An Insider’s Scoop on the Instagram Algorithm

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It’s no secret: the Instagram algorithm is a mystery. Efforts to understand it, work with it and even outsmart it have fallen flat for users time and again!

Instagram itself has come out in recent days explaining more about how the Instagram algorithm benefits content – and penalizes harmful or abusive content (Shadowban, anyone?)

However, we recently got a little more insight into the algorithm, and specifically how to make it happy!

If you’re a follower of social media news, you may remember an article from an influencer coming out about her call with Instagram in December 2020, and the insider scoop she got about working with the algorithm.

At the time, social media partners – and even we – were a little hesitant to buy into the methods she reportedly was told.

That is, until Chloe Alysse was invited to a similar Partnership call from Instagram about a week ago! 

(It’s important to note that Chloe was contacted because of her successful Instagram Creator status in the sustainable fashion space, not because she was a Tailwind employee.) 

On the call she received a ton of tips and had her questions answered about how the Instagram algorithm really works, and most importantly, how to work with it to get your content seen.

Buckle up, because we’re picking Chloe’s brain over everything she learned in this article, including when to post, what to post, and how to set a strategy for your Instagram content that the algorithm will really, really like.

How to Make the Instagram Algorithm Happy

We know, we know. The Instagram algorithm seems fickle, and even tried and true recommendations from Instagram experts that used to succeed no longer seem to pass muster.

Is it even possible to make the algorithm happy?

Since my blog is not my full-time gig, I usually just post when I can find the time – I don’t give it the same focus that I do for my work here at Tailwind!

For a while, that didn’t seem to matter to the algorithm. Then, all of a sudden, my engagement tanked. When Instagram reached out, I was so excited but also hesitant to believe there was actually a solution.

But get this – it’s only been two weeks, and I’ve already noticed a major difference!

Chloe Alysse

The answer is definitely yes. The key lies in going back to the basics, and understanding what the purpose of an algorithm is, and how it “speaks” and “listens.”

Algorithms operate and learn through patterns and codes. Therefore, when you create a pattern on Instagram, the algorithm can then understand your pattern and know what to do with it!

There’s a method to the madness, and we’re breaking it down for each major type of Instagram content. Keep reading to find out more!

When to Post on Instagram (And Why!)

Consistency is key on Instagram.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard that a lot; it’s a word tossed around in expert advice…er…frequently. But, that expert advice is on the right track. Maybe the key that’s been missing is understanding exactly how consistent you need to be!
Here’s the scoop: It’s not actually about posting daily.

Your consistency on Instagram needs to be a lot more specific – because the factor that matters most is not that you post on a certain day, but that you post at the exact same time on the same day repeatedly.

I’ve never been great at batch working, but after having my conversation with Instagram, I decided to commit to it for this test. For so long, I’ve just posted whenever I could find the time.

Not only is batch working helping me to feel prepared and productive, it allows me to post at the same time each day, which has really helped my engagement so far.

Chloe Alysse

That’s not all though – the consistency train keeps on rollin’. It has to be that same type of content at the same time on the same day in your schedule. 

For example, if you usually post a carousel Instagram post at 3pm on Fridays, posting a single photo post next Friday is going to confuse the algorithm.

The trick is to remember that I have to post Reels and feed posts on the same day each week. For example, Mondays are feed post days for me and Tuesdays are Reels days!

Chloe Alysse

The less confused the algorithm is, the better when it comes to getting your content seen! 

Perhaps it’s because each piece of Instagram content serves a different purpose, which we’ll get into in a little bit.

First, let’s talk about setting a schedule on Instagram that works with this new information.

Setting Your New Instagram Posting Schedule

Sure, you could throw a dart at a clock and pick a random time that you’ve decided is your time to post. However, you can make a more informed decision here that results in maximum engagement with your audience.

Take a look at your Instagram Insights (located in your Professional Dashboard), and make note of the times when the peak audience is on Instagram in your time zone.

Or, kill two birds with one stone and head on over to your Tailwind Instagram scheduling dashboard!

Tap “Edit Time Slots” in the top right corner of your dashboard (above your Instagram 9-Grid Preview).

First, you’ll want to double check that your timezone is set correctly in the bottom right corner of your Weekly Posting Schedule screen.

