How the Instagram Algorithm Works: A Breakdown (2024)

Trying to get cozy with Instagram’s algorithm feels a bit like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube—it’s constantly changing, and just when you think you’ve got it solved, another obstacle appears.

While we may never crack its full code, there are some tricks and tips you can use to give your business’s Instagram strategy a bit of an edge.

What is the Instagram algorithm?

The Instagram algorithm is a set of rules for when and how to display content to each user. It takes into account several factors, including: 

User history: The posts and profiles the user has interacted with.
Location: The country or region where they’re using the app.
Profile details: Things like their age, gender, and interests they’ve listed.
Device: The type of phone or tablet they’re using.
Current trends: What’s popular on Instagram at the moment.

The thing about the Instagram algorithm is that it’s always changing. This means how it decides what to show users can vary from day to day. To stay ahead, you need to understand and adapt to these changes. For example, if the algorithm starts favoring videos more, you might want to create more video content.

How does the Instagram algorithm work in 2024?

The Instagram algorithm sorts the posts you see when scrolling through your feed. It’s like a filter that picks the best posts for you, based on what it thinks you’ll like most.

Here’s what it considers, in simple terms:

Your Instagram account type: Whether you have a business, creator, or personal account, it doesn’t really change how your posts show up in others’ feeds.
Your interests: The app notices what types of posts and accounts you interact with. If you like lots of car pictures, for instance, it’ll show you more of those.
Competition: If you follow lots of accounts, there are more posts fighting to get to the top of your feed. It’s like a popularity contest for posts.
How relevant the post is: Each new post gets a score based on how much Instagram thinks you’ll like it. The higher the score, the more likely you’ll see it near the top of your feed.
Your relationship with the poster: If you often like or comment on someone’s posts, Instagram will show you more of their stuff. It’s like telling the app, “Hey, I like this—show me more!”
How much you use Instagram: If you’re not on Instagram much or don’t stay long, the top posts are the ones you’ll probably see. Posts lower down might get missed.
Whether you follow the rules: If a post breaks Instagram’s rules, it gets taken down. Do this a lot and your account could be suspended. Also, if you post fake news or misinformation, Instagram will tag it and show it less.

So, Instagram’s algorithm is like a big sorting machine, constantly shifting, trying to show you what you’ll like the most, based on these rules.

How the Instagram feed algorithm works

The Instagram Feed algorithm, which decides what a user sees in their feed, has changed a lot lately. It’s now more focused on showing you stuff you’re really interested in.

But how does it figure out what you like? Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, indicates it’s not simple. The company keeps tweaking it, adding and removing rules to get better at showing users what they like. 

Here’s what the algorithm looks at:

Post details: Instagram checks out how many likes a post has. It also looks at when it was posted, how long it lasts if it’s a video, and if there’s a location tagged.
Details of the person who posted: The app figures if the poster is someone the user cares about. It sees how much they’ve interacted with the content and how recent those interactions are.
User actions: The app tries to guess the interests of the user. It looks at the feed posts they’ve liked and the types of things you usually check out.
History with the poster: Instagram also looks at whether the user comments on the poster’s content (and vice versa). This helps it understand how much they might want to see content from a specific poster.

Basically, the algorithm keeps an eye on everything the user does on the app. It notes the posts they like and who they talk to, all to show them more of what they enjoy.

How Instagram Stories algorithm works

Instagram Stories (those photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours) are a great way for creators and businesses to get noticed. When you post a Story, your profile picture pops up at the top of the app in the Stories tray. This is prime real estate, but it’s also competitive, especially since people often look here for updates from close friends or family. 

Here’s how Instagram decides which Stories to show users at the top:

Viewing history: If a user frequently watches an account’s Stories, those Stories are more likely to show up first.
Engagement history: The more a user interacts with an account’s Stories (like sending reactions or responses), the higher the chance those Stories will appear at the beginning.
Closeness: Instagram considers how close the user is to the person posting. If they’re friends or family, their Stories might get priority.

Instagram uses these signals to make educated guesses. It tries to predict things like whether a user will tap into a Story, reply to it in a direct message (DM), or just skip to the next one. This prediction helps decide the order of Stories in the user’s tray.

How Instagram Reels algorithm works

The Instagram Reels algorithm focuses on showing users videos they’ll probably like, with a big emphasis on entertainment value. It’s good at finding and promoting videos from less well-known creators, making Reels a high-engagement feature on Instagram.

When recommending Reels, Instagram looks at:

What users do on the app: Likes and comments they’ve made help the app figure out what they’re into.
Their past interactions: The content they’ve engaged with in the past few weeks offers clues about what they might like next.
Details about the Reel: Things like what’s in the video, the music used, and how popular it is all influence whether it’s shown to them.
Info about the creator: The app considers the creator’s popularity, but it’s designed to give all creators, even new ones, a chance to be noticed.

Instagram uses this information to predict if a user will watch a Reel all the way, enjoy it, interact with it, and maybe even feel inspired to create their own.

