• Vicky Ooi

The Instagram Algorithm

With its unparalleled reach and easy-to-use interface, Instagram can be one of the best platforms for marketing you or your brand. But in order for Instagram marketing to work, you need to be reaching out to the right audience.

You need to know what Instagram's algorithm is and how it works in order to make an effective game plan to promote your content. To put it simply, you need to know how Instagram decides which images to show up to other users first.

The Algorithm Basics

Mosseri, from Instagram says that the Instagram algorithm actually consists of a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.

Each part of the app - Feed, Explore, Reels - uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it. People tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, but they want to discover something entirely new in Explore. We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them.

Instagram Feed

Mosseri says that Instagram focuses on posts from people that you follow for Instagram Feed and Stories. From the information about what was posted, the creator of the posts, and user’s preference, the app then looks for these signals below:

Information about the post - These are signals both about how popular a post is - think how many people have liked it - and more mundane information about the content itself, like when it was posted, how long it is if it’s a video, and what location, if any, was attached to it.

Information about the person who posted - This helps us get a sense for how interesting the person might be to you, and includes signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks.

Your activity - This helps us understand what you might be interested in and includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked.

Your history of interacting with someone - This gives us a sense of how interested you are generally in seeing posts from a particular person. An example is whether or not you comment on each other’s posts.

Explore Page Ranking

The Explore section works differently from the Feed page. They focus on showing you content from accounts that you don’t already follow but may be interested in. They look at posts that you’ve liked, commented, and saved in the past and make recommendations based on it. Once they determine that, they rank the posts.

Hashtags also help the algorithm get even more accurate recommendations as it gets your content pushed to people who are searching for certain topics. If the users then interact and engage with your posts, that increases your chances of being displayed to their mutual connections.


As a competitor of TikTok, Instagram Reels recommends content they think that users will find entertaining or funny. They do this through surveying people and asking people if they found the content interesting. Instagram notes that the most important predictions that help determine this is by predicting how likely you are to watch a reel from start to end.

Instagram is constantly working to catch up with TikTok by making its Reels tab more sticky and engaging for those who tap into the Reels feed. Content and creator popularity are the biggest factors when it comes to Reels. Also, because of criticism that Instagram Reels received in the past as being the reposting feed for TikTok videos, Instagram has also restricted the reach of Reels that have a TikTok or other similar platform watermark.

How can you make use of the Instagram Algorithm?

Building Relationships

Now that we know that the algorithm takes into account the interaction between users and the accounts that they follow, you need to start engaging with your target audience. It is impossible to just post content on your Instagram account and hope that it gets pushed to other users. Try to build a following by engaging and focus on building long-term relationships with them instead.

Create content that people love, so they will leave comments, mention you, and share your posts with others. User-Generated Content (UGC) is the best engagement driving tool. It helps build trust in your brand. When users see other people who like your content or brand as well, they will feel as if they made the right choice.

Posting at the Right Time

Posting at the right time will help boost the visibility of your posts. Try to find out when your followers are most active and post during that time window. By doing so, it will increase your chances of getting more views, likes and engagement.

If you use a professional Instagram account, take a look at your Instagram Analytics report that will show you when your posts have the highest view, reach and engagement rate. Once you have a posting schedule, don’t forget to stick to it. Consistency is the best tool to set you up for success.