Ah, the Instagram algorithm! You can love it or hate it, but you cannot ignore it, as it has the power to make or break your whole Instagram marketing strategy. The current Instagram algorithm has been up and running from July 2016 and it was introduced because many users complained about missing out on posts. So, the brainy guys from Instagram gathered round and worked their programming magic. And that’s exactly what it was for us on the outside: magic.
Up until recently (just a few days ago actually) nobody knew how the Instagram algorithm selected how to display posts in the feed. You could find all kinds of articles and tips&tricks lists on how to trick the algorithm. The bunch of gimmicks rarely worked and the accounts that got ahead were the accounts that kept on producing high-quality content. Today, even if the high-quality content strategy is still in place, we are more enlightened. Finally, we know how the Instagram algorithm works! Yes, you heard it right. Now we know how the Instagram algorithm chooses which posts to show and how often. So, without further small talk, let’s dig into the juicy details.
The secret to the Instagram algorithm: machine learning
Machine learning is the hot topic of the moment and it’s only natural. The possibilities it opens are endless and there’s no wonder that Instagram chose to build its algorithm upon it. The cool trick it allows? Well, since machine learning is all about software programs learning things on their own, that’s exactly what the neat trick it enables.
Thus, the Instagram algorithm is highly personalized and it is based on what the machine learning finds out from your behavior and interactions with other accounts. That means that even if you follow the same accounts as your other friends, the Instagram algorithm might choose to display your feed in a totally different way. That’s because each user engages with accounts a different way.
The top 3 criteria on which the Instagram algorithm is based
Now for the big reveal. Here are the top 3 things the Instagram algorithm considers before displaying anything in a feed.
Level of Interest
Okay, so the Instagram feed is smart. And because it is so smart, it can easily predict, based on previous behavior, how interested an Instagrammer will be in a post. Thus, if a certain user engages with posts from your brand/business often, then chances are that they’ll see more of your content. Also, interest is determined based on engagement with similar content and potential machine vision which analyses each post. In this case, to make the Instagram algorithm work in your favor, you must create relevant, quality content that will provide real value to your followers. Well, that’s what we were telling you all along, right?
Instagram is the social media platform of the “now”. It helps communities connect and share the things that make every moment special. Thus, it’s only natural that the Instagram algorithm prefers newer posts to older ones. Although it is not a purely chronological algorithm, recency plays an important role in deciding which posts to show in a news feed. What does this mean for your business and social media strategy? It means that you must constantly produce content (high-quality, remember!) and post at semi-regular intervals. Also, and we cannot hyphen these enough, use Instagram Stories! And, to make sure you have a streamed pipeline of posts, Preppr is here to help you with direct publishing by scheduling your posts in advance.
Relationship between accounts
In deciding what to show and to whom, the Instagram algorithm also looks at the relationship between accounts. Thus, it considers the type of relationship your business has with a certain Instagrammer and how close they are to you. Of course, it also looks at the level of engagement and posts interactions.
The closer you get to your customers, the more chances you’ll have of getting more displays. That means that tagging, hashtagging, reposting and generating engagement-worthy posts will pay off in the long-term.
Other factors that influence the way the Instagram algorithm works
As you might have guessed, there are more than 3 factors that the Instagram algorithm considers before even considering a post. Here’s what else comes into play.
How often a user opens Instagram
The frequency with which an Instagrammer opens the platforms also plays a role in the works of the Instagram algorithm. How come? Well, each time a user opens the platform, the algorithm will try to display new content and the best content since their last visit. This can be directly related to the number of times a week or a day you post. However, don’t exaggerate! Always think quality over quantity and, when having too much to say, choose Instagram Stories.
The number of accounts an Instagrammer follows
If a user follows a ton of accounts, that means they’ll get to see each content from each. On the other hand, if the number of accounts a particular user follows is smaller, then the content displayed from each will be more consistent. Makes sense, right?
Since each user is different, so are their usage patterns. Some open Instagram a few times a day but spend tens of minutes scrolling. Others, spend only a few seconds but check Instagram at more regular intervals. Depending on this, the Instagram algorithm determines specific ways to display content in each feed.
Is the Instagram algorithm good or bad for business?
Since the big change in 2016, there have been a lot of vocal users that declared, beyond a doubt, that the new Instagram algorithm ruins everything. Even as the news about the way it works kicked in, users are still not satisfied. However, according to TechCrunch, Instagram is pulling all efforts to hear the concerns out and address them. Although they are not, in any way, considering to reverse to the old chronological way of things. Time is just a construct after all, right? However, Instagram has also tried to dismantle some rumors regarding some murky complaints.
Instagram wanted to clarify regarding its algorithm is that it doesn’t hide any of the posts. If a user keeps scrolling, sooner or later that Instagrammer will see all the possible posts. Also, it doesn’t really matter if you’re posting more photos or videos, as Instagram doesn’t favor a specific format. The format a user sees is simply a matter of the type of content he or she engages most with.
Another thing the guys from Instagram wanted to shed light upon is the rumors about downranking. Posting excessively in itself doesn’t affect the way your posts are displayed by the Instagram algorithm. However (this is our advice) if you post too often and you neglect quality for quantity, you’ll get burned from a different set of reasons. Also, shadowbanning is just a fancy naming given to a non-existing punishment. Instagram couldn’t care less if you use a ton of hashtags with your captions.
How can the Instagram algorithm help your social media marketing
The Instagram algorithm cannot help you. Think the other way around. You should do everything in your power to help the Instagram algorithm display your content. And no, this is not just a nice play on words. It’s the honest truth: if you want to get displayed, you need to produce high-quality content. Relevancy, originality, and value are the key elements you should build your Instagram strategy upon and on which you should create content. Because by doing this, you’ll ensure users want to interact with your account and do it often. Also, making use of a large array of Instagram tools such as tagging, hashtagging, reposting, Instagram Stories and so on, will help you extend your reach and gain more terrain.
Sure, now we feel much better knowing exactly how the Instagram algorithm operates. But the way we should operate to be successful is not new. We can just hope that now it will be reinforced and everybody will do what they should have done from the very beginning:
Create awesome content to keep Instagram cool.
Cheers to that!