Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has only seen an explosion in popularity and the number of daily active users. Today, more than 500 million people use Instagram daily, which is why more and more businesses, influencers and social media activists are flocking the platform in the hopes of obtaining the success their peers have.
However, merely putting up photos and telling the world your story is not enough. To thwart your competitors and sky-rocket your reach, you need to understand how Instagram works, and this is where the Instagram algorithm comes in.
On the root level, Instagram behaves like any other social media platform. Your taste in photos, topics and videos reflects in your feed, and your changing behaviours affect your feed as well.
But this is what every other social media platform does. So, what sets the Instagram algorithm apart?
Learn all this and much more by reading these 12 Facts about Instagram algorithm!
FACT#1: Instagram Does Not Prefer One Type of Account over Another (Personal/Business/Creator)
Instagram began with a simple Personal Profile where you could either go public or private. Then came the Business Profile, and now the recent update in 2019 has introduced a Creator's Profile as well. So, which one should you choose?
The answer is: Whichever one works best with the type of audience you plan to target!
Instagram has claimed time and time again that its algorithm doesn't prefer a Business account over a Personal Profile or the other way round, and the same goes with the Creator's Profile. It means that the profile you choose should depend entirely on the features it offers you.
The Creator's Profile, for example, gives you access to more detailed follow/unfollow insights, whereas the Business Profile has a specific "contact button" that the Creator's Profile doesn't give you. The Personal Profile, of course, will not have any of those insights or features.
FACT#2: The Time People Spend on a Post Also Counts
Likes, comments, shares and DMs are undoubtedly some of the crucial factors that help Instagram algorithm decide where your post should go in people's feed.
But there’s more: Unlike other social media platforms, Instagram knows the amount of time you stop at a specific person’s post.
You might have heard that YouTube does that: calculates the watch time of every person and ranks the videos accordingly. But the exciting thing is, Instagram does it for the posts that are not videos as well.
What this means is that, on Instagram, the quality of the content matters even more. People will spend more time viewing your posts if you make them engaging enough. Instagram will know they are finding them interesting, without them ever directly engaging with it in any other way, and you'll see a significant increase in your traffic!
FACT#3: The Overall Time Spent on Instagram Decides How Personalized the Feed and the Explore Page is
The logic behind this is simple: the more someone scrolls on Instagram, the more they engage with the stuff they like.
It allows the IG algorithm to sort your future feed based on your preferences. Resultantly, you get a much more personalized feed.
Instagram is somewhat like Pinterest in this regard. In the very beginning, it will just show you the most recent content, arranging everything in chronological order.
But once you have spent a significant amount of time, it’ll start arranging your Explore Page, your personal feed from the people you follow and even the IG stories, based on your past activity on the platform.
FACT#4: New Features Have Boosted Reach
Instagram is evolving continuously and wants its users to keep up with it. Which is why when a new feature gets introduced, you should make use of it.
In 2020, Instagram introduced many new features, including story stickers, IGTV previews and Facebook/Instagram shops.
Instagram wants the word out quickly about new updates and does this by providing a significant boost to the content that has new features. It works as a convenient strategy to make people adapt quickly to the platform's changes.
While this part of the Instagram algorithm is more about the platform than the user, you can use it to your advantage as well. For example, by merely putting a food order sticker on your story, you not only get to make people order directly by clicking on it but also, you can have your IG story seen by a larger number of potential customers.
FACT#5: Photos and Videos Don’t Have a Priority Rank on Instagram
Instagram is quite interesting in the sense that it doesn't differentiate between photos and videos. For Instagram, photos and videos are exactly the same. And the only thing that tells the programming to place one thing over another is the overall engagement it may be getting plus the user's personal choice.
This feature is undoubtedly a piece of fantastic news for the businesses, brands or creators who need one type of content, either photo or video, for their marketing purposes.
For example, if you are a photographer, you would want most of your Instagram posts to be photo-based. However, if you are a video marketing company, the best way to speak to your customers would be through Instagram Videos and Reels.
So, let's thank Instagram for not having favourites.
FACT#6: Stories, IGTV and Lives are Treated Equally
Unlike YouTube, which has been pushing shorts much faster than traditional videos, Instagram’s design doesn't give advantage to any content based on its type. You can post tons of stories, IGTV videos or go live as you please, Instagram will see no difference.
That aside, you should not forget that new features automatically get more exposure, and you can always use them to push out your Instagram posts.
FACT#7: Stories With Location Hashtags May Get Pushed to the Beginning
For brands and businesses with a physical location, location hashtags provide a convenient solution to target an audience from their locality. Their stories, photos and videos enter the larger pool of the explore page and reside there as the part of the hashtag forever, which means anyone clicking on a post with the same hashtags have chances of finding yours.
But this doesn’t stop here.
Instagram stories having location hashtags appear first for the people directly residing in the location, or present in the areas surrounding it.
You may be wondering how that can be beneficial, right?
