How the Instagram Algorithm Works (And How to Decode it)

instagram algorithm

Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform brimming with competition. Whether you own a B2B brand or a B2C brand, you are always competing for homepage feed ranking. If you want to get more engagement and bring more customers on board, you need to work towards getting more and more people to see your content.

According to statistics, close to 80 percent of accounts follow a business on Instagram.If you want to get maximum visibility for your content and improve the organic reach for your account, you need to understand the Instagram algorithm. It is the algorithm that determines which of your Instagram posts will appear on top of your audience feed and how these posts are ranked.

It is important to decode the Instagram algorithm if you want to make it work in your favor. So, let’s look into how the Instagram algorithm works. Following this, we will share different ways by which you can make the algorithm work in your favor.

Instagram Algorithm

The algorithm for all content posts on Instagram is based on 3 main factors, namely-

i) Timeliness of the content you posted

ii) Your relationship with your followers

iii) How interested will your followers be in your content

Timeliness Of Your Content

One of the factors that the algorithm on Instagram gives priority to, is the timeliness of your content. How long ago did you share the content on the platform?

Instagram does make sure that your audience gets the latest posts on their homepage feeds. As such, the chronology of your posts will be one of the factors that will be taken into account when posting content on the platform.

Your Relationship With Your Followers

Instagram gives favor to content posted by your friends and family. The relationship that you have with a follower on the platform will play an important role, as determined by the algorithm, will also have a say.

Instagram monitors your activity with every account and finds out the accounts with which you engage the most. It determines your relationship with an account on the basis of how you have interacted with that account.

Instagram labels those accounts with which you have interacted the most, in terms of likes, comments, DMs, etc. as your ‘friends and family’. To put it simply, Instagram will rank those posts higher on your feed that are from accounts with which you engage most often.

So, those followers who engage with your account more often are likely to find your content on the top of their feeds.

How Interested Your Followers Will Be In Your Content

The Instagram algorithm pays close attention to your followers’ past behavior and accordingly places content on your audience’s feeds. Depending on the kind of content that a user engages with the most, the platform will populate the feed for them.

For instance, if you are constantly looking up content related to home decor, you will find your feed populated with such posts.  

Using machine vision or what is called image recognition, the Instagram algorithm assesses the content of a photo. Those of your followers who regularly engage with the kind of visual content you post will see more of your posts and similar posts on their Instagram feed.

Other Factors

The other factors associated with the Instagram algorithm that play an important role include how frequently a user is on the app, how long they use the app and how many accounts are they following.

If your follower is frequently using the app, the chances of getting your content seen become easier. The algorithm favors content that is of the best quality, in this case.

The number of accounts your follower has followed also plays an important role. The more accounts they are following, the lesser number of posts from a specific account will appear on their feed.

The duration for which followers are on the app will also determine if they will see your posts on the feed. If a user is spending only a few minutes on Instagram, then the chances of getting your content in front of your audience are less.

The Algorithm Behind Instagram Stories

Around 500 million people use Instagram stories every day, out of which one-third the most viewed stories are those created by businesses. If you too want to create and run some of the most-viewed stories, you need to understand how these stories are ranked. You need to understand the algorithm that helps you get maximum views for your stories.

In the case of Instagram stories, the algorithm is based on how often a follower engages with an account. If your followers are regularly engaging with your posts, stories and through DMs, then you are more likely to be one of the first few icons on their story carousel.

The Algorithm Behind IGTV

Instagram Algorithm 2019 - IGTV

This IGTV video by the Food Network generated a good level of engagement from the audience. If you too want your IGTV videos to get more engagement, you need to break down the algorithm behind it.

The IGTV videos are categorized into these 3 sections- Popular, For You and Following.

The videos in the ‘For You’ section will appear according to what Instagram believes a user will like, based on machine learning and the accounts they will follow. So, if your followers are seeing more of your content, chances are that they will see your videos in the ‘For You’ section.

