How the Instagram algorithm works
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There’s some sort of mysterious magic behind the Instagram algorithm, right? Some accounts seem to “hit it big” out of nowhere. And maybe you’re doing all the research in the world but still haven’t gotten the traction you want.
Even if your profile is saturated with amazing content, it still may not gain the attention you’ve hoped for. Let’s change that!
Your profile deserves to shine online. We’re going to help increase your chances to expand your Instagram reach and boost engagement.
In this article, we’ll break down how the Instagram algorithm works - and what you can do to get on its “good side.”
How Instagram's algorithm works in simple terms
There are so many layers of the Instagram algorithm, and they’re fluid.
Many people wonder, “How can I beat the Instagram algorithm?” But this is short-sighted thinking.
Don’t please the algorithm. Please the people.
Your main focus should be to create posts for Instagram that are relevant, valuable and interesting to your target audience. Then you will always be on Instagram’s good side.
13 things that the Instagram algorithm likes
There are several metrics that the algorithm takes into consideration when helping you do better on Instagram. They are:
- How many likes were generated on a post: This means that users saw what you posted and liked it.
- What kind of comments were made: You posted something that was worth interacting with. The next step for the algorithm is to figure out what kind of comments they were. Positive? Negative?
- How many people saved the post: Many posts are seen and forgotten. But the algorithm will wonder why your post for Instagram was worth saving for later.
- How valuable is the account itself: Besides looking at a single post, your entire Instagram account will be analyzed for credibility, engagement and interest.
- What content is similar to what you post: In order to get your posts in front of new people, the Instagram algorithm will match and complement other content with your own. For example: If someone likes rescue dogs, they also might like rescue cats.
- How fast the post is getting engagement: A popular post is one that was recently posted - not something that’s been sitting on your profile for a week. That’s why initial engagement is super important.
- How entertaining the post is: In the case of Instagram Reels, the fun factor is huge.
- How likely it is that someone will watch your entire video: You can do all sorts of video creation, from short Reels to hour-long shows on IGTV. Are people interested in every minute of video you put out?
- What previous interactions you’ve had with users: People who have seen your stuff (especially if they’ve interacted with your account before) will likely see more from you.
- How responsive you are to DMs and comments: This can also help boost 1-on-1 engagement since users will feel like you’re listening to what they have to say. To answer the same questions faster, consider making Instagram question templates with canned (but personable) responses.
- What hashtags you use to classify your posts: If you use the right hashtags, you’ll get in front of the right people, therefore increasing the likelihood of engagement.
- How often you have enhanced tags or user-generated content: The algorithm likes accounts that are active and interactive with other users and accounts. So, collaborate away!
- How often you post (which should be often): Keep users flooding to your posts and profile. The algorithm wants to see a steady flow of great content, preferably multiple times per day.
13 things the Instagram algorithm doesn’t like
What makes you rank worse in the algorithm? Just as the Instagram algorithm can exponentially boost a certain post or account, it can also make others fall.
In short, Instagram can “deprioritize” certain content or accounts. Things to limit and/or avoid:
- Fake news
- Flagged or reported posts
- Copy-and-paste hashtags sets on multiple posts
- Hashtag stuffing
- Offensive content
- Lackluster Reels
- Low quality or low res content
- Political content
- Reposted content
- Duplicate content (yours or someone else’s)
- Watermarked TikTok content
- Anything that goes against Instagram’s Community Guidelines
Some of these things should never be found on your account. Others, like watermarked TikTok content, should just be limited.
FAQs about how the Instagram algorithm works
A few more things to know about how the Instagram algorithm works…
Where does it collect all the data from?
If you think back to when you first got your Instagram account, you may remember that some of the content was good, but it wasn’t great.
However, after days, hours (even minutes) of use, the Instagram algorithm was hard at work learning about you.
You liked a picture of a Hawaiian beach… You lingered over a gourmet grilled cheese cooking video (because you were curious how grilled cheese becomes “gourmet”)... You started following #dalmatiansofinstagram and posted pictures of your own pup.
All of this information is derived from user data. It may also pull information from generalized demographic data, but it gets smarter as it goes.
Now, you go to your Explore page and it becomes a compilation of things you like, have searched for or may like.
Are there other ways to beat the Instagram algorithm besides posting?
Think of your Instagram account as a living, breathing individual. Be sure to interact with people who engage with your own profile, but also branch out and interact with other accounts.
Contribute by interacting with posts and brands that your target audience would see. Even just a simple, but original, comment on a post could inspire people to hop over to your profile.
Do I always have to post new stuff?
You want to keep your profile as fresh and original as possible. However, if you have some great old posts that are sitting at the bottom of your profile, consider repurposing them in an Instagram Story.
Since creative Instagram Stories don’t last forever (only 24 hours), people can still get a glimpse of great content, without having it duplicated on your account.
Are influencers worth it?
From both an algorithm and business perspective, they absolutely can be!
Not only will influencer relationships put your brand in front of potential customers, but the influencer’s own credibility with the algorithm will boost yours.
Success on Instagram is not about “cracking the algorithms” to work in your favor. They change constantly, and you have no control over when and how they are changed.
Instead of focusing on the nitty gritty, techy stuff for each and every post, think about the humans behind the screen.
Human nature remains relatively stable throughout time and throughout the internet. So, opt for timeless Instagram digital marketing tactics instead!
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