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Understanding the Instagram Algorithm

Lots of businesses use Instagram to find new followers and customers and engage with them, but what if we told you there’s a way to guarantee that your efforts succeed. The secret is in understanding the algorithm that powers Instagram feeds, and today we’re going to teach you everything we know about this mysterious beast so that you too can try to tame it.

How Instagram Determines Who Sees What

After much sleuthing we’ve concluded that it seems there are seven key factors—though there are many less significant ones—Instagram considers when determining what content gets seen where, and they are:

Relevance: a feed is organized based on how likely that user is to like the content, and this is determined by the genres or categories that user already likes.

Engagement: the more popular a post is (based on Likes, views, shares, and saves), the more people will see it.

Duration: the amount of time a user spends engaging with a particular post.

Best Friends: posts from people that a user is close to or interacts with most often will always appear in that user’s feed.

Searches: the more often a user searches for a certain profile, the more likely posts from that profile are to show up at the top of the feed.

Time: newer posts are ranked higher.

Shares: any time a user shares a post, it increases the likelihood that user will see future posts from that person/organization.

Now That You Understand, Why Does It Matter?

Understanding how the Instagram algorithm works has one key benefit for you: increasing your organic reach. Once you understand the algorithm, you can use the knowledge to your advantage, because the more people you reach on Instagram, the more people you can turn into prospects, leads, and customers. Here are a few tips for using the algorithm to increase organic reach:

  • Encourage user-generated content (ie. “Be sure to tag us and/or use our hashtag when you’re using our product!”)
  • Make creative and engaging posts that appeal to people’s emotions and not just sell, sell, sell
  • Post regularly and frequently (but only quality content)
  • Use trending topics to guide your content creation 
  • Follow and engage with influencers and brands that your target audience would follow
    • This is essential because Instagram will often prompt people to follow brands they deem similar to one another, so if you’re engaging with a brand that’s in-line with your own, people may be prompted to follow you.
  • Use posts to promote contests  

Using Instagram Ads to Further Your Reach

Instagram users miss 70 percent of the content on the app, which is no surprise when you consider that there are over 700 million users vying for attention. And the competition will only continue to grow fiercer as the number of active users grows, so what’s an ecommerce business to do? For starters, use your knowledge of the algorithm to your advantage, and then use Instagram ads to supplement your stellar Instagram presence. Instagram ads are highly effective because they’re more engaging and more likely to be remembered by users compared to ads on other social sites. With Instagram ads, you can make sure that your followers continue engaging with you and that your ideal customers are always able to find you. 

Plus 🚨  Soon Instagram will release their Instagram Shopping feature for everyone and not the current select few. You can read more about the shopping feature on our May 2017 roundup, here.

Having some basic knowledge of the Instagram algorithm and how the site prioritizes content can help you attract new followers and increase organic reach. Beyond that, Instagram ads are another great way to seek out your ideal customers, and the site’s targeting options make it easier than ever to pinpoint the right people. 

The key to winning Instagram, however, is to use the best practices as dictated by the algorithm, and that will always mean sharing relevant, interesting, high-quality, and entertaining content. If you’re interested in getting started with Instagrams ads, Vantage makes it easier than ever to attract, convert and re-engage customers on Instagram to help grow your business.



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