Jan 9, 2023
It's 2023 and we're still trying to crack the Instagram algorithm. It’s mysterious, vague, and ever-changing — not to mention each feature has a different algorithm. It's not just one universal algorithm you have to worry about anymore. It's much more complex and depends on the content type you're trying to learn more about. For example, Reels versus Carousels versus Stories. More simply put you can define all these individual algorithms by three factors or "signals."
Before we get into our algorithm breakdown keep in mind there aren’t any definitive “hacks” for beating the algorithm. However, there are a few solid ways to ensure your content strategy is mindful of how the algorithm works and is properly equipped to reach the top of your audience’s feed. Let’s discuss.
In our latest Instagram algorithm guide, we'll provide new insights into why your content is performing the way it is, your follower count, and tips to increasing your content's reach.
If you remember the days when Instagram sorted your feed chronologically, it’s probably time to start using an eye cream. Instagram’s algorithm underwent a major overhaul three years ago to ultimately improve user experience. Our minds tend to think in a linear sense, which is why it may seem discombobulating to view content in a seemingly random sequence. However, it actually works to your own benefit and heightens your overall experience in the app.
Think about all the accounts you follow on Instagram and the disparate gaps in content quality that likely exist between an account like @InfluencersintheWild and your college roommate's cousin’s infrequent joke account. You probably want to see more of the content that makes you laugh versus the random one-off posts from a distant stranger. The algorithm gathers this info based on the accounts you follow, the posts you like and engage with, and even the ads you click, to create a uniquely tailored feed of content just for you. Nice, right?
Instagram is all about BTE – Big Thoughtful Energy. And it centers around one main goal – to keep people in the app. Remember this whenever you’re creating content. It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about all the different little things you should do to “trick” the algorithm. But, keep this one overarching checkpoint in mind and you’ll be golden: Is this content REAL (Relevant. Engaging. Authentic. Likeable) enough to keep a person (and not a bot!) on the app for just a little bit longer? If you answer yes, it’ll likely end up in the upper region of your audience’s feeds.
We tend to think of digital things like automated systems, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and even robots themselves, as non-sentient, objective systems lacking any crumb of humanity, but that conclusion isn’t entirely accurate. Humans create, design, and manage these systems, meaning they’re inherently entrenched with our own implicit biases. If you’re wondering what in the world this has to do with Instagram’s algorithm, hang tight, we’re almost there! One example is the way many automated systems and algorithms fail to recognize the nuances of cultural slang, and can categorize homonyms found in content like “dark” “black” or “sick” as inherently negative. It’s part-human error, part-systems error, but ultimately an issue that ladders up to bigger societal challenges – systemic bias and lack of diverse representation.
When Nyome Nicholas-Williams, a Black plus-size model, posted a tastefully nude portrait of herself last year on Instagram, the photo was immediately flagged and taken down for violating community guidelines. But, a quick scroll through any celebrity model’s profile would prove that violation wasn’t being universally enforced to all users. It raised major concerns about Instagram’s algorithmic bias and whether or not its system was disproportionately silencing content from users who didn’t fall within typical beauty standards.
Understanding Instagram’s algorithm is a feat in itself, but adding on the notion of systemic bias adds another layer of complexity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, plus-sized creators, and those living with disabilities. On the bright side, Instagram has recently formed a new Equity Team with the “stated intention of addressing systemic bias within Instagram's internal and external processes,” Social Media Today reports.
Now, on to developing a strategy that takes all of these considerations into account. There are a few easy and simple things to keep in mind when generating content and managing your account.
Most recently, Instagram and Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, shared some new insights into Instagram’s Algorithm. Instagram came up with an algorithm that ranks posts based on what users care about most after realizing the chronological flow of content was too much for a user to navigate and they were missing 70% of posts from close connections. Here’s the rest of the algorithm explained.
- Information about the post - This is more about the content itself, like how many people like the post, video length, location, etc.
- Information about the person who posted it - This helps classify whether this account would be of interest to you. They look into historical data like how many posts of theirs you’ve liked.
- Your activity - Helps to understand what interests you and what posts you tend to like in general.
- Your history of interacting with someone - Identifies how interested you are in seeing posts from a particular person or account. An example would be your level of engagement, like if you comment on each other’s posts.
If you’re looking to increase your reach, pay attention to who and what accounts you’re engaging with and utilize all app features to increase the chances of discovery on the app. Best practices from Mosseri include two Feed posts per week, 2 Stories per day, and hashtag use.
That’s the skinny on Instagram’s algorithm, and we hope these strategies and best practices help you create content that soars.
Originally published April 30, 2021 8:00:00 AM, updated January 9 2023