Instagram boasts more than one billion global users, with more than half of these users under the age of 35. This makes Instagram a prime social media platform for targeting a younger audience. Social media marketing is booming, and Instagram ads are seeing success in many areas, which is why understanding the Instagram algorithm is the key to getting your content seen. In order to get the word out there, you need to know how to beat the Instagram algorithm.

What is the Instagram Algorithm?

The Instagram (IG) algorithm is not a single algorithm but several processes that go into how Instagram works as a platform. It’s an evolution from the original reverse-chronological algorithm used in 2010, where 70% of posts didn’t get seen, including 50% of posts from close contacts. The new Instagram algorithm is separated between Feed, Explore, and Reels, which will be discussed later. So, how does the Instagram algorithm work?

Several main metrics apply across every part of the IG app. With any Instagram algorithm change, the following ranking signals never change:

  • Post Information – Signals like how quickly people like, comment, share, and save factor into whether your target audience sees your post.
  • Interactions – You’re more likely to see content from people you have interacted with in the past. This information is used to share similar content from people you’ve never interacted with.
  • User Activity – Signals like the posts you’ve liked, commented on, shared, and saved are taken into account when Instagram shows new content in your feed.
  • The Poster – How many times have you interacted with a poster? How many times have you interacted with posters of similar content? Instagram uses this to show you content you’re most likely to be interested in.
  • Timeliness – New, fresh content tends to appear first. The platform maintains that older posts do get seen, but new content has a natural advantage.

Remember, Instagram isn’t a static feed, such as Google. Your feed will be different from the person sitting next to you because of how much it’s based on your individual activity.

The 2021 Instagram Algorithm: How it Works

Did Instagram change their algorithm for 2021? The short answer is yes; alterations have been made to the platform. Let’s delve into the changes made to the algorithm on Instagram, as well as how it impacts your Instagram reach.

Posts

Not much has changed for the general feed. Like other social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram prioritizes fresh posts from a user’s closest connections. This is why marketers need to work less on pure numbers and more on building real relationships with their followers. Regular content and interacting in the comments are two critical activities to make sure your posts get seen. The same tips apply in 2021 as they did in 2020:

  • Post high-quality content
  • Bond with your audience
  • Focus on a niche
  • Create relationships with similar accounts
  • Use hashtags sparingly

Stories

Stories do not influence your broader Instagram reach. These are designed for your closest followers. The Instagram story algorithm remains important because 500 million Instagrammers use stories daily, and a third of the most viewed global stories originate from brands. If you’ve built a relationship with your audience, stories are the fast track to interacting with them. Don’t choose them over classic feed posts, but make sure you incorporate one or two stories per day for your existing followers.

Reels

Reels are a response to Tik Tok’s success. Like Stories, they don’t impact the broader IG algorithm, but they do increase engagement. For example, the average NFL team boasts 67% more engagement on Reels than regular videos. 

IGTV

With IGTV, the algorithms prioritize content based on the accounts users interact with most, as well as the type of posts the user engages with most often. IGTV videos are served in Explore pages for users, based on what they like. Like Reels, it’s another form of video that can boost engagement.

Strategies to Improve Your Rankings in the Instagram Algorithm

Now that you know about the Instagram algorithm change, what do you need to do to improve your rankings? Here are some tips to follow:

  • Step up your photo quality.
  • Publish consistent stories, at least one per day.
  • Make more video content for better engagement.
  • Write more compelling captions, as Instagram ranks based on engagement.
  • Run a giveaway to build better relationships.
  • Leverage the power of targeted hashtags.

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