04 Sep How the Instagram Algorithm Really Works

Ah, the elusive Instagram algorithm- it seems like it changes more often than people change their underwear. (We truly hope that statement is #facts).


First things first: what is an algorithm?

Without getting too techy, an algorithm is how Instagram determines whose posts show up first.


Wait, don’t posts show up chronologically (newest posts to the top of the feed)?

That’s so 2017. Up until June 2017, the only thing anyone knew for sure about Instagram’s algorithm is that posts are ordered chronologically. Everything else was speculation.

Now, the order in which posts show up is based on a set of variables which Instagram’s algorithm analyzes.




What now?

Now, Instagram has released facts regarding the workings of their algorithm. There are six key factors that determine whose posts show up in others feeds first.


These factors are broken up into ‘primary factors’ and ‘secondary factors’ which focus on how each user consumes and interacts with content on Instagram. All together, these factors give users a better insight on which posts get seen first and why.


The Primary Factors:

  1. Interest: Have you ever wondered why some accounts show up much more on your feed than others? Instagram ranks posts based on how much they think you will be interested in the content. It takes into account the content you have interacted with most and uses its image-recognition software to deliver visually similar posts to your feed.

This is where engagement is important- if you get your audience to engage with your feed, it will signal to the algorithm that they want to see more posts like it.


  1. Recency: This factor is where time of day is important. The most recent posts shared will be shuffled to the front of the line, while older ones will gain less viewership as they age.
  2. Relationship: Whether you follow someone will not be the solitary factor on whether you see their posts first, if at all. It analyzes the extent of your relationship with each account based on how much you engage with them. This means that if you’re trying to grow a following that consistent engagement (ie. tagging, commenting and liking your followers’ posts) with targeted accounts will show better results than focusing on engaging with users at random.


The Secondary Factors:


  1. Frequency: This refers to the amount of times that you log into Instagram per day.  Therefore, if you are a regular user, you will see the freshest posts. However, if you don’t check in daily, you might be seeing posts that are a few days old because they’re new to you.
  2. Following: If you keep the amount of people that you follow relatively low, then you are more likely to see more posts from the same people. However, if you’re following a few thousand people, then you will probably not see all of the posts that all of the people you followed posted. So, if you’re trying to grow your following, limit the amount of people you follow and make sure you’re engaging with people who don’t follow exorbitant amounts of people to increase your chances of the quality of engagement we described earlier.
  3. Usage: It’s not only when you use the app that matters but how you use it. Let’s say that you don’t engage with the app so much and only check in on it for a short amount of time. The algorithm will then try to squeeze in as much of the newest posts as it possibly can, having deduced that it has a short amount of time to show you a large amount of information. So, if you’re trying to grow your following, if you’re not quite up there in ranking yet, it’s best to pay attention to users who use their accounts regularly. Those who don’t use their accounts as much will only see the top-ranked posts as opposed to those who check it all the time therefore giving Instagram the opportunity to feed them more posts to keep providing them with fresh content.


Final Thoughts

The rejuvenated algorithm is designed to create genuine connections among its users as opposed to trying to hack the code of getting to the top of the feed by putting these six factors in place. As a result, Instagram hopes that users will put more focus on putting together more quality content for their audience for a more meaningful and lasting impact. Ultimately, this will help to ensure that more users are retained for user experience will be improved. That’s great news for SocialCow and other marketers!