Since Instagram introduced the algorithm feed, back in 2006, every social media marketer tried to decipher its formula. In the beginning, all the Instagram posts would appear in the feed in chronological order. This system was quite popular at the time, so much so that the launch of the new feed algorithm was cause for a lot of frustration and anger amongst users.
What was the reason behind the change?
According to Instagram, most of the users were missing a lot of their friends content and nearly 70% of all the posts published on the platform. After the change, despite all the backlash and the confusion about the posts order, Instagram states that now users are seeing almost 90% of their friends’ posts.
Instagram’s algorithm explained
So how does it work?
What’s the infamous feed ranking criteria?
Many hypotheses and conspiracy theories circulated online about the algorithm and how Instagram decides which post to show you first.
However, recently they decided to shed some light on this issue. They basically rely on our past behavior to determine in which order we get to see the posts in our feeds. So each user has a unique feed based on the posts they like or comment on, the stories they watch, the content and profiles they interact with on a daily basis.
These are the main factors behind Instagram’s feed algorithm:
Through its machine learning algorithm, Instagram is trying to figure out what type of content you like most. So if you tend to interact with a certain type of content by liking, commenting, viewing, saving or sharing with your friends, then this type of content is what you will see higher in your feed. So the more you engage with a type of posts, let’s say fitness posts, the more you will see them first in your feed.
For businesses: If you want your posts to reach as many people as possible, you need to make sure your posts are engaging, your captions invite them to comment and share your posts. Ask and answer questions in your stories, create polls, engage with your fans.
How recently was shared a certain post amongst the one that interests you the most, is another factor that Instagram takes into consideration when deciding what to show you first.
For businesses: Use analytics apps or Instagram insights to find out at what times your users are using Instagram more and interact with their posts. This is when you should post your content. Of course, there will a lot of trial and error. We recommend doing A/B testing to find out the best times to share your content.
How close you are with the person that shared a certain post is also very important. If you tend to interact more with certain people, their posts will be prioritized in your feed. Let’s say you are being tagged with certain people in photos, you comment on their posts, send them messages, follow their stories and so on. All these actions will determine how close you are with your friends, and, obviously, you will see more of your closest friends’ posts first.
For businesses: We say this a lot on our blog: engagement is key! To make sure you keep your followers close you need to always create engaging content, content that entices people to take action. Instagram decides your relationship with your followers based on their interactions with your posts and account.
First, you need to analyze your posts and identify the ones that generate more interactions amongst your followers.
Next, analyze your competitors to see their most engaging content.
And finally: always A/B test your posts. Don’t get comfortable thinking you know what your users want. Social media is always evolving, trends come and go so fast, you always need to be on top of your social media marketing game.
How often you are using Instagram is another important factor in deciding your feed, because the algorithm will show you the best posts since your last visit.
This goes without saying, but if you are following a lot of people then there will be a lot of competition for the top spots in your feed. Instagram will have to choose from a wide range of posts to show you first. Instagram doesn’t hide any post, so you will still be able to see all the new posts since your last visit, but you’ll have to do a lot of scrolling.
And finally, how much time you spend on the app will decide how many of the new posts you will see in your feed. Like I said before if you follow a lot of Instagram accounts, to see all their posts you will have to spend some time browsing.
How to make the algorithm work in your favor?
If you have a business Instagram account, your main goal is to have your posts seen by as many followers as possible. Their time on Instagram is limited, this means that you’ll have to compete with a lot of other business and friends accounts for their attention. You need to get your posts as higher as possible in their feeds.
How do you do that? How can you take advantage of what we learned about Instagram’s new feed ranking criteria?
Post consistently and at the right times
Find out when your followers are using Instagram to know when to post your content. The more people are seeing your posts, the more the algorithm likes them. Also, make sure you post a lot of content regularly so that your followers get to interact with more of your content.
The idea is that the longer someone spends engaging with your content, the better your chances are to have your future posts rank higher in their feeds.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a lot of time to posts on a regular basis, always at the right times: you can easily schedule your posts with JARVEE .
Experiment with stories, IGTV and any other Instagram content format
Try catching your followers’ attention wherever they are: experiment with stories, do live videos, long format IGTVs and so on. The longer you keep your followers engaged, watching, commenting, responding to your questions, the more of your content they will see.
With stories especially you can have your fans vote, ask you questions, share, answer your questions, that’s a lot of interactions. You need to encourage this kind of dynamics around all your content. This way your content will be more credible in the eyes of the algorithm.
Engagement is king!
Put in the work and engage with your followers and you will see big rewards. If you like their posts, comment, tag them, save their best content, share your most loyal fans, they will feel an important part of your brand and they will drive even more views and engagement to your profile.
All these actions can be made on autopilot as well, with JARVEE saving you a lot of time – and I can’t stress that enough, you’ll be amazed how much free time you’ll have on your hands. But I still recommend some true and sincere connections with your fans from time to time.