How Instagram Algorithms Work [Reels, Stories, Posts, Explore Page]

Velina Nenova
Velina Nenova

Updated · Jan 27, 2023

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If you find yourself scrolling endlessly through your Instagram feed, you may have wondered whether Instagram’s algorithms have something to do with your engagement. But how Instagram algorithms work

This very popular social media platform only shows you content you’re most likely to interact with, making your experience as a user more enjoyable. Knowing the ins and outs of Instagram can help you expand your reach and audience. 

Let’s dive into it so you can take your Instagram game to the next level!

How the Instagram Algorithm Works

Before we get into how Instagram algorithms work, keep in mind that there isn’t a single Instagram algorithm but rather a set of rules, processes, and classifiers that enable a personalized user experience.

In the early stages, Instagram showed posts in chronological order. However, many users were missing 70% of the posts on their feed. To battle this, Instagram decided to make changes and rank posts based on what you care about the most.  

These are the most important ranking factors when it comes to understanding the Instagram algorithm:

  1. Interest - Once Instagram notices that you like a particular type of content, it will show you more of it;
  2. Relationship - If you regularly interact with certain accounts, their content will be ranked on top, making it more likely for you to see it;
  3. Timeliness - Recent posts are prioritized over older ones;
  4. Frequency - Instagram users that don’t open the app very often will only see the most relevant content;
  5. Following - If you follow a lot of accounts, you won’t see a lot of content from some accounts;
  6. Usage - Spending less time on the app means that the user will only see posts from friends and family, and not business’s posts. 

Feed, Explore, and Reels each have their own algorithm. For example, in the Feed section, people expect to see their friends’ stories, but they move on to the Explore page when they want to discover something new. The algorithms are based on how people use these different parts of the app. 

How Instagram Ranks Feed Posts and Stories

It’s quite simple to understand the Instagram posts and stories algorithm, as it will only show you the recent posts and stories of the people that you’re following, with the exception of ads. 

Instagram relies on a couple of signals to increase the accuracy with which it ranks posts and stories on your feed:

  • Post information - signals about the popularity of a post in terms of likes, information on when it was posted, duration if it’s a video, and location;
  • Information about the user who posted - with these signals, the Instagram algorithm gets an idea of how interesting the user is to you. This includes the frequency of engaging with this person and if those interactions are recent;
  • User activity - this helps the algorithm understand what your preferences are by how many and what kind of posts you have liked;
  • Your interaction history with someone - this gives the Instagram algorithm a clearer idea of whether you like seeing posts from a particular person based on your interactions with them.

The Instagram algorithm uses these signals to guess how likely you are to interact with a certain post.

When it comes to your Feed, Instagram will collect data on how much time you spend looking at a post, whether you’re going to save or like it, comment on it, and check out the poster’s profile. This means the posts that appear at the top of your Feed are those the algorithm believes you are most likely to engage with. 

How the Instagram Explore Page Algorithm Works

On the Explore page, you will find new content from accounts you don’t follow. To determine which set of photos to rank, the algorithm first considers the posts you have liked in the past. Then it takes a look at other accounts that have interacted with that post and searches for other accounts they are interested in. 

After finding a group of posts that might fit your preferences, Instagram ranks them according to the following signals:

  • Post information - What plays a big part with the Explore page algorithm is how fast users are liking, commenting, sharing, or saving a post;
  • Interaction history with the person who posted - You might not follow the person, but if you have interacted with their content in the past, Instagram will recognize that;
  • User activity - Similar to the Feed page algorithm, it considers posts that you have liked, commented on, and saved, plus how you have engaged with content on the Explore page;
  • Information about the poster - Instagram will also look at how much interaction the poster has received recently, so it can provide you with high-quality content.

How the Reels Algorithm Works

The Instagram reels algorithm is similar to the Explore page algorithm in that you are shown reels from creators you don’t know. The difference is that with Reels, Instagram focuses on what could entertain you. 

If you watch Instagram reels, you may have seen surveys that asked if the reel was entertaining. The Instagram algorithm predicts how likely you are to watch the whole reel, like it, or even head to the audio page and make your own reel. 

For ranking reels, the most important signals are the following:

  • User activity - To decide which reels to suggest for you, Instagram will look at reels you have interacted with recently;
  • Interaction history with the person who posted - With reels, you will likely see videos from creators you don’t follow but whose content you or someone you follow have engaged with; 
  • Information on the reel - These signals focus on the audio quality and popularity of the reel;
  • Information about the poster - Smaller accounts won’t necessarily be prevented from reaching a wider audience as the Reels algorithm gives everyone an equal chance to shine.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works for Business, Creator, and Personal Accounts

As a user, you get to choose which type of account you want to make - creator, business or personal. Creator accounts are best for influencers; a Business account will help you grow your brand; while a Personal account makes the most sense for those not interested in Instagram strategy.   

There are some rumors that the Instagram algorithm favors certain accounts, especially Business accounts. However, Instagram has denied this and stated that all account types are treated equally. Instagram considers metadata, hashtags, and interaction metrics to provide a fair user experience across the platform.