A view of the Tailwind Instagram scheduling dashboard, showing a weekly posting schedule with times on each day of the week highlighted in green.

Next, take a look at your time slots! Your Tailwind SmartSchedule generates a posting schedule based on peak audience times on your Instagram account. You can stick with as many of these as you like, or add your own custom time slots! 

Though posting at peak times when your audience is on is important, consistency is even more important. And generally, adjusting your time slot an hour or two either way will still garner you plenty of engagement.

If you want to reach the level of consistency you need, it’s important to fit your posting times to your lifestyle and when you’ll be available to post and engage – not the other way around!

The most important tip I received was to make sure this schedule is realistic. Since I know I can’t post every day, I decided to commit to posting three times each week.

My Instagram partner encouraged me to think of this like a workout schedule. If you do yoga on Tuesday and Thursday mornings each week, you’ll see more results than if you do yoga every single day for a week and then skip the rest of the month because you wore yourself out!

Chloe Alysse

And if you can’t commit to posting every day, don’t beat yourself up! It’s better to post two or three days a week with precision than all over the board five days a week (in our opinion!).

The great thing is, once you have your cadence and your chosen time slots down, you can schedule the right content type to the right days and times months into the future with Tailwind’s Instagram scheduling tool.

Just pop your posts into your drafts and schedule away!

You can even double-check how they all look together with our Instagram 9-grid preview tool and make any adjustments to your feed before hitting “Schedule”.

With times and dates seeming so crucial to great performance with the Instagram algorithm, there’s never been a better time to try out an Instagram scheduler that can help keep you and your content on track.

Trust us on this – sign up for a free trial of Tailwind for Instagram today!

A view of nine Instagram post drafts in Tailwinds Instagram Scheduling 9-Grid Preview Visual Planner, with draft in the top right corner and the posting days and times at the bottom of each image.

What to Post on Instagram

Okay, we’ve talked about when to post to Instagram, and the why’s behind it. Let’s get to the next juicy topic: what to post on Instagram.

The first tidbit here is to generate content that appeals to your community (of course). You’ll want to understand why your community is following you, and then show that type of content.

This serves a few purposes. One, you’re going to get higher engagement on posts that speak to your followers’ interests and the original reason they hit that follow button. 

And while it may be tempting to experiment with new content topics and types, you’ll want to introduce these carefully, and tie them back to your original purpose as much as possible.

“Since my niche is sustainable fashion, I’ve decided to keep my feed posts within that topic and use Reels (which are meant to be for a wider audience) to experiment with other types of content like home decor and vlogs.

Before chatting with Instagram, I never would have thought to think of content planning this way! “

Chloe Alysse

The second reason? The algorithm, of course! The less curveballs and wild posts you throw out there, the more your followers – and the algorithm – will understand what your content is about and connect it to people interested in those topics.

Finally, an interesting tidbit to remember about creating all types of content on Instagram (before we dive into the specifics), is that the algorithm reacts more naturally to posts and Reels made and edited with the Instagram camera.

Instagram Feed Posts 

Instagram views feed posts as memories that you want to keep. In other words, evergreen content that will live forever.

This makes sense when you think about it – an Instagram feed post won’t disappear unless you archive or delete it.

Viewers can scroll down your feed and see posts from years ago, if they have the time to dig!

Each feature has its own purpose. While Stories are a way to share in the moment snapshots and Reels act as a mini trailer to reach new audiences, feed posts are all about the moments you want to remember forever.

They’re for your core audience, who are around cheering you on every day! Thinking about each feature differently has really helped my content planning!

Chloe Alysse

Instagram Reels

In contrast to feed posts, Instagram views Reels as a mini trailer for something you really want to show people. We know from the Reels algorithm update that tutorials, recipes, and humorous content work really well here.

We also know that as the newest feature to hit Instagram, the algorithm is focused on distributing Reels. Meaning reach and engagement for your account is easier to get with Reels than it is with a feed post or Story – at least for right now.

And as the latest Reels feature, Remix is getting a ton of that algorithm love, too. When you’re thinking about your content on Reels, strategize some Remix-able content and urge your followers and viewers to give it a try! 

Another Instagram Reels algorithm success tip? Make sure your song is part of the Instagram library – even if you upload it yourself!

