Back in the olden days, Instagram’s feed listed posts in chronological order.
(Some would say it was a purer time to be on the Gram.)
Now, there’s a sophisticated algorithm driving the social machine. Instagram's algorithm ranks posts for you from “best-to-worst.”
Remember, algorithms know you better than you know yourself. Amiright?
While sorting content based on interests makes sense, Instagram’s algorithm takes it to a whole new level. There’s a lot of analytics that gets ingested, so Instagram pegs people perfectly with relevant content.
We’ll go over all of the algorithm's ranking factors below if you want to get a firm grasp on it. – but you don’t need to understand Instagram’s algorithm to outsmart it. Brands & influencers can have the Instagram algorithm work for them, with a few simple practices.
Follow these 8 tips to show Instagram’s Algorithm who’s boss! If you don’t want to grow your following, engagement rate, and brand awareness on Instagram, then move along.
What goes into Instagram’s Algorithm?
You can tell the brainiacs at Instagram were hard at work while designing their algorithm. We’re talking about brackets of analytics that get added together, then multiplied on top.
I dare say it’s comprehensive, if not a little overkill. It’s nothing that goes beyond general comprehension, so don’t sweat it.
Check out the 6 ranking factors that makeup Instagram's Algorithm:
Interest: Most people could probably have guessed this one, but there’s a lot more that goes into it. Instagram records your past interaction with posts to predict what future posts to show you.
By liking and commenting, you tell Instagram what type of content to feed you later and how it should rank. Thanks to Machine Vision, the only thing you need to do is view content, and Instagram puts it as one of your interests.
For example, I love watching snowboarding videos, but I never like or comment on any of them. Now, my feed is filled with snowboarding videos if I consistently watch.
Timeliness: The longer the content sits, the less relevant it becomes. Timeliness goes beyond always posting new content - it’s about perfect timing. Instagram shows content based on when it’s released, compared to when the viewer is online. The Algorithm shows you the latest content for the time that you are actively scrolling.
Relationship: Instagram keeps everything tightly knit, like a family. By interacting with profiles, you are telling Instagram who are your closest relationships. People you most frequently engage with, either through subscribing, commenting, direct message, or tags, get first dibs on your feed. Relationships can increase visibility by 90%!
Frequency: The algorithm places content on your feed based on your frequency of usage. If you log in several times a day, your feed will look much different than if you use Instagram only once per day.
Following: Another easily guessed ranking factor that’s important to consider. The algorithm shows you content based on people you are following, and who follow you. If you follow many people then Instagram has a lot more options for content to display on your feed.
Usage: It’s ok, you can admit you spend hours on end every day scrolling Instagram's feed. Sometimes I do. Instagram knows how long you use the app and adds that to the algorithm to figure out what kind of content to serve up to you. The amount of time you spend on Instagram determines the depth of content on your feed.
Top 8 Tips to Master Instagram’s Algorithm in 2021!
There’s a rumor amongst social marketing peeps that only 10% of your audience sees your posts on Instagram. That could be true, seeing how there are so many posts clamoring for your attention. Only a select few make it into the algorithm’s “friends & family” roster.
You’ve got to get clever if you want to show up at the top. Here are some ways to get ahead of the Instagram game:
#1 Personally Reply to DMs & Comments
The algorithm’s top factor is interest. The more you get people to interact with your content, the higher up on their feed you’ll appear. The more you engage with your audience, the more they’ll return the favor.
When someone sees a brand or influencer comment back, they get so excited. They are filled with love and appreciation that you took the time to respond. It turns them into die-hard fans and ensures they will continually engage with your content and generate interest in your brand. Reply to every DM and comment to show the Instagram Algorithm you are in your follower’s "Friends & Family" list.
#2 Post regularly!
Posting consistently is a lot more detailed than posting randomly. You’ll want to make sure that your content is posted at a specific time every day and a certain frequency every week. You can even go so far as to advertise & tease each new release in a previous post.
