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How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?

Instagram may be the most beloved social media platform for so many of us. Packed with a lot of recreational features, it makes any connection and exchange experience much more worthwhile. Moreover, the entire system seems to become more proficient day by day at offering a customized service to each and every user. So you may be legitimately curious about how this works so well. Say, how are those tons of daily activities sorted out? How does the platform learn to track your online habits? How does it decide what you want to see first on your feed? Two keywords: Instagram algorithm. They are the ones that will help us answer all those questions throughout our article.

We would like to remind though, that the word ‘algorithm’ is actually subject to debate in the case of Instagram. There’s rather a multitude of processors running the various components of the platform. Nevertheless, we will stick with an explanation in algorithmic terms for more clarity. 

We will start with a short presentation of the concept of the algorithm. Then we will focus on two particular examples with Feed posts and Stories. Finally, we will find out how to make the algorithm work in your favor. 

Overview of the Instagram Algorithm

As you probably know, an algorithm is simply a set of rules used for calculations or problem-solving processes. In the social media context, it acts above all as a content organizer. More simply put, it allows you to see social content that you’re likely to enjoy instead of a random mess. And according to the Instagram developers team, it’s also better than the previous chronological order we used to have on the platform. Nevertheless, some users are still confused since the switch to the new Instagram algorithm in 2017. You may be one of those, wondering if and how it would be more advantageous than sorting by date. We will just pick two typical examples: Feed posts and Stories. Once we understand how it works for them, we can pretty much apply the same reasoning to the rest (IGTV, Reels, Explore page, etc.).   

instagram feed algorithm

Instagram Feed Algorithm 

Let’s start with the first and most visible part, which is Instagram Feed. You see this as a welcome page whenever you open the app or log into your account. Instagram’s algorithm initiates its mission right there by updating the photos and videos displayed. You get the spot on content you ought to discover at that exact moment. Here are the main criteria determining the ‘looks’ of your feed:

  • Post information: This is basically all there is to know about any given post. It can be the type of post (photo or video), its length/duration (for videos), and/or posting time. There would also be indications about its level of popularity (number of likes). 
  • Poster information: This one investigates the user who has posted the content. It may be one of your friends on the platform. If not, it can still be an account that you are frequently checking. Additionally, this part provides clues about how often other people interact with that particular poster. 
  • Activity information: Understand it as your own activity on Instagram. This includes your favorite types of posts and your involvement with them (e.g., how often you like and/or comment). 
  • Interaction information: This one is a combo. It focuses on your attitude regarding a particular poster’s activity. One typical example is when you interact with all or most of their content. 

The Instagram algorithm collects all those elements of information to obtain a score of interest. The content on your Feed is thus designed and prioritized according to that score. 

instagram story algorithm

Instagram Story Algorithm

Now that we have an idea about the basic algorithmic principle let’s see how the Instagram Story algorithm works. Well, it’s safe to say that it’s not really different from the Feed algorithm. So obviously, the first Stories that you see on your page are those from your favorite accounts. Remember, the more you interact with or show interest in an account, the more the system will connect you to it. Simple logic… on the paper. Because you may have noticed that the actual dynamics on Instagram are a little more complex than that. Haven’t you ever spent some of your free time watching Stories from accounts you aren’t ‘officially’ following? After all, social media is comparable to a train, with one wagon or content always leading to another one. Otherwise, the whole idea of a network itself would be pointless.  

What we mean is that the Instagram algorithm is capable of more global calculations. It constantly works on expanding interconnections and creating new ones. This is made possible also thanks to the data gathered through Stories. The algorithm takes into account the following:

  • Watch time: This determines whether the user watched a Story until the end or skipped after a few seconds. Namely, the first level of interest.
  • Profile click: If the Story was captivating enough, the user might click on the profile to know more about the account. We can call this one the second level of interest
  • Direct message (DM): The user found both the Story and its creator interesting, which results in an interaction. The third level of interest it is. 

