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Home > Digital Marketing Blog > Instagram Algorithm Explained: Everything You Need To Know To Get Good Results

Instagram Algorithm Explained: Everything You Need To Know To Get Good Results

Instagram Algorithm Explained: Everything You Need To Know To Get Good Results
October 29, 2021

Instagram Algorithm Explained: Everything You Need To Know To Get Good Results

Oct 29, 2021
Akriti Raturi

Akriti is an UGC Net Qualified Assistant Professor. She is an alumni of Miranda House, University of Delhi, and has a passion for teaching.

When it comes to SEO, we've always heard that Google uses an algorithm to rank websites. But, for those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Instagram, too, uses an algorithm. It's basically the technique for how Instagram works and the impact it has on people's experiences across the apps.

What is Instagram Algorithm?

Unlike Google, Instagram does not have a single algorithm that shows what people do and do not see in the app. Instagram employs a number of algorithms and processes, each of which serves a specific purpose. Instagram believes in personalizing one's experience with technology in order to provide better results.

When Instagram first launched in 2010, there were single streams of photos that were displayed, but as more people joined, it became difficult for users to see everything, which is when Instagram introduced Feeds in 2016, which ranked posts based on what a user cared about the most. The app's Reels, Feeds, and Explore sections each have their own algorithm that is geared to how people use it.

How the Instagram Algorithm Functions

Instagram's algorithm determines which content is seen. So, every time a user launches the app, the algorithm instantly scans all available content, analyses it, and decides which posts will appear at the top of the news feed and in what order, which posts will appear in the Explore tab, and in what order the Stories, Reels, and Live Videos will appear in the Feeds and in their respective tabs.

The Instagram algorithm is a set of rules that governs the organic reach of a user's content. Despite widespread criticism, Instagram claims that prior to the implementation of this algorithm in 2016, people missed 70% of their own posts and 50% of their friends' posts. However, the question remains as to how the algorithm determines which and whether a particular piece of content is worth showing to a user at any given time.

The algorithm examines the user's previous behavior and searches through all available posts, evaluating each one and predicting which one will be of interest to the user. So, whichever post is the most interesting is at the top.

You're a smart cookie! It works like a magic wand, but the algorithm actually takes into account a large number of individual data points known as ranking signals. There are many of these signals, but only a few are considered to be the most important and aid in determining which posts, reels, or videos are of interest to a user.

Ranking Signals of Instagram Algorithm

The ranking signals of the Instagram Algorithm are divided into three major categories.

1. Relationship

The algorithm assumes that people who have previously interacted with your account will be interested in your new content in terms of relationship. So, when it decides to show a post to one of your followers, it considers your relationship with the other user, such as whether you know each other, whether they searched for you, whether you tagged each other on your posts, or whether they saved your post.

In the case of a brand account, the algorithm will consider an audience's loyalty and engagement with the brand's content. This interaction with your followers will undoubtedly increase your organic reach.

2. Timelines

In this case, the algorithm assumes that the most recent posts are the most important. However, Instagram states that all posts appear in a user's feed at some point, although newer posts appear higher in the newsfeed than older ones.

One of the simplest ways for brands to increase their Instagram reach is to post when their target audience is online.

3. Interest

An algorithm's primary task is to provide users with what they want or a combination of what they want and some preference content. It connects with the user by tracking and understanding what is in a given photo or video, and this is how it shows relevant posts or news to news enthusiasts and cute pet videos to pet enthusiasts.

4. Organic content

For brands, content must be very appealing to the target audience in order for the algorithm to show it to them. There is no shortcut to defining your niche other than developing a consistent voice or telling a story that people are interested in.

Aside from the three mentioned above, there are other ranking signals that influence organic reach that have more to do with the audience.

Frequency of Use - Here, the user/audience who opens their feeds frequently will be able to see your post, as opposed to those who open it infrequently and rely on the algorithm to select what they see.

Following - It's similar to the frequency signal, people who follow a large number of accounts miss out on more posts than those who follow a few carefully chosen ones.

Session Time - This refers to the amount of time spent by a follower who is more likely to see all of the posts.

Tips for working with Instagram Algorithm in 2021

1. Carousel Posts

Although the Instagram algorithm does not specify carousel posts, they do receive a lot of engagement and have a comparatively higher reach. According to Hootsuite, these posts generate three times the engagement and 1.4 times the reach compared to other types of posts.

2. Consistent Posts

Whether you want to increase your reach, engagement, or followers, you must post on a regular basis. During Instagram's Creator Week in June 2021, Instagram Chief Adam Mosseri revealed that a posting frequency of two feed posts per week and two stories per day is the ideal recipe for growing a following on the app.

3. No Shady Methods

There should be no shady methods used. Whether you buy Instagram followers or use Instagram automation, it will not work. You cannot tamper with the system. According to Instagram, the algorithm can detect if your account is engaging in unethical behaviour.

4. Myths Should Be Ignored

It's just a myth about "Shadowbanning," because according to Instagram if you violate Instagram's Community Guidelines or Terms of Use, your account will be disabled.

5. New Features

The algorithm is currently boosting Reels in the feeds so that more users become aware of and use this feature. Instagram has not officially confirmed this, but it appears to be an intriguing feature. Have you ever tried it? If so, please tell us about it.

6. Better Hashtags

While this is a pre-existing feature, with machine learning, social content is sorted in more complex ways, and using the right hashtags on your posts will help you get discovered by people whether or not they follow you.

7. Post When Your Audience Is Online

Because Instagram wants to serve people the most recent, relevant content, you should figure out the best time to post by looking at your audience's behavior, the industry you're in, and when people typically login to Instagram.

8. Bonding with your Audience

It goes without saying that if you can touch your audience's emotions, you will win their hearts as well as the algorithm. Whatever your KPIs are, you will only be successful if you can capture and win the audience's heart and mind.

9. Automation of Analytics Reports

Use a good Instagram Analytics tool to get automatic analytics reports to analyze what works best for you in terms of content, posting time, and hashtags.


So, if you are looking to get in more followers or reach, or to get your content to the right audience don't forget the working of the Instagram algorithm and the tips that could help you win the algorithm's heart.

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