Not doing this could result in your account being flagged, which will negatively affect engagement and reach. That’s what we’re all after, right?

So, to make the algorithm happy, make Reels. In fact, make lots of Reels. Chloe says:

“If you want to grow, Reels are the way to do it. Instagram always focuses on their latest features, and right now, Reels are in the spotlight!

That doesn’t mean you can ditch feed posts and Stories, but it does mean that your content calendar should feature Reels 60% of the time and feed posts 40% of the time.”

Chloe Alysse

Instagram Stories

One insight that surprised us from this call was that the algorithm works differently for Stories – where the name of the game is engagement.

“For Stories, the algorithm works completely differently. You can post whenever you want! My Instagram Partner did recommend at least once a day, but you don’t have to plan these out in advance.

Sharing behind the scenes and real-time moments are perfect for Stories!”

Chloe Alysse

Times and posting frequency don’t matter quite as much with this type of Instagram content. Posting at least one Story a day is good for your account, and you can post more! Just be careful not to oversaturate.

Instagram Hashtags and the Algorithm

With new updates like Instagram Search and hashtags being restricted for a good part of last year, some burning questions on hashtags came up on Chloe’s call, and she got the scoop.

Here are the best practices for using hashtags in an algorithm-friendly way:

Hashtags for minimalist fashion on Chloe Alysse instagram post

One surprising detail I learned had to do with hashtags! I thought it was best to use all 30 hashtags, but it’s actually better to carefully select 15.

Three of these hashtags should be tailored to your brand or niche, and the rest should be an attempt to find your ideal audience – so long as they still relate to your content. So think about who might enjoy this post that doesn’t follow you already, and use your remaining hashtags to attract them! “

Chloe Alysse
  • Use no more than 15 hashtags at a time
  • Dedicate at least 3 but no more than 5 that are tailored to you and your brand specifically
  • Use the rest of your hashtags to find NEW people, and keep them related to the content itself
  • The best hashtags to go for have 50,000 posts and relate to your content.
  • The rest of your hashtags should focus on other niches (again, find NEW people!)

And we know you’re wondering – what does the algorithm think about hashtags in the description versus in the first comment?

The answer is, it doesn’t matter where you put your hashtags. However, if you put them in a comment, you need to do it immediately. These two things should happen at the same time – which is why if you’re not using Tailwind’s Hashtags in First Comment feature, you should try it out!

With Hashtags in First Comment, the hashtags are posted immediately in the first comment as soon as your post is pushed live. There’s no clicking around to drop a list you’ve copied and pasted into the comments, wasting valuable seconds or minutes!

Bonus Tidbit: Why Am I Losing Instagram Followers?

One nasty side effect of losing followers, sometimes huge amounts in a day, is that it impacts your confidence in your content. However, there’s a much simpler explanation going on behind the scenes, and it isn’t that your followers hate you!

Instagram is purging bots, fake accounts and spam accounts DAILY, and Creators seem to be getting the worst of it. For some reason, Chloe says, Creators are targeted a lot.

Instagram is not exactly sure when this started happening, but they’re trying to clean up the platform. So if your follower growth chart looks a little like a rollercoaster, take heart that it may be some bad actors vanishing – and being replaced with real, authentic followers.

Test It Out for Two Months, The Results May Shock You!

With all these scheduling strategies for your Instagram content, plus hashtag tips, you should see a difference in your reach and engagement on Instagram in two months!

That’s two months of committing to an Instagram schedule and sticking to it. Seems like forever, but the results may shock you! You can even get your followers in on the action and tell them about your new posting schedule. Get them ready and excited for your content to arrive on the right day and time!

Plus, with an Instagram scheduling tool like Tailwind, these strategies could literally not be easier to implement. From adding your preferred time slots and scheduling the right content to each, to searching for a mix of hashtags to expose you to new users with our Hashtag Finder tool, we’ve got you covered!

In fact, you can schedule so far in advance on Tailwind, you could set up all your feed posts for the next few months today, and spend the rest of your time creating Reels for your followers!

Want to try it out? Sign up for free today!

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Our team member Chloe had the chance to speak to Instagram about how to create content with the algorithm in mind. Read the latest insights here!

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