Instagram Algorithm Changes in 2022

As Instagram constantly strives to provide the best user experience, an Instagram algorithm change is inevitable.

Here are the major changes made to the Instagram algorithm in 2022:

  • A chronological feed of Following and Favorite home feed views;
  • More suggested content, particularly with reels;
  • An original content boost lets Instagram prioritize content that hasn’t already been shared;
  • Instagram won’t give a priority to content that has noticeable watermarks from other sites;
  • Enhancing content categorization which means Instagram can detect the content of an image or video based on keywords. 

Tips for Working With the Algorithm

To make it easier for you to get ahead and make the most of the Instagram algorithm, here are some tips that will help you expand your reach: 

Schedule Your Posts

Posting your content at the right time, when your target audience is active, will make a big difference. Otherwise, your post will get buried in a sea of other posts and won’t make it to your audience. 

So, when is the best time to post? According to various studies, the time slot between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Thursdays is the best. On other days, like Wednesdays, schedule your posts for 11 a.m. On Fridays, with the weekend coming up, you can schedule your posts for 10 a.m. on Fridays. Posting on Instagram during lunchtime, while everyone is scrolling on their phones, is also a good approach.

Still, the best option is to check your analytics data and see when your followers engage the most with your content. For scheduling, use tools such as Tailwind or Loomy, and they will automatically post your posts at the optimal time.

Hashtags

By employing hashtags, you will help the Instagram algorithm understand what your post is about. This way, you’ll improve your visibility on the platform and reach people who are most likely to engage with your content.

If you don’t know which hashtags or keywords to use for your post, use hashtag generator tools. They will provide you with the most relevant and popular hashtags, and all you have to do is upload your image file. Easy, right?

Post Consistently

As already mentioned, Instagram favors recent posts, so if you only post once a week, that won’t cut it. But you also don’t need to bombard your followers with tons of posts and stories every day. 

Just make sure you show up once every weekday, and you will likely experience follower growth and increased engagement. After all, this way will allow you to gain greater Instagram exposure. Even the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, stated that two posts per week and two stories per day will build your following. 

Automate Your Analytics Reports

Having a good Instagram analytics tool will save you a lot of time by letting you know what kind of content keeps your audience coming back. 

An Instagram analytics tool will help you discover when your audience is active so you can schedule your posts and give you insight into the types of posts that get the most engagement and the hashtags that perform well.

Respect Community Guidelines

Similar to other social media platforms, Instagram has community guidelines in case someone posts something that could potentially put someone else’s safety in danger. 

So, if your post goes against the community guidelines, Instagram will take it down. If you do it repeatedly, Instagram will either prevent you from sharing in the future or suspend your account. 

You also want to avoid posting political posts, low-resolution media, or upsetting content. This is mostly because this type of content will get limited visibility. 

Comment on Posts From Relevant Users and Brands

To drive more traffic to your account, engage with your followers and other creators. Visit their profiles, comment, and like their content. 

Instagram users shared 95 million photos a day in 2022, and you can pick the most relevant ones for you and engage with them. This will create relationships with your followers, and the Instagram algorithm will start working in your favor.

Especially if you’re on Instagram as a creator or a business, keep in mind that there’s a person behind every profile who gets excited every time a brand or a small business interacts with them. This will encourage them to like, share, and comment on your posts even more. 

Bottom Line

Instagram algorithms constantly evolve and change, so it can be hard to find out what works best. As of 2022, Instagram ranks the most recent posts and those of your interest at the top of your page.

Start implementing some of the tips we mentioned if you want to expand your audience reach and watch your follower count grow!

FAQs.


What does Instagram avoid recommending?

Instagram doesn’t recommend content that third-party fact-checkers say is false, content that is upsetting or sensitive, political content, or low-resolution media.

What are peak Instagram hours?

On Mondays, consider posting at 6 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. On Tuesdays, the prime time is between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., or at 2 p.m., and on Wednesdays, aim for the morning hours between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. 

On Thursdays, the optimal time for posting your content is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and at 7 p.m., and on Fridays between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., or between 2 and 4 p.m. 

The weekend is a bit different, as Saturday prime hours are in the morning, between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., while on Sunday, you’ll do best between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

How do I know if I’m being shadowbanned?

When you’re being shadowbanned, your visibility and reach are limited. The biggest indicator is when your content doesn’t appear on the Explore page.

How do you get your Instagram post to the top of the feed?

First, you need to understand how Instagram algorithms work and the signals they use to rank your posts. Then you can use that to your advantage. Regular and consistent posting, using relevant hashtags, and interacting with followers are all good ways to get more people to follow you, making your posts more likely to be seen. 

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Velina Nenova

Velina Nenova

Velina describes herself as passionate media savvy and a versatile individual with numerous different interests, most a result of her Media & Communications BA. She has also developed a keen interest in Digital Marketing and Advertising. Her never-ending desire to constantly learn new things and enrich herself and her ultimate dream to go around the globe before 45 are her driving forces.

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