How the Instagram Explore algorithm works

The Instagram Explore page algorithm tries to show users content they’ll probably be interested in, based on their past likes and interactions.

While the main feed is mostly stuff from accounts users follow, the Explore feed is mainly posts from accounts they don’t follow yet.

Here’s a simple breakdown:

Info on the Explore post: The algorithm sees how popular a post is, like if it’s getting lots of likes or comments quickly. This matters a lot on the Explore page.
User’s past activity in Explore: It looks at how many posts users have interacted with previously on the Explore page.
Poster’s activity in Explore: The algorithm considers how much interaction the poster has had in recent weeks, which might include the user’s own interactions.

The Explore page is always getting updates, like new topics or better search options. For example, Instagram users can now use both keywords and hashtags to search content.

This means the Explore page algorithm also pays attention to what’s in your posts and what you write in captions. 

Tips to get the Instagram algorithm to share your content 

When you’re working with Instagram for your business, remember these points:

Prioritize relationships

Getting your followers to keep coming back and interact with your Instagram posts is super important. Why? Because it can help your content climb to the top of their feeds. Let’s break down how to do this:

 Share what your followers post about you

This is user-generated content. Say a follower posts a cool photo using your product. Share that in your Stories. It encourages more people to post about you. Plus, they might tag you in their Stories, giving you a wider presence on Instagram. 

Instagram Reels are fun, short videos you can create. Imagine you’re launching a new product. You could make a quick Reel showing it off with some catchy music. These Reels show up in your feed and might pop up on the Explore page too, helping you reach even more folks.

Get creative with Instagram Reels

Instagram loves to push its latest features. Reels are hot right now, especially since videos in the feed are all turning into Reels. So, it’s a good idea to mix in Reels with your regular posts. 

You might have noticed businesses on Instagram replying quickly to comments. Here’s why that’s smart: When you respond to comments as they come in, it shows your post is buzzing. This ramps up your comment count and sparks even more replies. It’s like throwing fuel on a fire—it makes the post’s reach grow.

Let’s say someone comments on your latest post. Jump in and reply right away. This could lead the commenter to respond back, maybe just to say thanks. But often, this kick-starts a longer chat. More comments mean more activity, which catches the eye of even more viewers.

Instagram algorithm tips

By keeping the conversation going, you’re not just boosting this post, you’re setting the stage for your next posts to get more attention too.

Encourage followers to add you to Favorites

Want a solid tip to get the Instagram algorithm on your side? Get your followers to add you to their Favorites feed.

Here’s how Favorites works: Users can pick up to 50 accounts for a special feed that shows posts in order. The cool part is, Instagram says if you’re in someone’s Favorites, your posts pop up higher in their regular home feed. You’ll know you’re in Favorites when you see a star on your posts in their feed.

When your loyal followers do this and interact with your posts, it tells the algorithm to show your Instagram content to more people. It’s a great way for both you and your followers to benefit. 

Leverage hashtags to get in front of relevant audiences

Using the right hashtags on Instagram can boost your reach. They help your posts appear in searches relevant to your audience. 

Go for community hashtags that your target audience uses. These might not be as huge as the most popular ones, but they’re packed with people interested in specific topics.

For example: If you have a local bakery, using #localbakery might draw in those interested in homemade breads and pastries. Or, if you’re a fitness trainer, #fitnesstips could be your way to connect with fitness enthusiasts. 

Engaging with other posts under these hashtags is also important. Like and comment on posts, and maybe even start conversations. This can lead others to your profile and potentially to follow you. 

By actively participating in these hashtag communities, you’re making an effort to connect with potential followers, not just waiting for them to stumble on your posts.

Create Instagram Collab posts to enhance your reach

An Instagram Collab post is when you partner up with someone else, create a post together, and it appears on both your Instagram feeds. It’s a fantastic way to double the reach (and the audience) without double the posting.

Tips for creating Instagram Collab posts: 

Choose a fitting theme: Pick a theme that aligns with both personal brands. Whether it’s a filter or layout, make sure it harmonizes perfectly.
Use high-quality images: Use images that pop off the screen. Clear, high-definition pictures can make your collaboration stand out.
Be creative with your words: Get playful or insightful with your captions. A clever turn of phrase can hook your audience just right.
Collaborate wisely: Find collaborators who fit well with your brand’s style and message. Good communication is essential to nail the perfect collab.

Collaborating this way not only amps up your reach but also brings a fresh, fun twist to your usual content.

Keeping up with Instagram’s shifts

In short, cracking the Instagram code in 2024 is about staying flexible and genuine. Engage deeply with your audience, not just through your posts, but by being a part of the community. Show up in comments, spark conversations, and be present.

Keep adapting as the platform evolves. What works today might need a twist tomorrow. Watch for trends, experiment with new features, and always aim to keep your content fresh and relevant. 

At the end of the day, it’s the quality of your connections and your ability to ride the wave of change that will make your Instagram presence grow.

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