How the Instagram algorithm works
Understanding how the Instagram algorithm works is key to successful promotion on a social network. This allows you to understand what content works best, how to show the publication to the maximum number of users, collect as many likes as possible and enter the hashtags correctly. Questions regarding the algorithm’s operation began to arise especially sharply when Instagram abandoned the chronological order in the feed. In the background of the update, many rumors and theories have surfaced. We tried to understand in detail the features of the Instagram algorithm, and are ready to share our knowledge.
The intelligent Instagram algorithm takes into account 7 key factors when selecting the best posts to show to users:
- Engagement. Posts with more interactions with users are ranked higher in the feed. But this is not a priority.
- Relevance. The algorithm tracks the interests of users, for example, cooking, tourism, fitness, based on viewed content and hashtags. The relevance of content to the user’s interests takes precedence over engagement.
- Interactions. The posts of friends, colleagues and those people whom the user often likes and comments on are placed at the top of the feed. And since Instagram and Facebook have one owner, interactions on this social network are also taken into account. The priority in the feed is also given to the posts of those people to whom the user most often writes.
- Time. Many posts are lost in the feed, because the ranking algorithm also takes into account the age of the publication, comparing it with the user’s last and current visit.
- Profile views. To make it easy to find interesting content, the algorithm immediately shows the posts of those people that the user was persistently interested in.
- View time. The logic of the algorithm is simple: if a post made a user delay, then the topic is interesting to him.
- Reposts. The algorithm takes into account the content that the user shares, and tries to show him similar topics in the feed, and also raises the ranking of posts of those with whom the user often shares posts.
Based on these indicators, the Instagram algorithm tries to select the most interesting content for users and hide old, unnecessary, or regarded as SPAM posts from the feed.
How the Instagram algorithm works
As it has already become clear, Instagram not only gives out randomly posts, but selects them in accordance with the interests of users, taking into account many factors. And the more the algorithm is “confident” that the publication is interesting, the higher it rises in the ranking. Let’s take a closer look at how the algorithm determines the order of publications to form each specific section.
As the developers themselves say, the Engagement rates affect the order of the feed formation. Likes, comments, views are considered the key ones. The algorithm also takes into account how often you exchange messages with the user in Direct, look for it in the search. That is, for the most part, which publications will end up in the user’s feed depends on his actions.
If a user often likes, comments, searches and views a profile, then after some time this account will most likely fall into the “Friends & Family” category and will be shown more often in the feed. And vice versa. Many probably noticed that as soon as you subscribe to a user, his publications often appear in the feed. But if you do not like them, do not comment, do not share them, then over time the publications will go down lower and lower in the ranking list.
Another important detail is the time spent on the platform. If you have never visited the “Your actions” section in the settings, we recommend that you do so. In one of the paragraphs, you can see the average time per day that you spend on Instagram.
When selecting content, the algorithm takes it into account, and does not show more content than the user can see. That is, the account feed with 30 minutes and 7 hours of online will be different.
It also plays a role in how many times a day the user opens the application. If Instagram opens often, then the feed will be very similar to the chronological one. The algorithm will show all the changes that happened in your absence. If the social network is visited once a day or less often, then the algorithm will sort the content by attractiveness, and the chronology will no longer be observed.
The very first Stories you see are user stories you interact with more often. These are the accounts that you like, comment on, view. The algorithm closely monitors the relevance of the content. Thanks to this, some users, who often publish Stories, manage to be in the first positions in the search results, even if you don’t really like them or comment on them. Stories also rise higher, with which they often interact. Therefore, it is recommended to give as many reasons as possible to users to interact with the content.
This is a relatively new section of Instagram, so there is not so much detailed information on how the IGTV SERP is formed. But it is logical to assume that the algorithms for its issuance and ranking are in many ways similar to the feed. The algorithm selects videos based on their popularity and user interests. Moreover, those videos that have received the largest number of views are added to a separate section “Popular”.
Many people think that IGTV is dead, but in practice this is far from the case. As statistics show, uploading videos longer than 1 minute is more profitable just on IGTV. This allows you to get 4 times more reach.
Instagram developers strive to make the Recommendations page more personalized and interesting for each specific user. Content in this section is selected based on user reactions, but according to its own more sensitive algorithm.
To evaluate how the Instagram algorithms work, you can carry out a simple experiment. If you like content on a certain topic for several hours, then after a while you will receive a feed entirely consisting of publications on this topic.
Recently, Instagram in the “Recommendations” section also launched channels by topic. And in the future, it will be possible to add the ability to place tags to publications, making it easier for channels to index in recommendations.
TOP by hashtags
The main criterion that is taken into account when ranking in the TOP by hashtags is the number of likes collected within a short period of time. Therefore, any user can get into the TOP, regardless of their audience or account engagement. The main thing is to collect as many likes as possible under the post with the appropriate hashtag.
In addition, the algorithm takes into account the relevance of the content to the hashtag. Because of this, new publications and content of a month ago may coexist in one collection. How many likes you need to get to the TOP largely depends on the popularity of the hashtag. To break into the TOP for mega-popular hashtags, you need to compete with a huge number of users. It is easier to rank in the TOP for highly specialized tags.
