10 Things You Should Know About the Instagram Algorithm

Things are constantly changing online. As we evolve as consumers, so does the technology. It learns from our behaviors and adapts while we acclimate to its changes as well. Instagram recently stated they are “no longer a photo-sharing app;” how does this change everything we’ve learned about this popular platform and how should we use it now?

Here are 10 things you should know about “the” Instagram algorithm to use it successfully in the latter half of 2021.

1. There isn’t just one Instagram algorithm.

That’s right, we have to worry about making several algorithms happy on Instagram. Though they are referred to as one singular algorithm, there are actually four algorithms in place. The Feed algorithm is different from the Explore Page algorithm and the IGTV algorithm is different from the Reels algorithm

While each is slightly different for each experience, they all work together with the same goal in mind: to deliver content that users are most likely to find interesting.

2. Your feed is based on four factors.

The four most important factors the Instagram Feed algorithm takes into account are:

  • Information about the post itself (Is it a video or image? What subject is it about? Does it have a lot of likes?)
  • Information about the poster (Are they your friend? Do they post frequently?) 
  • Your activity (Do you tend to watch a lot of videos? What content do you typically engage with?)
  • Your interaction history (Do you like or comment on a lot of that particular account’s content?) 

Based on these, the Feed algorithm calculates how likely someone is to interact with a post, known as a score of interest, which ultimately determines the order in which posts are displayed in someone’s feed.

3. Adding someone to your Close Friends List boosts their ranking.

If you add someone to your Close Friends list, you’ll probably see their posts and stories more often when you open the app. You have indicated to Instagram that you care about that particular person or entity, and in turn, Instagram will rank that account higher for you.

On the flip side, if you indicate you are not interested in a specific post on the Explore Page, you are basically telling Instagram that you don’t want to see that type of content, deprioritizing it.

4. All account types are treated equally.

Recently, Instagram released a series of stories on the Creators account that confirmed all account types are treated equally when it comes to the algorithms. This means that you can have a personal, business or creator account and it doesn’t make any difference to how your content performs. 

That being said, switching to a Business account allows you to get more insight into how your content is performing. For that reason, we recommend a Business account over a Personal account for any organization or small business that needs to track analytics.

5. The Feed Algorithm considers the likelihood of five “important” interactions.

The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, recently went Live to discuss which interactions are “important” to the Instagram algorithm. These key interactions, or “proxies” as they refer to them, are taken into account by the algorithm when determining feed ranking:

  • Time spent
  • Like
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Tap on Profile

If the algorithm calculates that someone is unlikely to carry out any of these five interactions on a post, it will be lower in priority in that person’s feed.

6. Every comment counts as an interaction.

One of the oldest myths about Instagram is that comments that are less than three words in length aren’t counted. This is straight-up false. Even if you just comment an emoji, it counts as an interaction.

Comments are an important engagement indicator for the algorithm, so with this in mind, it’s a good idea to reply to your comments on a regular basis. Not only will this keep conversations going, but it also shows your audience that you’re paying attention to them. 

7. The number of interactions in the first 30 minutes does not determine ranking.

Instagram has confirmed that the number of interactions a post receives within the first 30 minutes does not determine its ranking in the feed. Those four key factors that determine ranking (refer to #2) are not capped at the 30-minute mark. However, it is a good idea to share your content when your audience is most likely to engage with it. Do a little digging into your analytics to determine when that is.

8. Bots and Comment Pods don’t work.

Technology is always learning and evolving, and thanks to Instagram’s machine learning algorithm, fake interactions will always be identified and ranked as such. Trying to cheat the system doesn’t work, no matter how elaborate your scheme is. 

9. Timeliness is an important signal, but not the only signal.

In this instance, timeliness is considered when a post is shared, and though it’s a rather important signal, it’s not the only one to look at since the feed is roughly, but not strictly, chronological.

This means that an older post could be shown ahead of a more recent one, if the algorithm determines it to have a higher score of interest for that particular user. However, as more time passes, recency will outweigh the score of interest.

10. Video isn’t favored over photos.

There is no bias between photo and video content. However, video content is typically more engaging and gets more “time spent” per post, which if you recall, are two important indicators for the Instagram algorithm. Because of that, video content generally outperforms photo content.

If you genuinely want to improve your rankings in 2021 and into 2022, the most important thing to do is post consistently and regularly engage with your audience. If you don’t know where to start or don’t have the time to consistently keep up with this platform, let our dedicated marketing team at Rooted Web take care of it for you. Let’s chat!

Samantha Prost

Samantha Prost is a digital content writer with almost 10 years of experience who uses her upbeat and creative energy to write fresh, fun and custom content for our clients.

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