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How the Instagram Algorithm Really Works

When Instagram first released their move away from the chronological feed people were outraged; signing petitions and taking to social media to voice their ever-growing concerns with furious emojis. What Instagram users didn’t know was that they were missing 70 percent of all posts and 50 percent of their friends’ posts because of it. Flash forward, Instagram has implemented a “relevancy sorting” algorithm that has led to its 800,000,000+ users seeing 90 percent of their friends’ posts and spending more time on the app. The new algorithm has showed positive results of users liking and commenting on more photos creating a more active engaging online community.

Like any new change, eventually people welcomed it with open arms. Let’s be real, if you want to get ahead as a business on Instagram you need to be in the know and work with the IG algorithm, not against it.

But how does the algorithm work? A question that has puzzled many of us…

Until now! Instagram released their six key ranking factors to us average social joes.

So let’s break it down…

There are 3 main factors that determine what you see while scrolling your Instagram feed:


How much do you care about each post in your feed? Instagram wants you to see the content you’ll be most interested in first to keep your attention. Content that you’ve engaged with in the past will be deemed more relevant and rank higher on your feed.

SEE FOR YOURSELF: Check if Instagram got it right by looking at the genres on your Explore page. (Food, Yoga, Fashion, Travel, etc.)

What this means for brands: Engagement is key. When users engage with your content (especially within the first hour) this tells the algorithm that people care and want to see more of your posts. This is why its imperative to listen to your analytics to find out what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t to make the necessary changes.


Instagram may have moved away from chronological order but still values recent posts. In March 2018 Instagram stated this change was to “ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in the feed, so your feed will feel more fresh and you won’t miss the moments you really care about.”

What this means for brands: Know when the best times to post on Instagram are according to when your audience is the most active. Dig into your IG insights and test things out to ensure you’re getting it right.


What accounts do you regularly interact with? We’re not talking about that person who slid into your DM’s once upon a time and continues to like your photos but never speak to you. We’re talking about people you direct message, people you search for, people whose content you like on a regular basis, people you know in real-life, etc. Just like Snapchat, Instagram forms a list of those you care about and shows you their content.

What this means for brands: It’s important to develop a relationship with your followers with great content and frequent posting. Consistency is valuable and leads to better engagement and visibility.

There are also 3 secondary factors that play a smaller role in your feed rankings:


Every time you open the Instagram app the algorithm will try to show you the best posts since your last visit. If you open Instagram multiple times per day, you’ll always see recent posts. If you open the app once a week (Side Note: Do these people exist?) you could see posts that are a few days old.


If you follow thousands of people, the algorithm has more to sort through therefore you will see less posts from each individual account and get more variety of posts from those you’ve liked in the past. If you only follow a few accounts, you are likely to see posts from the same account more frequently.


How long do you spend scrolling? Browsing in short or long sessions can affect what the IG algorithm shows. If your visits are short Instagram will top-load the most relevant posts to be seen first. For those who can’t slow their scroll IG provides a deeper catalog of fresh content to browse.

7 Ways to Make the Instagram Algorithm Work in Your Favour:

  1. Create Great Content - Invest in Professional Photography and/or Videography

  2. Develop a Strong Visual Brand - Plan your grid

  3. Know Your Followers - Understand what is appealing to them and when they are most active

  4. Be engaged - Don’t treat it as simply a broadcast medium

  5. Let followers know how to turn on their Notifications

  6. Incorporate Instagram Ads

  7. Consider Influencer Marketing

Instagram Marketing is an incredibly exciting ever-changing topic that requires constant attention and quick implementation. Social By Nature prides itself on keeping up with the latest trends to keep your business on top of the innovative competitive landscape. We bring a unique branded experience to social media management with professional photography/ videography, graphic design, and captivating curated IG grids.

Check out these clients IG transformations:

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