Instagram’s Algorithm Decoded: How Your Posts Gain Spotlight

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | Feb 16, 2024

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Instagram’s algorithm influences the activities of every user on the platform. It determines what content appears on people’s feeds, stories, reels, and explore pages, thus shaping their experience on the platform. Are you an Instagram user with dreams of becoming an influencer? Understanding the workings of the app’s algorithm is a major key to your success. 

Knowing how Instagram’s algorithm operates helps your content rank quickly.  However, it doesn’t sit still. It keeps changing every time. This guide will explore how the app’s algorithm works, what content it avoids, and how to beat it. Let’s dive in and become experts! 

An algorithm’s code.

How Does Instagram’s Algorithm Work?

The Instagram algorithm is like a digital guide that decides what posts appear on the user’s feed. It pays attention to content on the platform and users’ actions to understand users’ preferences and interests. Understanding how it works helps you create content that appears on users’ pages and increases your visibility. 

According to Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, each part of Instagram has its algorithm. This means that the algorithm for the “Explore” page works differently from the Reels page algorithm. The Stories algorithm works differently from the Feeds algorithm. This is because users’ interactions with different parts of the app vary. 

For example, people look for new content on the Explore page and check Stories for updates from family and friends. So, how does Instagram’s algorithm work for each part? Let’s find out! 

A user scrolling through her Instagram Explore page.

How Instagram’s Algorithm Ranks Content on the Explore Page

The Instagram Explore page shows users’ posts from accounts they don’t follow. When bored, users head to the Search and Explore page to discover content from new creators. But have you ever wondered how those posts end up there? That’s where Instagram’s algorithm comes into play. Here are four important factors that the IG algorithm uses to rank videos on the Explore page:

  1. Likes and Comments: The algorithm checks a post’s likes and comments before showing it on the “Explore” page. Many likes and comments signal to the algorithm that the post is exciting. As such, it ranks such posts on people’s pages.
  2. Posting Frequency: The posting frequency of an influencer determines if their post will appear on the Explore page. Posting regularly makes the algorithm think, “This person shares cool stuff regularly; let me show their content to more people.”
  3. User’s Interests: The algorithm looks at users’ preferences and posts they previously engaged with. It tries to guess what topics users are into and shows them posts about those things.
  4. Time Spent: If a user spends more time on a post instead of just scrolling past, the algorithm assumes it interests them. So, it suggests more posts from that creator or similar creators to the user.

Overall, Instagram’s algorithm places content from consistent influencers and content with more likes and comments on users’ Explore pages. Additionally, factors like users’ interest and time spent on a post determine what will appear on Explore.

How Instagram Reels Algorithm Works

The main goal of Instagram Reels is to entertain users. This is where users visit for short and engaging videos to light up their screens. This page is similar to the Explore page; users can see content from accounts they don’t follow. Let’s see how Instagram Reels algorithm ranks content on the Reels page: 

  1. User Engagement: Instagram’s algorithm employs user reactions such as likes, comments, and shares to measure the popularity of a Reel. The higher the engagement, the greater its chances of appearing on the Reels page.
  2. User Preferences: The algorithm considers the content users engage with regularly. This is why an influencer needs to focus on a specific niche.  If a user mostly interacts with beauty-related content, the algorithm will show them Reels from creators in that niche.
  3. Video Information: Captions and hashtags guide the algorithm’s choices of Reels. People use hashtags and captions to search for reels. Including relevant Instagram hashtags in your video caption increases the chances of Instagram’s algorithm suggesting it to users.
  4. Video Duration: The time a user spends watching a Reel influences its ranking. Longer views suggest strong interest and alert the algorithm to show content from the same creator.
  5. Location and Language: Users’ location and preferred language guide the algorithm in showing Reels that match their linguistic preference.

How Instagram’s Algorithm Ranks Content on the Stories Page

Users visit the Instagram Stories page to catch up with their family, friends, and favorite influencers. Instagram Stories are temporary, short, and disappear after 24 hours. However, Instagram’s algorithm decides which Stories take the spotlight within that time.

