Understanding the instagram algorithm

Understanding the Instagram algorithm (and how to make it work for you)

You’ve probably heard the word ‘algorithm’ bandied around a lot on social media. But what does it actually mean?

In this blog I’ll explain what an algorithm is, how it works and how you can use it to strengthen your content strategy.

What is an algorithm?

Simply put, an algorithm is a set of rules or calculations which helps each platform to decide which content to show you.

People often think social platforms only have one algorithm when, in fact, they can have lots.

Instagram, for example, has separate algorithms for each of its features – Feed, Stories, Reels, IGTV and Lives.

Despite what you might have read, it’s impossible to ‘hack’ the algorithms. But understanding how they work can certainly help you to be more strategic about your content.

How does Instagram’s algorithm work?

Let’s start with posts you see in your Feed and Stories. This is where you’ll see content from the people you follow.

Instagram uses thousands of ‘signals’ from those posts to decide which to show you first.

It will take into account when the post was posted, how many likes it’s had, whether you’re looking at it on your mobile or desktop and whether it’s the kind of content you usually prefer e.g. still images or video.

It also weighs up information about the poster too. If it’s someone you interact with regularly, you’re more likely to see their posts.

The algorithm will then try to guess how likely you are to like, comment on, save or share a post and will put these higher up on your feed.

Business takeaway: The more you interact with other accounts, the more of your content they will see – and vice versa. This is why spending time engaging with your followers and their content is so important. It shows Instagram that you like each other’s content and so it shows you more.

How Reels are ranked

Instagram is going all out on video in the second half of the year and its number one priority is to entertain.

People who already use Reels reveal it’s where they get the highest reach – so if you haven’t tried it yet, now is a great time to give it a go.

The majority of the content you’ll see in your Reels feed is from creators you don’t follow, but how does the platform decide what to show?

It starts by ranking content based on what it thinks you might like and whether it will entertain you or not.

The most important factors it takes into account are how likely you are to watch the Reel the whole way through and whether you’ll like it or comment on it.

It’ll do this by looking at the types of content you usually watch and, again, whether you’ve engaged with the creator before.

Business takeaway: When creating Reels for your own business, make sure they’re laser focused on your ideal clients’ interests. Find fun and creative ways of speaking to their pain points and show that you relate to their problems.

What else can we learn?

Be strategic about the content you create. Start by testing each of the different content formats to see which works best for you.

Here are some more top tips:

  • Aim to create content which your followers and viewers will save and share as this sends a strong signal to the algorithm
  • Encourage your followers to turn on notifications so they get an alert when you post. The more engagement you get when your content is posted the better
  • Ask your audience to tag you – or use your brand hashtag – in their posts. This will show Instagram that people are talking about you and also mean you can engage with any brand mentions
  • Repurpose your same content in different ways across the app. This will save you time and help a wider audience see your content. Reels, Lives and IGTV can all be shared to the Feed and Stories

If you’d like help coming up with content ideas, a content strategy, or want to know how to get started with using Reels, IGTV or going Live, get in touch with me today.

You can also download my FREE 30 days of content ideas here.