Everything you need to know about the Instagram algorithm and how to beat it

Getting your content seen on social media can sometimes feel like trying to crack the Enigma code. But it needn’t be that complicated. Honest.

We have already blogged about beating Facebook’s algorithm, following its changes at the beginning of 2018, well now it’s time to turn our attention to Instagram.

Like Facebook, Instagram made changes to its algorithm to ensure users “see the posts that really matter to you”. This means that feeds are ranked according to levels of engagement, rather than in chronological order.  According to Instagram, users were missing nearly 70% of all the posts published, but since the change in 2016 they now see almost 90% of their friends’ posts.

How does Instagram’s algorithm work?

Instagram uses machine learning to identify patterns in the things users like and interact with. They then serve up similar content in their feed. This is how it works:

  • A new post is shown to a small percentage of your total audience.
  • It measures how fast and how often that audience looks at, likes, comments, shares and saves the post.
  • It compares the engagement of new posts to previous posts, on similar days and times.
  • If the post gets less engagement, it is shown to a smaller percentage of your audience and appears further down their feed.
  • If the post receives more engagement, then a larger percentage of your audience sees it and the higher it appears on people’s home feeds.

How to outsmart the algorithm

Now you know how it works, here are a few tactics to ensure more people see your content.

Post during peak times

There is no point in posting content if no one is online to see it, so make sure you post at peak times. You can use Instagram Insights or a number of analytics apps to find the most popular times for your followers,

You can also use apps such as Hootsuite, Buffer and Schedugram to schedule posts at these times.

Focus on your photos

Your Instagram feed should be a feast for the eyes, so post photos that have impact and give your audience value. Also ensure captions encourage users to comment and share your posts. Ask and answer questions, create polls, start conversations and interact with your followers.

The longer someone spends engaging with your content, the better your chances are to have your future posts rank higher in their feeds.

Publish Stories

While Stories don’t influence the Instagram algorithm, they are the most popular type of content on Instagram, with more than 500 million daily users. They also push your brand’s account to the front of your followers’ Stories. This is good news for engagement, as your followers are constantly being encouraged to check out your content.

Publish video content

Instagram has announced that IGTV will begin appearing in feeds, so creating video is a great way to grab someone’s attention when they’re scrolling through content. Video content doesn’t need to be a Hollywood-style production; you can easily create quick and simple time lapse and Boomerang videos that will engage your audience.

Go live

As with Stories, Live video doesn’t affect the Instagram algorithm. However, it notifies followers by putting itself at the top of their Stories’ feeds. Once again, the more they see you, the more likely they are to engage with your content. And, as we all know, engagement is the key to befriending the Instagram algorithm.

Test, measure and improve

The best way to increase your engagement over time is by understanding which content gives your audience value, and the best way to do that is through testing. Test new types of content every week and use Instagram Insights to measure the engagement (likes, comments, shares, saves) each new type of post gets.

For more great advice, get in touch to find out how we can help you make an impact with your marketing. We provide a range of services, from social media to strategic marketing management, and athlete representation to international services.