Understanding how the algorithm works is vital to rank at the top of your followers’ stories. Here’s a glimpse of how the Instagram algorithm ranks content on the Stories page:

  1. Type of Content: Instagram’s algorithm shows users’ content based on their preference for video or photo-based Stories. For your content to rank at the top of your followers’ stories, you must understand their choices. Ask yourself, “What do my followers engage with the most? Pictures or videos?”
  2. Hashtags and Locations: Adding Instagram location tags and popular hashtags guides the algorithm to show your content to users exploring those hashtags or places.
  3. Story Views: The number of views your story has in a short span contributes to its ranking. If you post at your followers’ active time, you can get many views in the first few minutes. This increases the chances of your video appearing on the stories of other followers who are not online during your post.

An Instagram user scrolling through his feeds.

How Instagram’s Algorithm Ranks Content on the Feed Page

The Instagram Feed is where users engage with content from accounts they follow. Unlike the Explore page, which introduces users to new content, the feed shows posts from those you follow. Notably, the content you post on Instagram Feed is permanent unless you delete it. The Instagram’s algorithm ranks content on the feed page based on the following factors: 

  • User Engagement: The algorithm ranks content from influencers that users engage with their posts the most. As such, if your followers rarely engage with your post, Instagram’s algorithm may not show them your content. Having many views and likes on Instagram makes the algorithm notice your content faster than you think.
  • Recent Posts: The IG algorithm ranks recent posts to ensure users see fresh content. Therefore, for your content to show on your followers’ Feeds, you need to post when they are active the most.

A user’s Instagram profile page.

How To Keep Up With The Instagram Changing Algorithm

Instagram’s algorithm keeps changing, and keeping up with it is crucial for making the most of it. As the algorithm evolves, so do the strategies to ensure your content reaches the right audience and gains visibility. Here’s how to keep up with Instagram’s changing algorithm.

  1. Stay Current on New Updates: Regularly follow Instagram’s official announcements and updates. Instagram usually shares updates about changes in the algorithm, thus providing you with valuable information to modify your content strategy.
  2. Join Online Communities: Join and participate in Instagram influencers forums, groups, and communities. These platforms help you learn from others and stay current on what’s happening.
  3. Diversify Your Content: Experiment with different content formats like videos, stories, and reel posts. This ensures you don’t put all your eggs into one basket. If the algorithm doesn’t rank your content in users’ stories, it can rank your content on their Explore pages.
  4. Use Instagram  Insights: Instagram Insights provides data about your audience, engagement, and content performance. You can gain insights from these metrics to understand what your followers and target audience want. By doing this, you can catch up with the changes in Instagram’s algorithm and adjust your content strategy accordingly.
  5. Engage With Your Audience: No matter how much the Instagram algorithm changes, it prioritizes user engagement. Don’t just focus on creating good content. Build meaningful interactions with your followers by responding to their comments and following them back. By doing this, you can get more views and impressions on Instagram and ultimately capture the algorithm’s attention.

An influencer taking pictures of a bunch of flowers.

How To Beat Instagram’s Algorithm: 6 Ways To Make It Work for You

Making Instagram’s algorithm work for you may sound challenging. However, with the right strategies, you can make it work in your favor. Here are six ways to beat Instagram’s algorithm.

Know Your Audience

Understanding your target audience helps you know their interest, active times, and which Instagram page they explore the most. Remember that Instagram’s algorithm considers users’ interactions. Therefore, knowing your audience preferences and targeting their active hours boosts your visibility.

Create Quality Content

Content is king on Instagram, just like any other social media platform. Whether you post videos or pictures in your Reels or Stories, ensure they are high-quality and visually appealing. Creating high-quality content helps you captivate your audience and beat the Instagram algorithm.

Use Relevant Hashtags

Hashtags help whisk your posts to the right crowd; thus, learning how to use hashtags is a must for you. Research and add relevant hashtags to your posts for broader reach and higher possibilities of showing in users’ feeds. However, don’t add too much, and avoid using banned Instagram hashtags.

Engage Early After Posting

Engagement in the first few moments after posting boosts your visibility and signals to the algorithm to rank your content. Encourage your followers to engage early with your post to increase the chances of it appearing to more users.

Collaborate With Other Influencers

Collaborate with influencers or creators in your niche. Reposting each other’s content can introduce your posts to new audiences and increase engagement. Once this occurs, the Instagram algorithm promotes it to other users with similar interests.

Post Your Content Regularly

Create a posting schedule that matches your audience’s peak engagement times. After identifying ideal posting times, you can employ third-party tools to schedule Instagram posts. Posting your content regularly signals to the algorithm that your content is active and consistently engaging. 

