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The Instagram Algorithm: How To Gain Reach & Stay In Your Audience’s Feed

In 2021 Instagram removed the reverse Chronological feed and now has an algorithm which decides what content to show based on a user’s engagement and presumed interests.

The algorithm ultimately decides which posts are shown at the top of the newsfeed and in what order. What posts are featured on the explore tab, and which order the Stories, Reels, IGTV and Live Videos show up in the feed and their own tabs.

Instagram Algorithm Ranking Factors

There are 6 key factors in the ranking system that help Instagram decide what content to show a user.

1. Relationship

Does the user engage with or message you frequently?

2. Interest

Does the user typically engage with this type of post? (ie. carousel, image, video ..)

3. Timeliness

When was it posted? Recently?

4. Frequency of Use

How often does the user check instagram?

5. Following

How many people does the user follow?

6. Session Time / Usage

How much time does the user spend on instagram a day?

Relationship

Instagram will try and decipher if your followers will want to see your new content based on past interactions and on an evaluation of your relationship. Some points they use to evaluate the relationship are:

  • Do you follow each other?
  • Do you send messages to each other?
  • Do you engage on one another’s posts? leave comments?
  • Do you tag each other?
  • Did they search you by name?
  • Do they save your posts?

 

If you run a business account then you definitely want to keep up the engagement with your followers. You may not be able to message them privately all the time, but if users are engaging with your content, the algorithm will recognize it.

Interest

You have to display content that will be interesting to your users within the realm of your business or your offering. If you are targeting a cat loving audience, then naturally you will have relative content with cats in it. You need to appeal to your target audience and give them consistent content that tells a story of what they want to see.

To optimize feed performance you need to create content that will create engagement. The most important metrics of engagement according to Instagram are comments, likes, reshares, and views of videos.

Timeliness

Timeliness is a big factor in getting your content onto the screens of your audience. It matters what time you release content as Instagram wants to show users the latest, most interesting posts.

You will want to research when your audience is most likely to be using Instagram based on where they are located. This is because Instagram prioritizes new content on people’s feeds, so you will want to release posts when your audience is on the app.

Check out Later’s article on The Best Time to Post on Instagram and come up with a schedule that makes sense for you and your audience.

Frequency of Use

For people who spend less time on Instagram, the more the algorithm will decide what content is ranked highest to determine what the user will see. The more a user looks at their feed, the more chronological it will be. The less a user visits, instagram will sort the feed based on what they think the user will like the most.

Following

The more people you follow, the more content there is to show, which means you probably won’t be seeing every post from every account.

If a large percentage of your following is inactive and not engaging, then this could be doing more harm than good. You should remove “ghost” and inactive accounts from your following.

Session Time / Usage

Session time or usage is the amount of time a user spends in one visit, which means the user will see more posts in that time, and get deeper into the content. If a user spends enough time to go through all the content from the accounts they follow, then instagram will start showing relative content from suggested accounts that they don’t. This is where opportunity arises for those accounts to gain a new follower.

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work for Stories, Reels, IGTV Videos, and the Explore Page?

Stories

Stories that show up at the beginning of your feed are from accounts that you engage with the most. This engagement comes from liking and commenting on posts, viewing and reacting to stories, and sending messages.

Timelines also account for what stories show up first, as they want to show you the newest content. By being consistent in sharing stories and posting them regularly, the more views you will get, which, in turn, will boost your ranking.

IGTV Videos and Reels

As with other types of posts, Instagram prioritizes Reels and IGTV Videos from accounts that you engage with the most. It will also suggest videos that are similar to those types of videos that you engage with. Instagram also serves videos and Reels on the Explore page based on a machine learning model based on the users interests.

To make sure your IGTV Videos and Reels are reaching new audiences ensure you are sharing them to your main Instagram feed and include relevant hashtags so they can be found through search.

Explore Page

The Explore page is ever evolving with new search features and topic categories. You can search by keywords and hashtags to discover relevant content that you are looking for.

The Explore page doesn’t just take into account hashtags, but also written captions and the actual image you post. To keep ranking on the Explore page just remember to have great content with strong captions and niche hashtags.

Steps To Take To Improve Your Ranking

The instagram algorithm is just trying to serve the most relevant and interesting content to the user. The best thing you can do is continue to create engaging content. Strive to create posts that will drive interactions, here are a few tips on how:

  • Use stickers in your stories, especially the emoji sliders, polls, and questions. (Plus you can get great insight to your audience). 
  • Ask questions in your captions to get users to leave comments.
  • Keep on top of your DMs. Encourage users to DM you or engage with your posts with emoji reactions.
  • Hashtags will help users find your content in a search.  Do some research to find relevant hashtags and come up with a  strategy.
  • Use any new features Instagram releases, such as Reels. They give new features a boost to increase adoption.
  • Analytics! The data will tell all, from what is working to what you need to work on.

At the end of the day it is all about being true to your brand and providing content that makes sense for you and for your audience. By engaging and getting to know your audience, you will build that relationship with them and be able to gain loyalty and insight to build upon your brand.

 

Learn some more cool stuff and check out our blog page for articles on a variety of topics!

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