How to master the Instagram algorithm

Hello creators! We’re currently in a bit of a social media rabbit hole. We recently looked at the power of Social SEO and how you can use it to your advantage, and this time we’re talking about the Instagram algorithm and the minefield it can be.

The Instagram algorithm is constantly changing, and there’s never been a confirmed way of how it works (helpful, we know), which can make it difficult to get your content seen by a wider audience. BUT there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting your content seen by more people, which hopefully results in more customers for you. Sound good? Let’s get into it.

Instagram logo

Firstly, what is the Instagram algorithm?

Essentially, the Instagram algorithm is the thing that decides what content shows up, and in what order, on the app. It’s the set of processes that Instagram uses to understand what users like. The platform uses this information to show people more of what they enjoy by predicting what content someone will find interesting and engaging. Reels, Explore pages and stories/grid all have their own individual algorithm.

It takes metadata (including captions and alt text applied to images), hashtags, and engagement metrics into account to predict the content you want to see.

As we said at the start, the algorithm is constantly evolving, but these are the three main ranking factors:

  1. Relationship. If a user has had a high amount of interaction with a lot of your past Instagram content, they’ll be more likely to see your future content.
  2. Interest. This is based on whether the user interacts with similar posts and accounts when they explore Instagram. Users who also engage with similar content (here ‘similar’ means shares enough of the same metadata, hashtags and metrics) are more likely to see your own posts.
  3. Relevancy. How relevant a post is to your interests and needs. Things like time of day of publishing, the location of the post and type of content all influences this.

In early 2023, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri addressed the algorithm. “I think we were overfocused on video in 2022, and pushed ranking too far—and basically showed too many videos and not enough photos. Things like how often someone likes photos vs. videos, and how often someone comments on photos vs. videos are roughly equal, which is a good sign that things are balanced”.

A great sign that static posts are still worth our time!

So, how do we master the Instagram algorithm?

Here are our tried and tested tips:

  • Post at the right time. Posting your content at the right time of day is going to make a huge difference to your organic reach. You can use Instagram Insights to see when your followers are online. If you’re not going to be online then, no problem: don’t forget that you can use scheduling tools to plan your content for specific times and days. We use Hootsuite FYI, however there are free options including Later and SproutSocial.
  • Write engaging captions. Your captions should be interesting and informative, and should encourage people to interact with your content. Try and include a CTA (Call-to-action) where you can, like a question that you’re asking people to answer in comments.
  • Post consistently. Your content is more likely to be seen by more people if you’re posting regularly.  Aim to post at least once a day, but more often if you can.
  • Use relevant hashtags. Hashtags are a great way to get your content seen by people who are interested in the same things as you. When you use relevant hashtags, your posts will show up in the search results for those hashtags. Try to avoid using huge lists, because if you always use the same hashtags, Instagram can shadow ban accounts.
  • Interact with your audience. Respond to comments and DMs, and like and comment on other people’s posts.
  • Create engaging content. People are more likely to engage with content that is interesting, relevant, and visually appealing. So take the time to create high-quality content that will capture your audience’s attention.
  • Post Reels. Reels are a great way to get your content seen by more people. They’re also one of the most popular content formats on Instagram. Don’t forget to use trending sounds when creating a reel!
  • Promote your posts. Don’t just post and forget about it. Share your posts on other social media platforms, and ask your friends and followers to like, comment, and share your content.
  • Use Instagram Stories. Instagram Stories are a great way to connect with your audience in a more personal way. Share behind-the-scenes content, sneak peeks of new products, or just random thoughts and updates.
  • Run contests and giveaways. Contests and giveaways are a great way to boost engagement and get people talking about your brand.
  • Use Instagram Insights. Instagram Insights is the inbuilt analytics in the app, which can help you track your progress and see what’s working and what’s not. Use this data to adjust your strategy and improve your results.
  • Use Instagram Ads. If you want to reach a wider audience quickly, you can use Instagram Ads. Instagram Ads are a great way to target your ads to specific demographics and interests.

So that’s the Instagram algorithm! As we said, it’s worth noting that it does change regularly, so perhaps we’ll see you again soon for another deep dive.

As always, if you have any questions on social media, or the creator world overall, please email us [email protected].

See you next time!

Team thortful