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Social algorithms are the gatekeepers to success.
They ultimately determine your profile growth and a post’s performance, irrespective of how good or wanted your content is. No wonder our recent survey revealed that 71% of creators are concerned about social algorithm changes this year.
The constantly changing Instagram algorithm is likely the most vexing of them all. The app launched two new chronological feed options in March, termed the “Favourites” and “Following” feeds. The Favourites feature allows users to view the latest posts from the accounts in their Favourites list, whereas, with the Following feature, users can view the posts of everyone they follow.
While certainly progressive, the one restriction is that neither feature can be set as the default. This means the Home feed, with suggested posts, ads and an algorithm, could still be the default feed for many of your followers if they don’t update their Instagram app.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The platform has explained the key ranking factors for their different feed types, including ways to create and share Instagram content that maximises organic reach.
How Instagram’s algorithm actually works
This is how Instagram explains its algorithmic Home and Stories feed, Reels feed, and Explore feed. Each ranking factor is listed in order of importance.
Home and Stories feed:
- Information about the post: Includes level of engagement to more general data like location, when it was posted, and how long it is if it’s a video.
- Information about the person who posted: This helps the platform understand recent interactions with the person and the viewer’s interest in the person.
- Activity: This helps Instagram better understand how you interact with content, including the number of posts you’ve liked and your interests.
- History of interactions: Actions like commenting on posts indicate your interest level in posts from another account.
- Activity: To determine the content that might be relevant to you, Instagram looks at signals like the Reels you’ve engaged with recently.
- History of interactions: Even if you don’t know the people posting the Reels, Instagram can get a sense of your interest in what they’ve shared through your past interactions.
- Reel data: Comprises video content like the audio track, popularity, and video understanding based on pixels and whole frames.
- Data about the person who posted: Instagram looks at popularity to locate compelling content from a broad user base – giving everyone a chance to find a niche audience.
- Information about the post: Popularity signals like how many and how quickly people like, share, and comment on a post matter more in Explore than in the Home or Stories feed.
- History of interactions: While you might not know the person who shared the post, your interaction with them will give Instagram a sense of your interest.
- Activity: Includes posts you liked, saved, commented on, and past interactions with posts in the feed.
- Data about the person who posted: How often people have interacted with the person recently to help source compelling content from a range of people.
Six hacks to beat the Instagram algorithm
The most successful creators on Instagram create content for each of the different feeds above (we leant this when we went live with Instagram). However, here are six hacks to add to your social strategy to make your content even more visible.
#1 Get on your follower’s “Favourites” list – Instagram has confirmed that posts from accounts in a user’s Favourites list will show up higher in their Home feed. However, since users can’t have more than 50 accounts added to their Favourites list, you need to forge more personal relationships with your followers. We suggest pursuing an active, authentic content strategy while prompting them regularly to add your account to their list. Learn how to be an authentic content creator.
#2 Fill hashtags, captions, and alt texts with keywords – Instagram now offers users content suggestions under the search tab in the Explore feed. It’ll pick up on users’ search behaviour and serve relevant content like a search engine, similar to Pinterest. Instagram also now suggests relevant content to users in their Home feeds from accounts they don’t already follow. Instagram allows you to write alt texts yourself for added accuracy. Just click on ‘Advanced Settings’ when uploading a new post, then under ‘Accessibility’, click ‘Write alt text’. ‘Suggested posts’ also don’t appear in the two new chronological feed options. Consider using keyword-heavy text to boost your chances of landing on the Explore feed or as a “Suggested Post” in users’ Home feeds.
#3 Team up with Pinterest – Highly personalised for each user, Pinterest’s algorithm quickly picks up on a user’s new interest after a search. Combining this highly effective algorithm – with the ability to add links to Pins – is a perfect way to outsmart the Instagram algorithm. We strongly suggest utilising Pinterest’s link feature to cross-promote your Instagram content. To make it easier for relevant Pinners to find your content, create a new Pin for every image featured in an Instagram carousel. Make your Pin titles and descriptions keyword heavy. Learn how to improve your Pinterest strategy.
#4 Pursue an engagement strategy – With popularity a key ranking factor, a strong engagement rate could be the gateway to the top of the Instagram algorithm. Boost engagement levels with interactive Story stickers, engage in community management, post carousels, and more. Integrate these 10 tips into your weekly social strategy for maximum results.
#5 Prioritise Reels – Instagram confirmed towards the middle of last year that they’re no longer a “photo-sharing app” but focusing on video content instead, notably Reels content. As a result, Reels content gets priority when posted to the Home and Reels feeds – so get creative with high-performing, far-reaching videos with these six Reels tips.
#6 Share to Story – Yes, it’s an old trick, but you can get more creative to catch your followers’ eyes. Use Canva to create compelling Story frames to place underneath your shared post. Save your Canva creation as an image to your mobile, copy it, and paste it on the Story editing page. With a bit of formatting and adding gifs, you’ll have a Story that will delight your audience and boost your post, especially if most of them scroll through their Stories feed first.