How does Instagram’s Algorithm work and what does it mean for Advertisers

Read about the algorithm which decides what and how much content you see!

Instagram’s Algorithm work

When, in July of 2016, Instagram first introduced its algorithm; everything changed!

And since then, there is one question that still hasn't been answered properly and that is...

'How exactly does Instagram feed work?'


‘How does Instagram's algorithm work?’

The question of this nature has puzzled marketers for years now. And that's one of the main reasons why we decided to take on this topic of Instagram Algorithm and share some valuable insights with our readers.

So let's start by breaking down the different segments of this process, keep on reading to know the working of Instagram Algorithm!

Principles Of Instagram Algorithm

As per Instagram itself, there are three main principles that determine the content in a user's feed. These principles are as follows:

principle of Instagram Algorithm

1. Interest

The Instagram application basically uses the technology of Image Recognition to evaluate the content of a particular Instagram post. For instance, if you frequently engage with posts that feature cats then the Instagram algorithm will give preference to cat-related videos and photos while organizing your Instagram feed.

2. Timeliness

This work-in-progress technology functions in a similar manner like hashtags, which also carries a lot of weight for advertisers as well as marketers. Here, timeliness can be referred to as the date and time at which an image or video is posted on Instagram. Also, it is very rare that a regular user will come across something that was posted more than a couple of days ago.

3. Relationship

This algorithm by Instagram finally recognizes the importance of relationships in a user's life. This is another principle on which Instagram's feed is based upon as social media is all about building relations with family, friends, artists, celebrities, role-models, etc..

Hence, the more you interact with them via comments, DMs, likes, tags, etc, the more often they are likely to show up on their feed.

What Are The Secondary Ranking Factors Of Instagram?

Earlier we discussed the main principles on which the algorithm of Instagram is based upon and now it’s time to look at the factors that are second-in-line. These three secondary ranking factors of Instagram can come in handy when you are trying to understand the Instagram Algorithm working:  

Instagram Algorithm Ranking Factors

  1. Usage: The main objective of Instagram is to show users the best content as per their preference since their last visit. This is what gets categorized as some of the best images and videos that Instagram wants to show.
  2. Following: In addition to this, the more user or brand accounts you follow on Instagram, the less content you are likely to see from each individual or brand that you follow.
  3. Frequency: The frequency can be referred to as how often you post content on Instagram and interact with content posted by other users. On average, you should aim to post between one to three times per day.  

This eventually pressures the social media platforms to expand their boundaries with respect to the content and user's preferences.

How Instagram’s Algorithm Affects Normal Users?

In order to know how the algorithm of Instagram affects normal users, you need to know about the entire process. Here is the step-by-step process that is currently being taken by Instagram to decide where and how to post a user's posts on the platform:

1. Post: Firstly, post something, i.e. an image or video by a user's account.

2. Exposure: When posted, the Instagram algorithm will show that post to a small portion of its total user base and will measure the engagement rate of the post in comparison to other posts based on similar content. This activity is performed for a few days before reaching a final decision.

3. Post Prioritization: 

  • So if that particular subset of Instagram users engages with the post at a faster and more frequent rate in comparison to other similar posts. Then the algorithm of Instagram will prioritize that post and show it to a much bigger percentage of their userbase.
  • On the other hand, if that small subset engages with the post at a slower and less frequent rate in comparison to other similar images and video posts then, the algorithm will rank that post down and show it to a lesser number of users.   

4. Account Comparison: Once Instagram knows the percentage of your audience interaction and engagement then it will measure how likely it is to be engaged to the other posts from other accounts that are available in the 'Follow' section.

The algorithm of Instagram simply calculates the post's engagement and then compares it with the user interaction of other posts, the higher engagement posts are then shown in users' Home Feed as well as the Explorer Page of Instagram.

How Are Advertisers Affected By Instagram Algorithm?

When it comes to advertisements, advertisers are looking for effective marketing strategies that can stand out in the crowd. And Instagram is a great example of this, as it favors unique content. That means if your content is highly similar to the other posts then that means your visibility on Instagram will be lowered.

The new algorithm of Instagram mainly uses image recognition technology to organize posts based on image and video content instead of opting for hashtags. This can be referred to as a more effective way to avoid accounts that are spammy in nature.

This relationship factor can turn out to be highly informative as Instagram shows you the images/videos with which you interact most often. That's why users can refine their posts to maximize views and likes, as well as comments to ensure that they can achieve a high presence in others' feeds.

So basically as long as your content is similar to your usual target rate, the algorithm will prioritize related content in your Instagram feed.

Steps To Create High Engagement Instagram Content

Now that we have discussed the fact that the total percentage of your audience directly depends on how the initial subset of users engages with the content that you post.

Create High Engagement Instagram Content

Below are the steps you need to take to create some highly engaging content, which is as follows:

Step 1: Measure Engagement Data

One of the most crucial steps in making high engagement content is to measure engagement data and know what type of content catches the attention of your audience. But before you begin with engagement measuring, you need to create new content frequently.

Once that is done, you can go ahead and measure which posts have the highest audience engagement. Also, in order to find this information, users can use the Posts engagement data on your Instagram Insights page.

Step 2: Upgrade High Engagement Content

The next step you can work upon is that you can make your already existing high engagement content i.e. images and videos even better. Have a look at your engagement data and shortlist the types of posts your audience wants to see more, then work harder to update those types of posts even better visually.

Step 3: Constantly Test Content

The trend on Instagram changes on a monthly if not weekly basis that is connected to Instagram algorithm change, this requires users to keep their content in sync with the trend, or else the engagement level will be low. So, the third step is to test new content as per your followers' taste and style, then track the progress of that content among your followers.

Here, you can also use the above-mentioned step to personalize your Instagram feed as per your preference and then check the rate of user engagement on it.

How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm?

The thing with Instagram is that it is a company whose main objective is to maximize its revenue and earn a profit. This is done by maximizing the time their target audience spends on the platform. Being a social media platform, Instagram also has to attract the attention of advertisers.

In other words, to be change-resistant to the new Instagram algorithm you would have to deliver content that can receive high engagement from the audience. The chances of algorithms working in favor of high engagement content are more in comparison to posts that have low engagement user rates.

An important thing that you as a user need to keep in mind is that 'the algorithm will always change, but Instagram won’t. With that being said, we hope this article provided you with some great information regarding the Instagram algorithm and its working. And, in case you are interested in reading more such interesting articles then all you need to do is follow MobileAppDaily by clicking on the 'Subscribe' button.

Tanya <span>Editor In Chief</span>
Written By
Tanya Editor In Chief

She is a content marketer and has more than five years of experience in IoT, blockchain, Web, and mobile development. In all these years, she closely followed the app development, and now she writes about the existing and the upcoming mobile app technologies. Her essence is more like a ballet dancer.


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