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How the Instagram algorithm works: everything you need to know

Sep 29, 2021

“The algorithm is against me”, “no matter what I do, my content doesn’t show on the feed”, “why is the algorithm lowering my reach?”

Most people believe there is this secret, cryptic code to cracking Instagram, and if things aren’t working, then the algorithm must be hating on them! In reality, the algorithm doesn't play favorites, it’s just machine learning; constantly evolving based on user data. Since it is constantly evolving, we need to evolve with it, especially if we want to grow our communities and continue to have our content seen by the right people.

What is the Instagram algorithm for?

The Instagram algorithm’s ultimate goal is to keep us on the app for as long as possible. The best way it can achieve this, is by finding content that we love, and then place it right in front of us. The algorithm is trying to show you what YOU want to see the most. It will always prioritize content from accounts that you have previously shown interest in.

But how does the algorithm know what you’re interested in? Well, it is constantly tracking a few key things. The first thing the algorithm looks at is who you follow, and how you engage with them. Do you like, comment and share, or are you a silent scroller? It is assessing the type of content that you like by categorizing the content you interact with the most. For example, it knows if you like fashion, travel, sport or beauty by simply scanning the content and tracking hashtags.

Next, the algorithm tracks the frequency of engagement with certain content and accounts. If your engagement with an account starts to decline, you are less likely to see that account. Have you ever thought of an account one day and realized that you haven't seen them for ages? We definitely have, and the reason this happens is because over time our interest in that account gradually disappeared, until Instagram assumed we were not interested anymore. It also takes into account who you are searching for in the search menu and what accounts you are sending messages to.

How can you make the algorithm work in your favour?

The algorithm changes constantly, as the platform tries to continuously deliver relevant content to its users that will keep them on the app as long as possible. It can be a struggle to keep up with the constant developments, but instead of telling you how to beat the Instagram algorithm, we want you to understand how it works. We'll explain how to lean into it, so that you can use it to your advantage!

Create interest to encourage engagement

The easiest way for the algorithm to know if your content is interesting to users is by tracking the amount of comments, likes, shares, saves or views it has. Post content that encourages engagement, write captions about thoughtful topics, and start a meaningful conversation. Reply to as many comments as you can and this will encourage further comments down the line.

Focus on authentic engagement

Instagram wants to show you content from the people you care about the most - mainly, your family and friends. Who do you engage with regularly, who do you message frequently, and who do you search for? Instead of wasting energy on Instagram algorithm hacks that may only give you short-term results, focus on the connections you build with your audience. Make sure you reply to direct messages and comments on your posts, as the more you interact with your followers, the better!

Stay consistent

The algorithm is not going to show you content that you only engage with every once in a while. In order to algorithm convince you are the page your audience is looking for, it is extremely important to have consistent interactions with your audience. Let’s forget the algorithm for a moment, and think about how you make friends in real life. The more time you spend with people, the closer you get, and the more attached you feel. When friends spend less time with each other, the bond starts to fade. This is also how instagram works.

Have a clearly defined niche

Especially when you are starting out, make sure you focus on posting content relevant to your niche. If you are consistent, the algorithm will start to share your content with people who are interested in your niche, or the topic you focus on. Once you have developed a strong and loyal following, you will have more freedom to branch out into other content without it having an impact on your engagement or growth

Embrace the latest features

Instagram is constantly changing, and your strategy needs to change with it. The algorithm tends to share content from its newer features to promote users to use these features. That’s why whenever Instagram releases a new feature, you should be one of the first to start using it! Reels (and video content in general) are a huge hit at the moment and the algorithm is surely prioritizing these videos over others.

Be active on Stories

Instagram Stories that appear first in a user's feed are from accounts they engage with most. Comments, likes, and DMs all count toward your place in a user’s feed, and when the user engages with your stories it creates a feedback loop that confirms the users interest in your account.

Post at the best times for your audience

This might be common sense but we’ve also got this wrong in the past. It's important to check your analytics to find out where a majority of your audience comes from so you can post at a time when they are most active on Instagram. If you post when everyone is asleep, the algorithm will assume your content isn't so great because it is receiving less attention.

The secret is: There is no secret

There is no secret, cryptic, code to cracking Instagram. The Instagram algorithm doesn't play favorites. To put it simply, machine learning is continuously improving user experience based on user data. It’s so powerful (and accurate), because it has gathered so much user data to feed the algorithm precisely. Instagram will always prioritize the user, looking at what the user interacts with.

The reason we believe we’ve been able to continue to grow over the years, and maintain a high level of engagement with our audience, was because we focused on: YOU - our community. We listen, trying to understand your struggles and help you as much as we can. It’s like a family, where we’ve grown together, and we appreciate the trust and engagement we receive from you. In the end, it's all about building meaningful relationships with the people behind those phones.

“Authenticity and transparency are key to building sustainable engagement on Instagram,” says the Instagram Creators account, “trying to game the system may provide a short-term benefit, but it is not a recipe for success long term… Make sure that you are creating content that is keeping your followers and community engaged and constantly coming back for more!”

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