 2023 was to help people discover more of what they love, shared in a 2022 Instagram Reel. Instagram has always been a place for discovery and inspiration, so it’s no surprise that one algorithm change is to prioritize showing users new content every time they open the app. This is good news for brands, as it means your content is more likely to go beyond your own audience and inspire more people.
How the Instagram Algorithm Ranks Content: Feed, Stories, Explore, Reels
Each of Instagram’s main features offers unique experiences for users. To ensure a highly personalized experience that meets user expectations, each feature has its own algorithm that hones the experience over time. Here’s a closer look at how they work.
Feed Posts & Stories
What a user sees in their Feed or Stories is most likely to come from family and friends, as well as accounts they follow. Still, this content is largely driven by algorithms, which look at:
- Post information. How many likes and comments does the post have? When was it posted? How long is the content?
- Relationship. What’s the importance of the poster to the user? Is it from someone whose content you’ve frequently interacted with?
- User engagement. What types of posts have you engaged with in the past?
- User interaction history. Is this post from someone you’ve recently interacted with? How often do you comment on the user’s posts?
The Instagram algorithm will make predictions about the content you’re most likely to engage with. The posts higher up in the feed or Stories are those the algorithm thinks you’re most likely to view, like, share, or comment on.
The Explore tab is a place of discovery. Content shown here is usually based on a user’s interests beyond the accounts they follow. In fact, most of the posts here are from people you don’t know.
To start, the algorithm will look at posts you’ve engaged with in the past. It then looks at other people who have also engaged with those posts, then starts predicting other types of content you might also like.
The Instagram algorithm will then curate new content based on similar factors as the other algorithms, including post information, interaction history, user activity, and information about the poster.
Instagram went all-in on video in 2022, underscoring the idea that video is the front-runner for content marketing. Reels are short-form videos that are meant to entertain, so Instagram prioritizes content that is funny, inspirational, or otherwise mind-blowing.
User engagement metrics (e.g., likes, shares), the popularity of the person who posted it, and the content itself (e.g., the audio or music it uses) can all affect its attraction to algorithms. It also reviews the Reels users have recently engaged with and attempts to share more content like it.
What to Avoid Posting on Instagram
While there are certain things that algorithms love (likes, shares, and video completion rates, to name a few), there are also things that can lose the algorithm’s interest.
First and foremost, Instagram takes safety seriously and will not display content that it deems to be potentially harmful or hurtful to others. Anything that goes against Instagram’s Community Guidelines is also off-limits.
Any of the following may be considered off-limits:
- Information labeled as misinformation or fake news
- Content that promotes vaping or smoking
- Low-res images
- Images that have been watermarked
- Political content
- Content that may be upsetting to others
In addition, some types of content simply don’t do well in the rankings. This includes content with too much text, Reels without audio, or too much content posted by the same user in a short time span.
Tips for Using the Instagram Algorithm to Your Advantage
Creating great content for Instagram isn’t always enough to get noticed by algorithms. If you want your content efforts to pay off, put the following tips into practice.
Build Your Instagram Following
Follower count isn’t everything, but it can help you attract more love from the algorithm. People who are already following your Instagram account are more likely to see your content. The more people who see your posts, the more chances you have of earning engagement, which can attract some help from the algorithm.
Create Descriptive Captions with Keywords and Hashtags
One way Instagram algorithms learn what your content is about is to scan the caption for keyword or hashtag use. Don’t overdo it, but make sure you’re being as descriptive as possible so the algorithm can display your content to the right people. For help with this, check out our guide on hashtag marketing strategies.
Take Full Advantage of Reels, Stories, and Feed Posts
Instagram gives you several ways to share your content. Each feature can help you reach new people, so take advantage of what’s available to you. For instance, Instagram Stories is a great place to share bite-sized highlights, such as new product alerts, flash sales, or quick announcements. Reels can be a good place to share a demo or life hack. If you’re only posting in the Instagram feed, it’s time to branch out.
Time Your Posts
Engagement begets engagement. Algorithms love Instagram posts that people are already loving, so engagement rates tend to snowball. One way you can ensure engagement from the start is to post your content when your users are most active.
You can use general guidelines about the best times to post on Instagram. For instance, Sprout Social shares that Mondays around 10:00 AM or pretty much anytime Tuesday mornings are great times to post. However, this can vary by industry, plus you need to take into account where your audience is located.
You can also take a data-driven approach and use your own analytics to see when your audience is most active.
Encourage Interaction with Your Stories
Engagement is one of the key ranking signals for Instagram Stories. The more people you can get to engage here, the better it will help your rankings. One way to do this is to make your content interactive. Use polls or add stickers or emoji sliders to get users to do more than just watch.
Ask Users to Leave Comments
Comments are one type of engagement that can turn the algorithms in your direction. If you want users to leave comments, just ask. Come up with a question that encourages users to share their thoughts. Even a one-word answer can help your content stand out to algorithms.
Expand Your Reach with Instagram Influencers
Instagram influencers have already attracted the Instagram algorithm, giving you a clear path to brand exposure. Working with influencers puts your brand in front of more people. This can help you attract new followers and gain more engagement on your own posts, which is a great way to get more attention from the Instagram algorithm.
Improving Your Instagram Marketing with Klear
The Instagram algorithm is all about providing high-quality content to its users. But even if you’re doing that, many posts still don’t get the traction they need to achieve business goals.
One of the fastest tracks to algorithm domination is to use Instagram influencers who can help you spread your brand message faster and wider than doing it alone. Klear helps you find influencers who share your target audience and can get you in front of people who are most likely to care about your content. Learn more when you request a demo.