How the Instagram Algorithm Works

How the Instagram Algorithm Works

Last year’s Instagram algorithm update left many users with a bitter taste in their mouths. Many felt as though their reach, impressions and engagement had taken a big hit. True enough, it was revealed that the latest algorithm recharge resulted in only 10% of your total followers viewing your posts and related content. This has caused many users to migrate to other platforms on which their content is distributed and displayed on a wider scale. But why, you might ask yourself, would Instagram make these changes knowing what the reaction would be?

Well, why does any business do anything? For money, of course. The rationale behind this update was to help monetise its most active pages. Instagram prioritises accounts that keep their followers most engaged. Sounds fair when you put it that way. Let’s take a deeper dive into the ever-changing and slightly mysterious world of the Instagram algorithm and how exactly it works.

Instagram feed

Instagram’s algorithm determines what content appears on your feed every time you launch the app. It tends to put a premium on the best and most relevant posts in a bid to boost views and engagement, while the relatively poorer quality posts get lost towards the bottom. Here are the key factors that determine how a post is ranked.


  1. Relationship with the user. Instagram generally shows your content to those who have already interacted with it. This helps to foster loyalty between the user and your account.
  2. User’s interests. This relates to the type of content the user tends to search and engage with on the app. Instagram essentially tailors their feeds towards their unique interests to make it more relevant and engaging. For example, if someone always likes images of designer bags, chances are they will be shown more designer bad related content.
  3. Relevance of post. Publishing a post in Instagram can be a trigger for the algorithm to give it a relevancy score, which you will usually see first as your refresh your feed.

Instagram stories

Similarly to the feed, the Instagram algorithm also prioritises stories from pages with which users interact with the most. If a user regularly likes, comments, or shoots a DM to your page, there is a huge chance your stories will be among the first displayed when they open the app. Users can also view these stories by location, so putting location hashtags in stories can help boost your profile among those nearby.  Be consistent with your stories to keep engagement levels up.

Instagram reels and IGTV

These two video features have gained serious traction during their short time on the platform. And you guessed it, those who engage with your content the most will be shown your reels and IGTVs most prominently. The app’s algorithm loves hashtags by the way so, to increase visibility for your reels, leave a few relevant tags in the caption. Since this is a recently added feature, Instagram tends to boost discoverability for reels. If you haven’t started making your own already, it’s time to get involved.

How to capitalise

Building relationships between users and followers is the main purpose of the algorithm, so try and work this to your advantage. Keep your audience interested with user generated content in your stories, creative reels, connecting on a deeper level on IGTV, liking and replying to comments and messages, posting when your followers are most active and using relevant hashtags.

Sure, Instagram’s algorithm poses new challenges for those eager to cultivate large following. But it’s all about strategy. As long as you understand the basic stipulations of the algorithm, as well as your target audience, you’ll be able to post content that will be seen and interacted with. If that means stepping up your game, then you better bring it in 2021!

Do you need help building your brand on Instagram and beyond? Let the digital experts at Elephant in the Boardroom give you the level-up you need. Our creative team of marketing experts can take your business to new heights online with a killer social media presence, website, blog and so much more. We take the time to understand your business and its individual objectives, building a strategy together that is 100% tailored to you. Visit www.elephantintheboardroom.com.au and let’s talk today.


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