How does the Instagram algorithm actually work?

This question has created a lot of confusion since Instagram moved away from a chronological feed.

In this blog post, we are going to share how the Instagram algorithm works for feed posts, stories, the Explore page, IGTV videos and roles.

Also, discover our top tips for hacking the Instagram algorithm so you can get more engagement with your business or brand:

Table of Contents:

  1. How Instagram's Feed Post Algorithm Works in 2021
  2. How the Instagram algorithm for Instagram stories works
  3. How the Instagram algorithm works on the Explore page
  4. How the Instagram algorithm works for IGTV videos and roles
  5. 7 additional ways to improve your ranking with the Instagram algorithm

The Instagram algorithm in 2021

If you've spent time on Instagram, you know that the algorithm can act in mysterious ways.

However, once you understand how the elusive algorithm actually works, you can tweak your content strategy to work alongside it.

Are you ready to get acquainted with the Instagram algorithm in 2021? Here is everything you need to know:

How Instagram's Feed Post Algorithm Works in 2021

According to InstagramThere are 6 key factors that affect Instagram's feed post algorithm:

  1. interest
  2. relationship
  3. Topicality
  4. frequency
  5. consequences
  6. use

Factor 1: interest

Your Instagram feed is based not only on who you follow, but also on the accounts and types of posts you've enjoyed in the past.

The more the Instagram algorithm thinks you "like" a certain type of post, the higher it will appear in your feed.

Basically, what you see on your Instagram feed is a combination of all of your Instagram behaviors. The accounts you interact with the most, the people you're tagged with in photos, and of course the types of posts you like and comment on.

That is why it is so important to appear on Instagram all the time.

It sends positive signals to the Instagram algorithm – and gives your audience more opportunities to interact with your content.

TIP: Use Later Plan and schedule all of your Instagram posts, subtitles, and hashtags in advance so you can be more consistent with your posting strategy.

This saves you a lot of time – and ensures that you always have a post ready to go live in your feed.

Schedule and schedule your Instagram posts in advance for free with Later – this is the easiest way to keep track of your Instagram game!

Which engagements are most important to the Instagram algorithm?

When it comes to feed performance, we know the algorithm prioritizes content that gets the most engagement.

But what are the most important metrics for engagements?

According to Instagram, the most important tasks for feed ranking are comments, likes, reshares and views for video posting, which is very helpful when planning your content and subtitles.

While it's not currently listed as a key indicator of engagement, it might be worth it too Optimize your content for saves – especially when Instagram tests hide likes in more countries.

Factor 2: relationship

The Instagram algorithm wants to prioritize posts from your friends, family and accounts that are important to you.

In order for Instagram to show you what you want (what you really, really want), the algorithm uses your interactions to figure out who is closest to you.

Thomas Dimson, software developer at Instagram, shared how Instagram could In theory, find out who you're most interested in based on how you're using the app:

  • People whose content you like (may include stories and live videos)
  • People you send a direct message to
  • People you are looking for
  • People you know in real life

Instagram will try to calculate this relationship and your interest as soon as you follow a new person by providing their content on your feed.

Factor 3: topicality

The algorithm not only pays attention to how much engagement your Instagram post is getting, but also how long it has been since the photo was published.

Instagram's algorithm is increasingly taking care of posting as it always wants to bring you the latest and most interesting posts.

By finding your personalized one best time to post on instagramyou can hack the algorithm to increase your reach and get more likes and followers.

And if you post at a time when most of your followers are online, you have a better chance of earning those likes.

TIP: Use Later Best time to post feature to automatically calculate your top 7 posting times based on how much engagement your posts have gained in the past!

Since this feature is built into Later's Instagram scheduler, you can easily find out when to schedule Instagram posts for maximum engagement.

Upgrade to one of Later starter, growth, or advanced Make plans today and make the most of your best post times.

Factor 4: frequency

How often do you open the Instagram app? If you scroll a lot, your feed will look more chronological as Instagram tries to show you the best posts since your last visit.

If you check the Instagram app less often, your feed will not be sorted chronologically but according to your preferences.

Factor 5: Consequences

How many people do you follow on Instagram? If you follow a lot of people, Instagram has more options to choose from, so you probably won't see all of the posts from every account.

In this context, it might be worthwhile to systematically remove inactive or "ghost" followers.

Having a large percentage of your followers idle can do more harm than good to your account's algorithmic ranking.

Factor 6: use

If you spend a lot of time on Instagram, you'll see more posts as Instagram delves deeper into its catalog.