How often the algorithm changes
The Instagram algorithm is constantly being improved. The system works on the basis of machine learning and instantly reacts to all actions of users and those who are trying to deceive the algorithm. Most likely, the algorithm is changing even now, while you are reading this article. This sometimes causes the content to stop working. But globally, constant change is good. This ensures that users always get interesting content and a more enjoyable Instagram experience.
Frequently asked questions
How do Instagram algorithms work? What’s the best content to use? How to get to the TOP? The list of exciting questions for SMM marketers and bloggers is endless. We tried to collect answers to frequently asked questions, including official ones – from Instagram.
Does account type affect rankings?
Before the algorithm, normal and business profiles are equal. When ranking, the account type is not taken into account. And even the official accounts marked with a blue checkmark do not have any privileges. Therefore, you can safely choose the type of account with which it is convenient to work.
At the same time, it is important to note that personal accounts do not have any additional options for promotion, while author accounts or business profiles may offer more advanced functionality.
Video is preferred over photo?
No. The algorithm is not based on content type. The feed is formed individually for each user, depending on what content he views more often and what content he interacts with more often.
So, if a user rarely watches video content, then he will not get into his feed very often. Because of this, it is recommended that you post different types of content to your account in order to have a better chance of users with different preferences to interact with it.
Are Activity Chats Effective?
Activity chats allow people to group together for mutual likes and comments in the hopes of moving up the rankings. Instagram developers insist that there is no need to get involved with any type of promotion of interactions, since this will not bring the desired effect.
The point is that simply increasing engagement will not lead to posts being shown to the right users. They will simply be more likely to be seen by other participants in the activity chat, since the algorithm will consider them to be of interest to this particular user group.
Monosyllabic comments are not counted?
There is a myth that monosyllabic comments consisting of 1-3 words do not count towards ranking. In fact, this is nothing more than a myth. Instagram takes into account all comments equally. Another thing is that frequently repeated comments, consisting of one word, can be regarded as SPAM and an attempt to deceive the algorithm, which can even cause a “shadow” ban.
Does the algorithm rank higher posts that get more likes and comments in the first 30 minutes?
Many users are sure that the more activity a post gets in the first 30 minutes after publication, the higher it will rank in the feed and the more often other posts from your account will be shown.
Instagram developers argue that this is not the case. The key factor in determining what a user sees in their feed is their interactions with other profiles. But this does not mean that you should neglect the optimal time to post, when the majority of your subscribers are online.
How to get favored by the Instagram algorithm
Instagram’s algorithm has a complex model for selecting interesting content for users, which takes into account many factors. It is almost impossible to deceive the algorithm, since it is being improved and updated every second, trying to detect fake activity and other shenanigans to increase the ranking. But you can still earn the favor of the algorithm and increase your chances of getting high rankings. We’ll share some basic tips on how to do this.
Choose the optimal posting time
Instagram prioritizes the most relevant and fresh posts. Therefore, if you post while your audience is asleep or busy at work, chances are that your post will get lost among the more recent posts that have appeared closer to their online.
You can use the built-in Instagram Insights available for business profiles to determine the optimal posting time. One of the points in it reflects the hours of the greatest activity of your audience. It is recommended to publish content at this time.
Work on engagement
Try to involve subscribers in your posts as much as possible, because the more likes and comments you get from them, the more often your posts will appear in their feed. Some of the most effective ways to engage users are contests and interactive prizes. Possible options:
- Subscribe to take part in the drawing.
- Leave a recommendation or tag a friend.
- Gift for repost.
- Tell your story.
It is recommended to hold draws every few months. You can organize them yourself, or take part as a sponsor in a collective Giveaway.
Photos tend to get more likes, but videos are more often commented on. On average, users also spend more time watching videos, which has a positive effect on engagement. In addition, the popularity of this type of content has increased by more than 40% over the past six months.
Use custom content
People trust influencers more than brands. Not surprisingly, authentic and genuine user-generated content gets more attention than brand stories about product benefits.
Try to motivate users to create content, for example, creative contests, discounts for honest reviews and reviews, promotions. Publish the collected user generated content on your page, thereby increasing user loyalty and engagement.
Don’t Forget Stories
Users have long appreciated the feature of short videos, but many companies, for some reason, are still reluctant to adopt Stories. At the same time, it is the ideal type of post to remind yourself and show content that cannot be included in the concept of the main feed.
Popular bloggers broadcast live several times a week for several reasons. Firstly, this type of content allows you to increase the engagement rate on the account, which, as you know, has a positive effect on ranking. Secondly, live streaming allows you to gain the trust of users and build friendships with them.
Advertising allows you to increase organic reach, make yourself known to the target audience. It is recommended to advertise those posts that have gained the most popularity among your subscribers. If your followers are interested in these posts, then other users will surely like them.
Quality, not quantity
It’s better to publish one quality post instead of 20 mediocre ones. Quality should be paramount, otherwise the profile will appear gray and get bored very quickly. At the same time, you shouldn’t disappear from the radar for a long time, otherwise users may simply forget about your existence.
It is recommended that you create a publishing schedule and content plan ahead of time to maintain the optimal pace.
Instagram developers strive to make the social network as useful and interesting as possible for users by carefully selecting content for display. And in order to get to the top positions in the rankings, it is not enough just to publish often. You need to be able to interest people, keep their attention and motivate them to be active.