Think of it this way: If you are a local business, it doesn't matter if someone from Arkansas follows you. Your business is physically located 1079 miles away in New York. With a location hashtag in your stories, the Instagram algorithm sorts it first for relevant people, which ultimately increases your visibility, but for the right people.
In short, we can say that location hashtags allow us to partially filter out our followers relevant to our location, and target them more efficiently.
FACT#8 Posting More Has Nothing to Do with the Engagement on Instagram
You may have tons of people telling you that making 30 posts a day helped them boost their traffic, or that they saw a significant increase in their followers once they started posting more frequently.
While this may be true for them, our good old Instagram algorithm has no part in it.
On Instagram, the frequency of posting versus engagement entirely depends upon your audience.
Are your followers responding quite well to 10 posts a day? You should absolutely make them because you have curated an exceptionally active Instagram audience who loves your content.
But if it's not the case, posting ten times won't matter. Nor will it necessarily increase engagement.
Also, in your haste to post more often, the quality of your content might deteriorate, leading to engagements even lower than before. So, be careful and test out different posting schedules until you find the one that works best for you!
Fact#9 Instagram Also Uses Information from Facebook to Tailor Ads
Ever since Instagram succumbed to Facebook, you might have seen numerous changes in the app: the biggest one being the injection of sponsored posts in our personalized feed.
It was not long ago when Instagram gave an "all caught up" message while you were scrolling to indicate that you're out of posts from the people you follow. But now there's an endless scroll, resembling that of a Facebook in many ways. And it also throws ads in between.
Instagram clearly states on its Help Page that it chooses these ads after considering the data from both the app itself and Facebook.
While it may not have any severe implications on your currently running campaigns, Businesses having no Facebook account might experience less exposure than their Facebook famous competitors.
Instagram also claims that running ads over both platforms allows it to optimize campaigns better and provide significantly better results.
Running a combined ads campaign may or may not be better for you in terms of CPC and conversions. The crucial thing is to carefully consider whether your type of target audience is present on Facebook or not before jumping on the bandwagon in the hopes of excellent outcomes.
Fact#10 All Comments Matter
Instagram undoubtedly gives a whole lot of weightage to comments when it comes to sorting out your posts. If people are commenting a lot on your posts, Instagram equals it as engagement, realizes that people love it and shows it above in the feed of your audience.
However, rumour has it that comments that are too short or contain a single emoji do not get the same treatment.
Luckily, the Instagram algorithm does no such thing to show such comment-racism and treats comments of every type, sentiment, emotion and length the same.
The same thing goes with the replies. You don't need to give long, heartfelt responses to each one of your followers to get more engagement. An emoji, a single word or a phrase will do the deed.
FACT#11 Instagram Loves Comments and Shares More Than Likes
The Instagram algorithm is advanced enough to know that if a person takes the time out to comment on a post, they must love it.
And it knows when you share a post, either in DMs or on the story, you are doing it because you want everyone to know how good it is or how well it resonates with you.
"Likes", on the other hand, require minimal effort and do not equal an enthusiastic response in Instagram's book.
All of this is absolutely correct, and that is why you'll find Instagram ranking posts overflowing with comments and shares better than the ones overflowing with likes.
Yes, you can’t see how many times your post has been shared if you are on a Personal Account instead of a Business one, and Instagram is adamant on keeping the names a secret on both of them. But the bottom line is that Instagram knows it all and knows who should be getting your posts first.
So, aiming your posts to get more comments and likes can only benefit you in the long run.
Fact# 12 Instagram Shows the Best Posts Since the Last Visit First
Many people feel that Instagram hides some of the posts from them. And some time ago, businesses were outraged claiming that Instagram is "shadow hiding" or preventing their photos and videos from reaching people.
The reality is that the Instagram algorithm works to ensure that the users have the best experience on the platform, and for that, it arranges the posts it thinks are the best for them first.
With every visit, Instagram refreshes and arranges the best posts first and the others just beneath them, and if someone spends longer times scrolling on the app, they can find posts from all the people they follow. However, if someone only opens the app for short durations, they will only be able to view a few of them every time and will be missing posts from other people they follow.
An efficient way to tackle this part of Instagram algorithm is by producing content that resonates with your audience so they can't miss it. It can also give you an edge over the businesses that are creating posts irrelevant to their audience's interest.
Looking at all these facts, you may have realized that there are a few underlying factors tying them all together, namely:
· Interest: Predictions of Instagram about how well a person will respond to something on the platform.
· Timeliness: How new the content is (the chronological sorting is still working to some extent)
· Frequency: How often a user visits Instagram
· Relationship: How well a user interacts with a certain account or a post
These factors are the "basis" of the Instagram algorithm. There may be a few more, but if you create an Instagram strategy keeping the facts mentioned throughout this post and the four factors above, you will be able to make your way to well-established Personal, Business or Creator Instagram Profiles!For more information related to Instagram content strategy, features, facts, and updates, check out the rest of our blog!