If you spend enough time on Instagram, you may not even be able to see any new content. Once that happens, the algorithm will provide you with suggested content from new accounts – based on your previous interactions.

However, if you only spend a few minutes on the app each day, you will only get the highlights of the day from the algorithm.

How the Instagram algorithm for Instagram stories works

Usually Instagram stories At the beginning of your feed, you will see accounts that you deal with the most, whether that's through likes, comments, story views, reactions, or DMs.

The Instagram algorithm in 2020

The Instagram Stories algorithm also puts a lot of emphasis on being up to date as it wants to make sure you always see the latest stories from your favorite accounts.

If you deal with an account regularly, the new stories will move to the front of your feed every time they are published – even if you've seen all of the stories from the previous day.

With that in mind, it's a good idea to post stories on Instagram regularly.

If you post more stories on Instagram, you have a better chance of reaching viewers as they browse their daily stories. The more views you get, the better your ranking will be.

Fortunately, posting to stories regularly is a lot easier now.

You can now plan Instagram stories with later – so you'll never miss the opportunity to connect with your audience again!

With LaterYou can storyboard your content, add captions or links, collaborate with your team and visually plan and Schedule Instagram Stories right from your desktop.

NOTE: You can add links and captions to your planned stories. The links and captions will be copied to your phone at the time of posting. Increase traffic and sales by taking the time to write compelling captions and CTAs from your desktop.

Are you ready to post more Instagram Stories so our audience will always get new content? Plan and Schedule your Instagram stories with later!

How the Instagram algorithm works on the Explore page

Overall, the Explore page and the feed algorithm are pretty similar. Both deliver content that you're most interested in based on your previous interactions.

However, your Instagram feed is made up of content from accounts you already follow, while the Explore feed is made up almost entirely of content from new accounts.

The Explore page is constantly evolving, with new subject categories and advanced search functions being introduced all the time.

For example, you can now search for keywords and hashtags to identify feeds with relevant content:

Everything you need to know about the Instagram algorithm

This suggests that the "Explore" page algorithm takes into account far more than just the tags in your posts; B. the actual visual content and the words in your caption.

Fortunately, getting your posts on the Instagram Explore page isn't as difficult as you might think.

The Explore page algorithm is essentially trying to deliver the best, most relevant content to people. So by consistently sharing great content with strong captions and niche hashtags, you're already contributing to your Explore page ranking.

Similarly, the hashtag results page will prioritize best performing posts that contain your searched tag:

the Instagram algorithm in 2021

These posts are selected based on engagement (how many likes and comments the post received) and the extent of the competition for the hashtag.

The search results are the same for any user searching for a specific hashtag, while the main Explore page is tailored to your individual interests.

TIP: If you're a brand looking to get onto the Instagram Explore page, it's more important than ever to focus on your niche topics and use hashtags to categorize your posts.

Check out our post, The ultimate guide to getting started on the Instagram Explore page to find out how to bring your content to a new audience!

How the Instagram algorithm works for IGTV videos and roles

To the IGTV Videos and Instagram rolesthe algorithm is relatively similar to the Instagram feed algorithm.

The content is generally prioritized based on the accounts you interact with the most and the types of posts you typically work with.

In addition to the home feed, Instagram offers suggestions for IGTV videos and roles on relevant Explore pages.

This is based on what Instagram you like based on the machine learning model.

Everything you need to know about the Instagram algorithm

How can you give your IGTV videos and roles the best chance of being seen by new (and existing) audiences?

The trick is to help them as much as possible.

For IGTV videos, you can share a 1 minute preview on your Instagram feed to increase the initial exposure and give the algorithm a positive signal.

This is how the Instagram algorithm works

For roles, always share them with your main Instagram feed and add multiple hashtags to make them easier to find.

Are you ready to take your Instagram Reels strategy to the next level? Check out our post: The ultimate guide to Instagram roles to optimize your content on the platform.

7 additional ways to improve your ranking with the Instagram algorithm

The best way to improve your ranking with the Instagram algorithm is to control as many interactions (likes, comments, DMs, saves and shares) as possible.

As you build momentum with your existing community, you will soon find that your content is being brought to a new audience.

Here are 7 ways to improve your algorithmic ranking and reach new audiences:

# 1: Encourage More Interactions With Instagram Stories Stickers

Instagram Stories Stickers are a great way to build audience engagement. The more engagement your posts get, the higher they get through the Instagram algorithm.

