There has always been speculation surrounding Instagram’s mysterious algorithm; and trying to separate the truth from rumors can be daunting – and time consuming.
But recently, Instagram put many of these rumors to rest and has spoken out about how the algorithm works; no more speculation about what appears in your follower’s feeds and why it appears there (or doesn’t)!
Let’s take a look at what Instagram shared with us all, and more importantly, how you can make Instagram’s algorithm work for you.
How Instagram’s Algorithm Works – and How to Make it Work for You
In an unexpected move, Instagram revealed six ranking factors that determine where your content appears in your followers’ feeds: interest, recency, relationship, frequency, following, and usage. Of these, three are most important – and are those you can use to your advantage: interest, recency, and relationship. Let’s take a look at each and how you can use your new-found understanding to make your Instagram marketing even more effective.
Instagram Algorithm Factor #1 – Interest
Instagram uses machine learning to analyze user engagement to determine “interest” – what types of content people want to see.
The result? Content that Instagram thinks your followers are interested in appears higher in their feeds.
For instance, if someone often likes or comments on photos and videos containing dogs, they will see more dog posts in their feed. Each feed is personalized for every user!
How to Make it Work for You: Find out What Your Followers are Interested In and Post That!
Analyze Your Content
Analyze your posts to see what generates the most conversation and engagement with your audience. Tailwind’s Post Inspector makes it easy to sort your posts based on number of likes, number of comments, and date published.
Reviewing posts that received a higher number of comments or likes will help you create more engaging content.
Besides analysis, you can always just ASK what interests your followers! Instagram recently launched “Questions” stickers for stories, which allows you to add a specific question to a story. Your followers can reply to your question right in the story. Use these questions to ask your followers what they’d like to see from you.
Post more of what your followers are interested in and you’ll consistently reach more of them.
Instagram Algorithm Factor #2 – Recency
Although Instagram isn’t going back to publishing a chronological feed (there is just too much content!), the algorithm does take into account how recently a post was published.
Newer posts will have prioritization over older ones, so the home feed will be fresher.
How to Make it Work for You: Post At The Right Time – and Often
Since newer posts have a higher priority in the feed, you should post during a time when most of your followers are on the app.
You could figure out when the best time to post is to manually jot down the engagement you receive by testing different posting times. This can be tedious, however, and could change as your following grows!
Tailwind’s SmartSchedule can help you easily choose the optimal time to post each day so you can reach as many followers as possible. Our SmartSchedule makes personalized recommendations about when to post for your Instagram account.
Instagram places a higher priority on newer content over older content, so post often to ensure your content isn’t getting lost in the feed.
But how often should you post?
Our study indicates you should post at least once a day to Instagram! Posting daily is easy with Tailwind’s Post Scheduler for Instagram. Feeling stuck for ideas? Start with the Instagram JumpStart – a great way to get in the habit of daily posting.
Instagram Algorithm Factor #3 Relationship
Instagram also takes into consideration the relationship you have with each of your followers.
Followers who routinely interact with content from your account or who are tagged in photos with you are considered to have a stronger relationship with you. So, engagement = relationship!
How to Make it Work for You: Create Content That Generates Conversation and Interact Often
Because “interest” is determined by engagement, your content should above all encourage people to engage. Each “like” or comment signals Instagram to show more of your content to that follower.
How to Increase Instagram Engagement:
Through skillful use of captions. Try:
- Asking a question and replying to the answers you get (to encourage future engagement)
- Using emojis (emojis can increase your engagement by nearly 43%)
- Including a call-to-action such as “double tap to like”, “@mention a friend who would love this,” etc.
Instagram stories, Instagram Live, and IGTV also offer many ways to encourage audience engagement. For instance, you could create a story poll, which gives your audience a quick way to voice their opinion. Everyone likes to give an opinion!
Once you get some engagement on your posts encourage your followers to continue interacting with your content by replying to their comments – even asking follow-up questions, which can keep the conversation going.
Make Use of User-Generated Content (UGC)
User-generated content is content that your followers have created that features your products or services. When you repost user-generated content, you can legitimately tag yourself and that follower in a post together (never tag someone not involved just to elicit engagement or imply a relationship).
Not only does sharing UGC help you develop a relationship with your follower in the eyes of Instagram, it fosters trust with all your followers, AND you’re also cutting down on the time it takes to create content!
If you plan to repost content to your Instagram be sure to first ask for permission, tag yourself and your customers in their photo, and give proper credit in the caption.
Tailwind’s Instagram Scheduler makes reposting photos to your own account incredibly easy (and Tailwind automatically includes attribution in the caption, so you don’t need to worry about forgetting it)!
Start a Free Trial of Tailwind for Instagram!
- Schedule photos and videos directly to your Instagram feed with Auto Post.
- Optimize every post for more engagement with SmartSchedule and Hashtag Finder.
- Automatically hide your post’s hashtags in the first comment to keep your caption clean & clutter-free.
- Make your posts more discoverable with user tagging & location tagging.
- Analyze what's working across every post and profile with smart analytics.
Busting Instagram Algorithm Myths
Along with addressing how the algorithm works, Instagram also came out to bust some persistent Instagram myths.
Instagram Myth #1 – The Dreaded Shadowban
First, the infamous shadowban is not real and Instagram isn’t purposely hiding any content because you used “banned” hashtags. Instagram busted this myth during a recent conference, so we can finally lay that rumor to rest!
Instagram Myth #2 – Switching from a Personal to a Business Account Will Decrease Your Reach
There has also been lots of speculation about whether or not using a personal account or business account makes any difference in your engagement rate. Many people switch back and forth to test which type of account provides the most engagement.
But Instagram has also confirmed this rumor is also untrue.
Business accounts offer analytical insights and give the ability to post directly to Instagram with approved schedulers (like Tailwind), so those who have been hesitant to make the switch from personal to business can now do so without worrying about engagement dropping.
Instagram Myth #3 – Instagram Rewards Users Who Use Certain Features
Instagram also noted that using different features of the app (such as Instagram Live and stories) will not in itself give an account any special priority in the feed.
Instagram Myth #4 – Instagram Favors Certain Post Formats
Instagram doesn’t increase or decrease reach depending on post type. If you notice the videos you post receive lower engagement, your audience likely isn’t that interested in watching your videos – but the lack of engagement is NOT a technical “penalty.”
Paying attention to content that receives higher engagement can help you continue to provide your audience with the types of content they want to see and want to engage with.
Instagram opening up about their algorithm will really help creators understand how they can get their content seen in the feed!
The three main factors that Instagram considers when trying to place your content in the feed are:
With that in mind, you can increase your reach by:
- Interacting with your audience
- Posting frequently and at the right time
- Creating content that encourages your followers to interact.
Isn’t it great when a platform gives us the formula for success? How are you going to change your posting habits now that you know a bit more about how Instagram’s algorithm works? What’s your Instagram plan? Let us know in the comments below!
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Dana is a self-taught graphic and web designer who now lives in a small town in Denmark and works with clients from all over the world. She helps clients define their brand in order to attract and retain their ideal customers and also teaches businesses how to grow their presence through online marketing and SEO.