Making Sense of the Instagram Algorithm

Why good content matters now more than ever

From 2013-17, Instagram has grown from 90 million average users a month to almost 800 million last September. Its ubiquity is only rivaled by Facebook, so developing an Instagram presence can pay big dividends for your blog or business. However, in early 2016 Instagram felt that their reverse chronological feed was leaving too much content hidden from viewers’ eyes, with Instagram’s co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom saying, “On average, people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed,” and that, “[the algorithm change is about] making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.” Continue reading to learn how the algorithm works and what strategies to take for your content to perform well.

Making Sense of the Instagram Algorithm

IG shows what you care about
IG to create a feed that shows users things they care the most about firstseeked

An Algorithm that Cares

One of the biggest knocks on Instagram’s original reverse chronological feed was that it didn’t show everything relevant to the viewer. Like I mentioned before, users were only seeing about 30% of all posts. Even if there was a post that was relevant to user interests, if it was from too long ago there wasn’t much chance they would see it. IG’s algorithm update sought to change all of that, and create a more personal,  feed full of what matters for its growing user base. Here are a few of the new things IG’s feed does to create this type of environment.

likes, shares, engagement
IG posts that get more likes, comments, and are more timely get displayed higher in the news feed

Timeliness and Engagement

While the new algorithm rids IG’s previous reverse chronological feed model, newer, fresher posts will always get higher in the newsfeed than older content. However, as I will discuss later, content that matters to individual users will be displayed even if it’s not the most recently posted content. Whether content has higher engagement, such as likes, shares, or comments means more than whether it’s posted soonest. This way, engaging content will populate more of the feed that gets seen by users, improving its reach. What this means for content developers is we must pride our content on being worth liking and talking about, making quality more important than mere quantity or timing.

who you value
Content from people you value will appear higher in your newsfeed

Emphasis on Personal Relationships

IG will place content posted by people important to you higher in your newsfeed. IG uses engagement with others to determine which others you value the most. If you consistently comment on someone’s photos or videos, whether they be a person or business, IG will consider these people or pages important to you, and display them higher in your newsfeed. Moreover, if you tend to search someone on Instagram a lot, those people or pages will appear higher on your feed. It’s all about moving past just showing you who you follow, but who or what you love to hear about. For content developers, we have to work to make posts that users want to engage with, so that our pages are considered important in relation to user’s interests.

post lifetime
Since chronology isn’t of much importance, posts stay around longer

Post Lifetime

IG’s new algorithm can help posts and content become evergreen. Although new, fresh content will always get the express route to the top of news feeds, content now sees new likes, comments and engagement days after posting. During the pre algorithm days, IG posts would often only see engagement for their first 72 minutes before it began to diminish. This means that, as long as your content is well-written and engaging, there’s less of a chance that users will miss it.

hashtag tips
Since post engagement matters now more than ever, your hashtags have to be on point

Hashtag Tips

One thing content creators can do to work within the new IG algorithm is use appropriate, well-performing hashtags. Hashtags are valued if they do the following things:

  1. They are specific—especially with regard to brand.
  2. They are relevant—don’t just put a bunch of hashtags for likes, put hashtags that people may be searching for to find your content.
  3. They follow the competition

One thing you don’t want to do is get a penalty from IG for using too many hashtags. This spammy behavior isn’t honest, and isn’t looked upon kindly.

Hopefully now you have a better idea about how the IG algorithm works and what it means for your content and blog efforts. If you have any comments about the algorithm or tips for navigating it, please comment them below!

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