The Instagram Algorithm is a mysterious and complex concept for many business leaders. It’s something companies know they need to master to thrive online, but like many social media rulesets, the algorithm isn’t always the easiest concept to grasp.
Instagram’s algorithm dictates how content should be displayed on the platform, and which users are served which posts. This means if you want to connect with the 1 billion monthly users on Instagram, you need to know how to navigate the algorithm.
In 2022, Instagram requires every user to think carefully about their use of captions, hashtags, and even certain content types for the best chance of ranking. Here’s what you need to know about the Instagram algorithm, and how you can master it.
How The Instagram Algorithm Works
Like most social media channels, Instagram regularly updates its algorithm to suit new customer trends, and industry expectations. This means if you want to boost your following, you may need to regularly change your strategy, based on the new rules.
One point to note is Instagram introduced a new option for users to arrange their feed chronologically in 2022. This means if your customers choose the chronological ranking option, or do most of their browsing through the “curated” lists of posts from their favorite accounts, your algorithmic efforts might not have an impact on their newsfeed.
The vast majority of Instagram users still view the default feed, however. This feed is organized according to the algorithm set by Instagram to boost the quality of the content users see on the sight. According to Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, the algorithm provides an “engaging” browsing experience by determining:
· Which posts appear first on the news feed
· Which Reels, Stories, and Live videos appear at the top of the feed
· Which posts appear in the Instagram “Explore” section.
The Instagram Algorithm & Feed Posts
When it comes to using Instagram for small business growth, one of the first environments you’ll explore is the “Feed.” This is the space where people in your target audience search for new content.
The feed algorithm sorts through the content of accounts users already follow, to determine their likelihood of interacting with posts based on:
· Relationship data: Instagram tracks the number of times a user interacts with another poster through comments, views, and likes to predict a potential relationship.
· Post details: The more likes a post gets, whether it’s been tagged with a specific location, and how long it is (in terms of video content) all matter to the Instagram algorithm. The rules also organize content based on recency, so newer posts appear first.
· Activity: Instagram tries to predict what customers will want to see by looking at the kind of content they usually interact with on the platform.
To ensure users always get a quality experience, Instagram also allows authenticators to mark content as “false” or misleading and place it further down on the news feed.
The Instagram Algorithm & Stories
70% of all Instagram users view Stories on a daily basis.
For brands, Stories offer a quick and convenient way to share information about their company, upcoming promotions, and events. For customers, these snippets of content are an excellent way to get a behind-the-scenes look at a business.
The Instagram Algorithm for Stories works similarly to the standard news feed. This means the accounts users interact with most appear at the top of their feed.
Notably, the short-lived nature of Stories posts also means timeliness can be more important to ranking here. The more recent the story when your user appears online, the more likely it is to grab their attention and boost your engagement.
The Instagram Algorithm & Reels
Reels are among the more recent additions to Instagram, ideal for fast-paced entertainment common in the TikTok landscape. Reels are prioritized by the Instagram algorithm based on what it thinks a user wants to watch. The algorithm will track things like engagement rates, saves, taps on a user’s profile, view completion rate, and re-watches.
To boost your impact on the “Reels” page, Instagram recommends using inspirational content brimming with creative effects like filters and text.
For the most part, however, the algorithm takes the popularity of the poster and the data of the post (including any added music) into account, alongside the history of the user.
The Instagram Algorithm & The “Explore” Tab
The Explore tab on Instagram is where users find content from users they haven’t encountered before. It’s a great way to connect with users who are using the Chronological feed for their main browsing efforts. On the Explore page, previous relationships with a user don’t apply.
Instead, Instagram looks at the posts users have interacted with in the past to determine what they might want to see. The popularity of a post (its comments and likes), the kind of content a user has saved or liked in the past, and even the poster information can all make a difference.
The algorithm also looks at things like keywords, locations, and hashtags in each post, and how they connect to the content other viewers have interacted with in the past.
How To Make The Instagram Algorithm Work For You
1. Post More Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are some of the most valuable tools on Instagram. 500 million users interact with Stories every day, and many appreciate the authentic and raw content these posts provide.
However, because Instagram Stories are only available for a short period of time, you’ll need to make sure you’re posting them frequently if you want to connect with your audience. Posting regular Stories will allow you to carve a space for yourself in the Stories tab, and boost engagement through various filters and features.
When posting Instagram Stories, remember to:
· Experiment with features: Stickers, polls, and sliders are all excellent ways to make your Stories more engaging and interactive. They can also be a good way to collect information about your target audience and their preferences.
· Know your posting times: Know when your customers are most likely to be online so you can post your Stories and reach as many people as possible before they disappear.
· Save highlights: You can save highlights from your Story to your Instagram profile to enhance your page. Highlights are a great way to make your profile appear more complete, and they give customers a reason to stick around and check out more of your posts.
2. Post Reels More Often
Reels are gaining a lot of attention on Instagram today, particularly among younger users who already love fast-paced videos on TikTok. Instagram Reels can generate more engagement than your standard Instagram video, and they’re easier to consume for most customers.
What’s more, because Reels are expected to be a little less polished and a lot shorter than standard feed videos, they’re much easier to create. Posting regular Reels gives you a chance to stand out on a dedicated portion of the Instagram app, which boosts your brand reach.
You can experiment with different music and hashtags to reach your audience and use your Reels to provide users with valuable information or collect insights from your audience. For instance, @MeUndies and @LivBolish used Reels to ask users to pick their favorite product from a lineup.
3. Post At The Right Times
While timing is particularly important for your Instagram Stories, it’s also crucial throughout the rest of the platform, too. You need to make sure you’re connecting with your audience when they’re most likely to be online, because the Instagram algorithm prioritizes “recency.”
Finding out the right time for posting on Instagram can be complex. Different reports online offer different suggestions. For instance, Sprout Social say the best time for engagement is between 11am and 2pm on a Tuesday.
While you can use online reports as a launching point for your brand, you’ll get more accurate insights by diving into your Instagram analytics. The “Insights” page on your business account will tell you when your followers are most active.
Once you know when your customers are around, it’s worth using a scheduling tool to ensure you’re publishing your content at the right time, even if your social media team isn’t available.
4. Go Hashtag Heavy
Hashtags are one of the most valuable tools in any Instagram strategy. If you want to master the Instagram algorithm, learning how to boost your content’s visibility with hashtags is a good start. Not only do these tools give more context to your post, but they’re fantastic for helping people to find your content when searching for relevant terms.