How The New Instagram Algorithm Works In 2021

Growing on Instagram doesn’t have to be overly-complicated. You just need solid content and knowledge of the Instagram algorithm.

Instagram’s algorithm is always changing and evolving with the platform. If you want clarity on how to grow on Instagram, this is a great place to start. Because the algorithm, your target audience, and your product or service will inform what content you should create. 

If you want an advantage over your competitors; This guide will show you how Instagram’s algorithm works and how to use it to grow your business.

What is an Algorithm?

Let’s start with what an algorithm is:

Algorithm – “A set of rules or calculations used to solve problems and deliver a result.”

Algorithms are used in social media to deliver content to the user. 

Not all social media platforms use algorithms; however, many have adopted news feeds delivered via an algorithm in recent years. (Facebook, Instagram, etc) Newsfeeds use algorithms to determine the content to show you based on your interests, activity, and interactions on the platform.

How Often The Instagram Algorithm Changes 

For example, you may have thought that Instagram rolls out a new version of its algorithm every few weeks, but this isn’t true.

The Instagram algorithm is changing all of the time, based on the vast amount of data it gains every minute of every day

The algorithm is powered by machine learning, which means that any new behavioral patterns or trends will be factored into how the algorithm works.

The Two Main Instagram Algorithms

Yeah, you read that correctly. Instagram didn’t make it easy and only give us one algorithm to learn. They gave us three, which all work differently. Here they are:

  1. Newsfeed Algorithm 
  2. Stories Algorithm

Now let’s break them all down.

Newsfeed Algorithm: Key Ranking Factors

According to Instagram, there are four key factors that influence the Instagram algorithm for feed posts:

  • Interest
  • Relationship 
  • Timeliness
  • Frequency 

Ranking Factor #1: The Instagram Algorithm Predicts How Much You Care About a Post

Your Instagram feed isn’t just based on who you follow; it’s also based on who and what types of content you like. The more the Instagram algorithm thinks you will “like” that post, the higher it will appear in your feed.

So basically, what you see in your Instagram feed is a combination of all of your Instagram behaviors. The friends you interact with the most, who’s stories you watch, people you are tagged in photos with, and of course, the type of posts that you like and comment on.

What Engagements Are Most Important to the Instagram Algorithm?

According to Instagram, the most important engagements for feed ranking are comments, likes, reshares, and for video posts, views, which is really helpful to know as you plan your content and captions.

Ranking Factor #2: The Instagram Algorithm Determines Your Relationship with Followers

The Instagram algorithm wants to prioritize, showing you posts from your friends, family, and accounts that you care about. 

So in order to show you what you want (what you really, really want), the algorithm uses interactions from you to piece together who is closest to you. 

For example, if you comment on a lot of someone’s photos or are tagged in photos with them, this signals to Instagram that they probably fall into your “friends and family” category.

Thomas Dimson, a software engineer at Instagram, shared how Instagram could theoretically figure out who you care about the most, based on how you use the app: 

  • People whose content you like (possibly including stories and live videos)
  • People you direct message
  • People you search for
  • People you know in real life

This gives you an idea of how your behavior on Instagram affects what content you see in your app. 

For instance, have you noticed that after you recently follow someone, you’ll see a lot of their content in your feed? But if you don’t engage with it, then you’re signaling to Instagram that you might not be that interested anymore.

This is why showing up on Instagram consistently — whether that’s by posting to your stories or feed every day — is so important! It keeps you top of mind with your followers, helps your engagement, and helps your posts be seen by the algorithm.

Ranking Factor #3: The Instagram Algorithm Factors in Timeliness

Not only does the algorithm pay attention to how much engagement your Instagram post gets, but it also how long since the photo was posted.

Instagram’s algorithm is starting to care a lot more about when you posted, instead of just the content or engagement on the post, because it always wants to serve you the latest, most interesting posts. This was brought up around the holidays last year when a lot of people were still seeing Christmas posts even though it was past New Year’s.

By finding your personalized best time to post on Instagram, you can use the algorithm to increase your reach and get more likes and followers. 