Unseen person performing a thumbs down among purple, orange, and pink lighting.

4 Types of Content Instagram Doesn’t Recommend to Users

Why is your content not showing on users’ feeds after creating engaging content? Well, that’s because you are not getting something right. Do you know that the Instagram algorithm is programmed to avoid recommending certain types of content? Let’s explore four contents Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t recommend to users.

  1. Misleading or Sensational Content: Instagram’s algorithm identifies and avoids recommending misleading, false, or sensational content. This curbs the spread of misinformation and maintains a trustworthy platform. So, ensure you share accurate and reliable information in your content to ensure your content appears on users’ feeds.
  2. Content Violating Community Guidelines: The Instagram algorithm will not recommend content that violates the Instagram community guidelines. Avoid using hate speech and sharing explicit content so that the algorithm will recommend your content to users. 
  3. Low-Quality and Promotional Content: Low-quality pictures or content with poor resolution discourages users from engaging with the content and even affects their overall experience. Hence, the algorithm does not recommend such content to users. Additionally, it does not recommend content that includes the logos or URLs of external websites; avoid posting such content.
  4. Content with Few Likes and Shares: The Instagram algorithm won’t recommend posts with low engagement metrics. Posts with few likes, comments, and shares are less likely to appear on users’ feeds and Reels pages. Thus, focus on creating quality content and encourage your Instagram followers to engage actively with your posts. 

Now you know the types of content Instagram’s algorithm does not recommend to users. Take a step back and check your previous posts. Are they of high quality, or do they violate Instagram’s community guidelines? Check for these faults and improve your content to increase your reach and visibility.

How To Change IG Algorithm To Recommend New Content

As an aspiring influencer, you must follow Instagram trends and happenings. But how can you do that if Instagram’s algorithm repeatedly shows you the same or irrelevant content on your feed? You change the IG algorithm or reset it. Doing this lets you control what Instagram shows you and avoid missing out on current happenings. Here are three ways on how to change IG algorithm to recommend new content: 

  1. Clear Your Search History

The first way to change Instagram’s algorithm is to clear your search history. By doing this, the algorithm will not recommend videos based on your past searches. Here’s how to do so:

  • Log into your Instagram account.
  • Tap on your profile icon at the screen’s bottom right-hand corner.
  • Click on the three-line icon at the top right corner and tap “Your activity.”
  • Click “Recent searches.” Then tap “Clear All” to clear your recent search history.

  1.  Change Settings on Your Explore Page

Another option is manually changing your “Explore” page by removing posts you do not like. Here’s how to manually change settings on your Explore page:

  • Log in to your Instagram account and head to your Explore page.
  • Choose the Instagram post that you don’t like and open the content.
  • Click the three-dot menu icon beside that post.
  • Select the “Not Interested” option. The Instagram algorithm will remove the post and similar content from your feed.

  1. Clear Instagram Cache

Instagram retains data about the profiles you visit and engage with to show you familiar content when exploring. Clearing your cache deletes your visit history and any temporary data about your browsing activity. Go to your mobile device settings, select the Instagram app, and delete the cache. 

A lady recording a video in front of a ring light.

Get Ahead of Instagram’s Algorithm With Path Social’s Guide

Instagram’s algorithm influences what everyone sees on the platform, from Feeds to Stories, Reels, and Explore pages. The Explore page algorithm ranks content based on likes, posting frequency, user interests, and time spent. 

The Reel algorithm relies on engagement, user preferences, video details, location, and language to show content to users. The Story algorithm prioritizes content type, hashtags, locations, and story views. Your feed highlights posts based on user engagement and recency.

Remember that Instagram’s algorithm shuns false, harmful, low-quality, engagement content and posts with minimal likes and shares. Thus, you must abide by the platform guidelines and create engaging content to get the algorithm’s attention. 

Interestingly, growth agencies like Path Social can help you navigate the platform to boost your Instagram presence. With an expert on your side, your Instagram journey can be easy and smooth.

Notably, Path Social is an organic growth agency that understands the Instagram algorithm and helps influencers reach their target audience. Its AI-targeting technology and in-house team of social media experts ensure your content will get the visibility it deserves. Sign up with Path Social today and take your Instagram journey to the next level.