The ‘Following’ section features all the videos by those you follow. In the ‘Popular’ section, there are all the videos that are trending and popular on the platform.

How To Decode The Algorithm And Make It Work In Your Favour

Now that you have understood how the Instagram algorithm works, you should move towards making it work for you. Here are a few tips on how you can make the Instagram algorithm work in your favor-

Create Engaging Content

Your content plays a major role in making the algorithm work in your favor. You want to stay ahead of other accounts in getting a higher rank on your audience’s feeds.

Build a content strategy that helps you win over the hearts of your audience. Instagram Video posts tend to attract 38% more engagement than image posts. In fact, video posts are more likely to compel your audience to comment than image posts.

This video that Coca Cola posted on Instagram, drew as many as 12K likes and compelled people to comment. Such kind of content has the potential to go viral when it keeps appearing on people’s feeds, because of the high levels of engagement that it generates.

Instagram Algorithm 2019 - Creating Engaging Content

Focus on entertaining and educating your audience through your content. Offer value to your audience through quotes, how-to videos and demonstrations, and offer a platform where they can ask you questions.

Instagram Algorithm 2019

Entertain them with interesting visuals or funny memes and/or jokes. The idea is to draw your audience again and again to your account.

You have to work smartly with your content to make people wanting to come back to your account for more. As more and more people engage with your content, the Instagram algorithm starts working in your favour and brings your content on the top of your followers’ feed.

Post Consistently

Another way to ace the algorithm is by posting your content consistently. If you are posting content at least once every day, you should make sure to follow the cycle. If you are posting several times a day, make sure to maintain that consistency.

Depending upon the nature of your business and the type of products you offer, you can set up and maintain a consistent posting schedule for your brand. The Instagram algorithm takes timeliness also into account when deciding as to how the posts will rank on your audience’s feed. Posting consistently will ensure that your content gets seen by more people than if you post inconsistently.

In fact, the more people see your content, the more likely they are to engage with your content. As the engagement levels on your content increases, it leads to better visibility for your content on the platform.

Post Your Content When Your Audience Is Most Active

Here’s a quick hack to outsmart the Instagram algorithm- post content when your audience is most active. Now, you know that timeliness plays an important role in your Instagram homepage ranking. This implies that the content that you posted latest will appear first on the platform first.

By posting content when your audience is most active, you can increase the exposure for your content on the platform. Greater the exposure, the better the engagement levels for your content. Eventually, it will help improve your homepage rankings.  

Track Your Instagram Content Performance

If you want to make the Instagram algorithm really work for your brand, you need to work on your content. Content is king and can make or break your Instagram strategy. You know that the algorithm gives preference to posts with higher engagement levels.

The best way to stay on top of the Instagram algorithm is by knowing what kind of content is more engaging and what isn’t, what is working for your brand and what isn’t. You can employ a social media analytics tool that helps you track your performance. With the help of this tool, you can track as to which of your Instagram posts generated engagement and which ones weren’t effective. You can also gather important insights about your audience and use it to create content that matches up with their likes and preferences.

You can take inspiration from content that generated engagement for your brand in the past. If an idea worked for your brand in the past, it is highly likely that it will generate a good level of engagement in the future as well. Using Unbox Social’s social media analytics tool, you can uncover in-depth insights about your engagement level and build a strategy that helps you get maximum engagement for your brand. Here’s a snapshot of the tool-

Instagram Algorithm 2019 - Unbox SocialWinding It Up

The Instagram algorithm is driven by the 3 main factors namely the timeliness of the content, the interests of the user and the relationship of the user with an account. Apart from these factors, Instagram also takes into account, the usage of the app, the frequency with which someone opens their account and the number of accounts they are following on the platform.

If you want to make the algorithm work in your favor, here is what you need to do-

  • Create educational and entertaining content that engages your audience and helps you rank higher on your Instagram feed
  • Maintain your posting consistency will help you get more exposure on your content
  • Focus on posting your content when your audience is most active
  • Track the performance of your Instagram content to know what’s working for your brand and what isn’t
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