Instagram Algorithm — What you need to know

The Instagram algorithm, much like the algorithms for any platform from Facebook to Google to LinkedIn is an ever-changing process that is powered by machine learning to continually optimise their feeds.

Many have tried to trick the Instagram algorithm, and all the other platforms and many unscrupulous so-called ‘digital marketers’ or agencies will try and sell you a silver-bullet solution to ‘get instant followers,’ or ‘get to №1 on all Google searches for your website.’

The reality check is that much like most things in life, it takes consistent application and hard work to achieve results and there is no fancy ‘secret system’ that can fool these algorithms.

Right, now that we have that out the way, let us look at what we do know about the Instagram algorithm.

Earlier this month the platform answered six of the most commonly asked questions about the Instagram algorithm via their Stories.

These are the questions and Instagram’s answers…

How often does the Instagram algorithm change?

Instagram’s reply:

‘Because it is powered by machine learning, Instagram’s feed ranking is constantly adapting and improving based on new data.

Simply put, one needs to constantly monitor the posts you make and measure performance weekly or monthly if you want to ensure your content is achieving sustained results.

There is no quick fix or silver bullet.

Are videos favoured to photos for feed ranking?

Instagram’s reply:

‘We don’t universally favour photos over videos. Your feed is customised for you, so it really depends on how you use Instagram. If you consistently watch a lot of videos, that will be reflected in your feed.’

Try this simple exercise.

Go to Instagram and select the ‘explore option.’

That’s the small magnifying glass icon.

Below the search bar Instagram will display content similar to the stuff you have engaged with before.

But here’s the thing. That’s your profile and your preferences.

So, if you believe your audience is just like you, then great, you can use that guideline.

But, for a brand or organisation, understanding your audience and/or target market is usually way more complex than this.

Bottom line. Create a mix of content and monitor the results.

But remember that quality of images, quality of video and subject matter will all play a significant role as will relevance.

READ: Five key steps to creating a solid Digital Marketing Strategy

Does your account type impact your ranking?

There are three different types of Instagram accounts:

  • Personal
  • Business
  • Creator

A Business or Creator account is much the same in features. A personal account does not offer the same insights as the former.

Instagram’s reply:

‘No, we don’t favour posts from businesses or verified accounts in Feed. If you interact with that content more, of course it is more likely to appear at the top of your feed.’

Do Pods help a post appear higher in the feed?

Instagram’s reply:

‘Authenticity and transparency are key to building sustainable engagement on Instagram. Trying to game the system may provide a short-term benefit, but it is not a recipe for success long term.

‘In addition, Instagram’s feed ranking is powered by machine learning, which is constantly adapting to new patterns in data. So, it can recognise inauthentic activity and make adjustments.’

An Instagram Pod is when a group of people get together and agree to like and comment on every single post each one publishes.

It’s like a syndicate to make one’s content look more engaging or popular than it is.

The goal is to increase post engagement, genuine comments, and, as a result, better rankings in the Instagram algorithm.

One may be able to cheat the system for a short time, but with the Instagram algorithm machine-learning this is no ‘secret to success.’

I’ve heard Instagram doesn’t count something as a comment unless it’s more than 1/2/3 words?

Instagram dispels this notion too by saying that comments of any size are counted.

We assume that comments carry more wight than likes simply because they require more effort.

But there is no definitive clarity on that.

Does the algorithm rank posts higher that get a lot of likes or comments in the first 30 minutes?

No, says Instagram.

They emphasise the point that the most important factor in what a user sees on their feed is the accounts they have recently engaged with.

However, common sense does suggest that over time if a post is getting good engagement, it will be served to more people that normally engage with your posts if they are online.

Instagram insights does have an option to view the times that most of your followers are online, but this can only show daily stats. It is far from a fool proof method though and it is time consuming.

Instagram Algorithm Insights — what have we learnt?

It’s great that Instagram ran a Q n A session and happily answered users’ questions with regard to their feed.

The over-arching conclusion from their replies reminds us that there is no quick fix to sustained success on the platform and trying to fool the Instagram Algorithm is not a feasible solution.

Quality content that speaks to your target audience with authenticity and transparency is important and with this comes careful planning and strategising.

These five tips published last year by us at Bigger Than Me last year is a good place to start.




Father, Surfer, Muso, Producer, Content Creator & Strategy Ninja, Kabbalist, Founder @biggerthanmeZA, Husband to @robyn_on_earth - Kommetjie, CT

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Greg Viljoen

Greg Viljoen

Father, Surfer, Muso, Producer, Content Creator & Strategy Ninja, Kabbalist, Founder @biggerthanmeZA, Husband to @robyn_on_earth - Kommetjie, CT

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