The algorithm uses a couple of other parameters to evaluate the performance of Stories. Someone turning on Story notifications or sharing Stories from another account are good signs. 

manage instagram algorithm

How to Take Control of the Instagram Algorithm

Don’t be surprised by the title. That’s right; you can make the most of the IG algorithm and see your account performance skyrocket. You have surely seen in the previous sections of the article that it doesn’t require advanced math skills whatsoever. There’s no need to worry about becoming invisible or lost. If Instagram algorithms have changed, so can you. All it takes is some motivation and rearrangements. Here’s what to do:

Become a Consistent Poster

This is definitely the first step to take if you haven’t already. Show that you’re there and always have something to say. The ideal posting frequency will depend on your niche, style, goals, etc. Regardless, you should aim for at least one Feed post per day. You can double this for Stories (so two daily). Don’t overdo though and stick with four posts maximum per day.

check your instagram dms

Check Your DMs Every Day

Do you want attention? Then you have to give some too. All top-notch influencers would confirm that they do interact with their audience on a daily basis. So take the example and nurture your connections. And it’s not only about replying to DMs. The same goes for likes and comments. Be sure to return the favor or at least show your appreciation. 

Be Timely

Posting at the right time is one of the factors that can influence the Instagram algorithm positively. This is logically about reaching out to your audience when they are the most available. Understand it as the hours when they are not busy with work and thus can focus on your posts. Tendencies can vary depending on the timezone/region and days of the week. However, the general rule of ‘before/after work’ usually works fine. Don’t neglect the lunch break, especially considering it can take up to three hours in some countries. 

Make Use of the Different Formats and Sections

Show your audience that you are up-to-date with the various features of the platform. They may not be willing to watch ‘classical’ Stories every day. Spoil them with new content cocktails by using Carousels. It would give you the opportunity to mix and match new ways to deliver your messages. Photos, videos, texts… Whatever you want, all at the same time. You can also go for Reels that offer much more fun and sophisticated editing options for your videos. 

Integrate Hashtags into Your Social Routine

Hashtags are one of the rare things that don’t get old. On the contrary, they are still the preferred language among social media users. Based on smart combinations of a few simple words and formulas, they can make you say a lot in less time. Take the time to create your own original ones. Trust us; it’s still one of the best ways to inform your audience about what to expect. It can make them predict the essence of your content in the blink of an eye. And do we need to remind that the algorithm is fond of economic decision-making processes? Efficient hashtags can bring faster interactions and thus more engagement. Take a look at our article about how many hashtags you should use on Instagram posts to learn more.

instagram analytics

Try Analytics Tools

With the right tool, you can almost act as your own Instagram algorithm. Less randomness means more power. So seize it by adopting at least one of the many Instagram analytics tools available on the market. Do you want to measure precisely the performance of your hashtags? Give Keyhole a chance. Do you need finer metrics to better manage your Business account? Instagram Insights is here to evaluate your ads, engagement rate, and many other aspects. We strongly recommend you learn more about those tools, especially if you are using Instagram for professional purposes. (Note: Most of them are for the exclusive use of business owners either way).

Final Input about the Instagram Algorithm

The Instagram algorithm has become a big topic of interest since the organizational change occurred in 2017. The switch from a chronological system to an algorithmic one hasn’t been easy. Even today, users from all around the world have to deal with several questions regarding account optimization. Luckily enough, there are a bunch of right tactics that work in almost any case. The information provided in this article should allow you to master them pretty quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions About

No, focusing only on Stories won’t make you more successful. You can increase your ranking by using other types of content as well. Furthermore, it’s usually better to opt for diversified posts. So don’t hesitate to experiment with different formats.

Stories are not the only way to share videos or ‘get live’. Also, don’t forget that Stories stay online for a limited time. You still have the possibility to post permanent videos on your profile. 

Nothing prevents you from hiring a professional. They can take care of your account by implementing the most suitable strategies. Consider such support, especially if you are trying to monetize your account. 

No, not directly. But you can still get a pretty good idea by tracking the number of likes, comments, messages, shares, etc. In other words, keep an eye on the interaction frequency. You can, for example, note down the number of likes you have received from a specific user on a weekly basis. 

Yes, you should. As already pointed out in the article, the algorithm pays attention to interactions. Not to mention that reading and answering DMs is a way to get closer to your audience. It can often provide additional clues about how to improve your social media approach. 

Kaspar Schmidt

Posts: 20

Hello there! I am Kaspar Schmidt. My story is that after I have become fairly acquainted with various social media platforms, I decided to write about them and share the information I have gathered over the years. Currently, I write about subjects on Social Media that deserve attention on Instafol... Read More

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  1. Henri Holloway
    Henri Holloway

    This blog post provides an in-depth look at how the Instagram algorithm works. It breaks down the various components of the algorithm, including relevance, engagement, and time, and explains how they affect the visibility of posts. The post also provides helpful tips on how to use the algorithm to your advantage and get the most out of your Instagram account. Overall, this is an informative and comprehensive post that provides great insights into the inner workings of the Instagram algorithm.