There are a lot of Instagram stickers out there, but the best ones to use to boost engagement are these survey, Emoji slider, and Question sticker.

the Instagram algorithm in 2021

Poll and emoji slider stickers are a quick and easy win for engagement and can be used for almost any business or brand.

Question stickers may not be that quick to work on, but they can just as easily help create real engagement with your audience, which is very valuable to the Instagram algorithm.

# 2: Have conversations with engaging captions and comments

Instagram has confirmed that comments are very important for feed ranking. So it is a good idea to encourage as many as you can to contribute.

One of the best ways to do this is by writing good captions that drive commitment.

As an entrepreneur Elise Darma Mentions in our free How do I write beautiful Instagram captions? A workshop, including a call to action in your Instagram caption, can go a long way when it comes to driving more interactions.

This can be as simple as asking your followers to share their thoughts or feelings, double-tap if they agree, or tag a friend in the comments.

Do you want to improve your conversational signatures? Check out our blog post: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Good Instagram Captions!

# 3: embrace the latest features from Instagram

Another quick way to get favor with the Instagram algorithm?

Take advantage of the latest Instagram features!

Instagram will always provide the latest features (e.g. Instagram roles) a helping hand to drive adoption. It is therefore a good idea to access the latest trends and take advantage of that extra boost.

# 4: tweak your hashtag strategy

Adding hashtags to your posts is one of the most effective ways to reach more people on Instagram. This means that the Instagram algorithm takes more "views" into account.

And with a good one Hashtag strategyNot only do you reach more people, but also people who are relevant to your business and who are most likely engaged in your content.

One way to discover new hashtags for your brand is by using Later Hashtag suggestions Characteristic.

Hashtag suggestions will automatically identify relevant hashtags for your posts based on other hashtags you've used.

All you have to do is know a relevant hashtag, put it in hashtag suggestions, hit "suggest", and the feature instantly generates 30 more hashtags sorted by relevance.

Increase Instagram engagement: hashtags

Once you've found the best hashtags for your brand, you're ready to start using Later Function for saved subtitles to create pre-made lists of hashtags that you can add to your post subtitles in seconds.

Subtitles saved later

When it's time to plan, just select one of your saved captions to add to your post.

# 5: cross-promote your Instagram content

If you're looking for a quick and easy engagement gain to boost your algorithm ranking, cross-promoting your Instagram content is a great place to start.

As Instagram grows, so does the number of channels you can share content on: Feed, Stories, IGTV and roll.

Thanks to these different publishing channels, you can use them strategically to attract different audiences for your latest content.

the Instagram algorithm in 2021

This can be as simple as sharing an enticing preview of an IGTV video to your feed, or even adding a feed post to stories with a GIF "Tap Here".

# 6: Keep Track of Your DMs

Much like comments and likes, direct messages (DMs) are a powerful indicator of Instagram algorithm engagement.

You may have noticed that the accounts you use most often appear at the front of your Instagram Stories feed. The Instagram algorithm is best suited to delivering you content that you want to see.

One way to use this to your advantage is to regularly invite your audience with their questions or feedback on DM – or by encouraging "quick emoji responses."

TIP: Set up Quick responses on Instagram to answer your most frequent DM questions at the push of a button.

# 7: use Instagram analytics to see what works

Tracking and monitoring the performance of your content on Instagram is one of the most reliable ways to adopt the Instagram algorithm.

A better understanding of what works (and what doesn't) can help you craft a fine-grained marketing plan that will save you time and effort in the long run.

But immerse yourself in yours Instagram Analytics is more than just figuring out which photos, videos, or stories perform best. Really understand how your content is performing – through tracking Key metrics Over time – it is important to know what will improve your ranking.

The easiest way to do this? The fully integrated analysis dashboard from later.

With Later analytics You can see your top performing content quickly and easily. Calculate your engagement ratesand monitor your key metrics.

later analysis

Regardless of the tactic you focus on to improve your algorithm ranking in 2021, the most important thing is to keep your audience at the center of your strategy.

Building a real relationship with your followers is the most powerful way to "hack" the algorithm and most importantly, it works wonders for your brand too.

Ready to get organized and plan your Instagram content ahead of time? Start planning with Later, # 1 Instagram Marketing Platform Trusted by Over 2 Million Companies! Join Now – it's free!

Written by

Jillian Warren

Jillian is a content marketer at Later in the UK. She is a lover of London brunch spots and an avid listener of true crime podcasts. You can connect with her on Instagram @ jillwrren.


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