Just like TV programs that train viewers when to tune into their favorite show, you’ll want to schedule your content releases so followers know exactly when they can get their next dose of awesomeness! By posting regularly, Instagram’s algorithm tracks the content release schedule and serves it up to your followers accordingly.
#3 Harness Hashtags
Hashtags on Instagram are a great way to power your content engine outside of your normal following. Hashtags are a way for people to explore unknown content with just a few simple clicks.
Despite what some people may say, the more hashtags you put in a post or story, the better! They widen your potential audience. Just make sure they are honed meticulously. Don’t add odd hashtags to seem cool. Make sure to include any niche-specific, branded, relevant, and community & industry hashtags. Use tools like https://www.tagsfinder.com/ to identify the best hashtags.
Hashtags are critical for your content discoverability. Both influencers and marketers use hashtags to find relevant influencers, content, and brands to collaborate.
#4 Post During Primetime
Timeliness means choosing the best time to post your content that aligns with your audience. Chances are that the majority of your followers log in and view Instagram at a certain time every day. It’s your job to figure out which time is the most suitable, so the algorithm puts your content at the top of their feed at the perfect time.
Brands & influencers can use Instagram Insights, an advanced marketing tool built into the social platform, to get detailed analytics about their audience’s habits. Instagram Insights also helps you measure the engagement and gauge post-performance.
#5 Follow Everyone in Your Niche
The more people you follow that have an interest in your brand, the more interest you’ll generate about your posts. Don’t be snobby about adding people. Even if they don’t directly add you back, add them. If there is even a sliver of a chance they’ll engage with your profile in a meaningful way, add them.
A key to working the Instagram Algorithm is by fostering relationships and building ambassadorship around your brand and content. The first step to forming a relationship on Instagram is by adding people who will engage with your posts.
#6 Create Eye-Popping Content
This one is indirectly related to the algorithm, but it will help increase your brand awareness 10-fold. Content that grabs your viewers will increase interest and land you a top place in Instagram’s feed.
Posts that look inauthentic and seem like advertisements right off the bat are going to get ignored quickly. People want dramatic scenery that catches the eye. For example, a majestic mountainscape will do miracles for your marketing campaign. Dazzle the audience with the composition, then the content will easily market your brand. Like this captivating photo created by one of the influencers we worked with for @bluehousesalmon campaign:
#7 Go Live More Often
Going live on Instagram is a perfect opportunity to interact personally with your following. Remember, forming relationships with your followers will show Instagram’s algorithm who’s your family. Going live is like giving your extended Instagram family a check-in. The engagement generated from going live is HUGE!
You don’t have to let the algorithm do all the heavy lifting. Like a fisher who bates his hook to catch a monster fish, a well-thought-out Instagram Live can hook-line-and-sinker potential followers of your brand.
#8 Utilize Story Tools
Brands & influencers should constantly employ stories to feed their following, but that’s just the beginning of using Instagram stories. Instagram stories offer several interactive tools to drive higher engagement.
Throw in a poll every once in a while to feel your audience's preferences about trends in your niche or your brand's styles. Ask a compelling question to drum up conversations about topics in your niche. Use apps and tools to add effects and create captivating animated Instagram stories.
Bonus Tip: Treat Everyone Like Family
Gone are the days of reverse-chronological order in Instagram’s feed. Instagram implemented an intelligent algorithm to weed out all the clutter to pinpoint the posts that matter most.
The algorithm aims to put your family & friends at the top of the feed. So, what are brands and influencers suppose to do to have the algorithm work for them? In one simple phrase, treat everyone like they are your family.
By engaging with your followers in an intimate, meaningful way, people will start expressing more substantial interest in your brand – and in turn, your posts will land within the top 10% of their feed. Through your posts, captions, DMS, comments, going live, stories, and reels, make everything super authentic and genuine. Share things from the heart, and you’ll show Instagram’s algorithm who’s boss!