If you post at a time when most of your followers are online, you give yourself a better chance of racking up those likes — quickly!

Ranking Factor #4: The Instagram Algorithm Uses Frequency to Sort Your Posts

How often do you open the Instagram app? If you’re a frequent scroller, your feed will look more “chronological” since Instagram tries to “show you the best posts since your last visit.”

If you check the Instagram app less often, then your feed will be sorted more to what Instagram thinks you’ll like, instead of chronologically.

Actionable Tips To Grow On Instagram

Tip #1: Post Consistently To Instagram

When you post consistently good content to Instagram, you’ll not only improve your engagement, but it’s a signal to the algorithm that you’re a quality account! 

And the more frequently and consistently you post, the more likely your audience will see and engage with your content. When it comes to how often you should post, your ideal posting frequency will depend on you or your business’ goals and the amount of time you can dedicate to your Instagram marketing efforts.

So it’s important to commit to a posting schedule that you can not only maintain but also fits in with your workflow, so you’re never compromising on quality or posting for the sake of it.

To help make sure you’re posting consistently, you’ll want to get acquainted with how to schedule your Instagram posts.

For example, with a free Instagram scheduler like Later or Buffer, you can plan and schedule all of your photos, captions, and hashtags from the web.

This will save you a lot of time (and sanity), and leave you plenty of extra time to focus on other important areas of your Instagram marketing strategy.

Tip #2: Use Notifications To Never Miss A Comment

Treat comments like a conversation — you want to make sure you’re always replying and engaging with the comments on your feed to alert the algorithm you have a “relationship” with your follower. And if the comment doesn’t require a response, show them some love with a heart!

We know, keeping track of all your Instagram comments is hard. It’s easy to miss comments in the Instagram app, especially if someone is commenting on an older post.

A great way to make sure you’re staying on top of comments is to create more focused-notifications in your Instagram settings.

Just go to your account settings, navigate to “notifications” and select ‘Off’ for all options excluding ‘Comments’: Now, your Instagram comments won’t get lost in the clutter, so you can always make sure you’re responding promptly to your audience.

Tip #3: Find Out When Your Audience Is Most Active

Using your Instagram Insights, you can use the Activity metrics to work out the times of the day when your audience is most active online:

But these peak times can often vary throughout the week — for example, at weekends, your target audience might be most active in the mid-morning, while during the week, it could be on their commute home or down-time after work.

Instagram Stories Algorithm

Typically, the Instagram Stories that appear closest to the beginning of the row on your home feed are from accounts that you engage with the most, whether that may be through the user’s posts or stories!

The Instagram Stories algorithm also puts a lot of focus on timeliness as it wants to make sure it’s always showing you the latest stories from your favorite accounts. That is why some accounts that post regularly enough, will always appear at the top of your feed if you watch and engage with them!

The Instagram stories algorithm is much simpler so only one tip is needed here.

Tip #1: Spend More Time Posting To Instagram Stories

As the Instagram algorithm continues to change and impact users’ engagement, it’s no surprise more and more users are spending time on Instagram Stories, rather than their feeds.

By posting to Instagram Stories more often, you have a better chance of appearing at the top of the stories feed on a follower’s homepage – giving you multiple chances throughout the day to be discovered!

Plus, this signals to the algorithm that you’re continuously posting valuable content your audience is interested in.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by this point, the Instagram algorithm is a lot less mysterious and you have some actionable tips to help your business grow on Instagram. When used properly, Instagram is an amazing investment for your business but make sure you have a solid digital marketing base before devoting much time to Instagram.

Creating a complete and detailed digital marketing plan might seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be that way. Using our guide below you can have a complete digital marketing plan that you can be confident in overnight.

The Foundations of Social Media Marketing Series

Table Of Contents

  1. How To Choose The Best Platform For Your Business
  2. How To Set Make Social Media Marketing Goals Worth Investing In
  3. How To Create Scroll-Stopping Social Media Content in 3 Steps
  4. How The New Instagram Algorithm Works In 2021
  5. How To Beat The Facebook Algorithm In 2021
  6. What is Digital Advertising & Paid Media