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Understanding the Instagram Algorithm In 2024

Published on 14.05.2024 by Tracey Chizoba Fletcher

Like other social media sites, Instagram aims to offer its users the best experience. That’s why the Instagram algorithm tries to predict the type of content its users will likely interact with and recommend it on its homepage. If you want your posts to appear in the suggested posts, you must understand how the Instagram algorithm works. 

However, it's important to note that Instagram keeps updating its algorithm, and staying current can be challenging. Fortunately, this article will help you understand it and know how to leverage the Instagram algorithm to increase your posts' visibility and engagement levels.

What is the Instagram Algorithm?

Instagram’s algorithms are rules used to rank content on the platform. The rules decide the kind of content that appears on the search platform and in which order. This applies to the user’s reel feed, explore page, stories, etc. During its early days, Instagram used a simple chronological order to decide what appeared in the algorithm. However, in 2024, the algorithm is complicated and uses many factors to rank posts.

According to the platform, each app section uses a different algorithm. That means what works in the Feeds ranking may not work in the Explore section. This is generally because users interact differently with the different sections of the app. For instance, people are more likely to view the stories of their closest friends. However, they are most likely looking for fresh posts on the Explore page. 

The sophisticated Instagram ranking system ensures that the user experience is well-personalized. Therefore, no two users see the same content when scrolling down the Instagram feed. Even when you have two different accounts on Instagram, the content recommended for one account will differ from that of the other.

Factors Affecting the Ranking of Instagram Feed Posts and Stories

When people go through reels on Instagram feed posts and stories, they are searching for posts from their family and friends. Therefore, the ranking factors for the two are the same. 

Apart from the ads, you will mostly see the posts and stories from the people you follow. To enable it to rank the right content in these two sections, Instagram considers several factors, such as:

  • Popularity of the post. The Instagram algorithm considers a post’s popularity in terms of likes and comments. In addition, it also considers other minor details, such as the post's timing, the video's duration, and the location.
  • User interaction.  The level of interaction with the user is another factor that Instagram uses to determine how important the user is to you. The last time you interacted with the account will determine if the platform will recommend its content.
  • Interaction history. The social media site also looks at your interest in certain types of content by looking at interaction metrics such as likes, comments, and shares. Therefore, when you like, comment, or share a post, Instagram will recommend more of such content.
  • Poster’s details.  The social media site also considers the poster's details, such as the number of interactions they have had in the previous weeks. This helps Instagram determine if they provide high-quality content for their viewers.

Instagram Algorithm’s Ranking of Reels

Reels are mainly created to entertain, and you should understand the top tips for Instagram reels. The platform recommends reels to users from accounts they don’t even follow as long as they feel they might entertain the user. Instead of focusing on what might interest you, the algorithm focuses on what can entertain you.

The Instagram algorithm predicts how you will likely watch a reel until its end and the possibility of engaging with it. It also considers your chances of visiting the audio page as it reflects your possibility of creating a reel. That said, here are the main ranking factors for reels:

  • User activity. Instagram suggests reels based on the category of the reels you interacted with in the past. For instance, if you watch a football highlights reel, Instagram will recommend more of such videos.
  • Content elements. Information about the reel, such as its popularity and audio track, will also determine how Instagram recommends such videos to users.
  • Video popularity. When ranking reels, Instagram gives equal ground to all users, irrespective of their follower count. That means even when you are a small creator, you still have a chance to shine with reels. The popularity of the reel is a key consideration when determining which reels to recommend to users.

You can, therefore, use this information to make your reels go viral.

Content that the Instagram Algorithm Will Not Recommend

While the goal of Instagram is to enable people to express themselves, it also prioritizes safety. That means if your posts are potentially harmful or against the community guidelines, they are taken down. There are also certain types of content that Instagram limits, such as:

  • Misinformation. If the third-party fact-checkers label the information on your post or reel as false, then such piece of content will not be shown prominently in the news feed and stories.
  • Potentially upsetting or sensitive information. If you promote self-harm posts or reels, then it will not be shown in the Explore feeds or even in the Stories.
  • Political content. If your content focuses on political issues or has been created on behalf of political parties, figures, or government officials, it will not be shown.
  • Watermarked content or low-resolution content.

Other Factors that Affect Ranking on Instagram

On top of the factors discussed above, the Instagram algorithm also considers other factors when deciding which posts appear on the Home feed. These include:

  • The quality of the image or video.
  • Whether the content is original or has already been shared on Instagram.
  • Reported content.
  • Whether the account has violated the community guidelines.
  • Watermarks.

How to Make Instagram Algorithm Show Your Posts

To grow your Instagram account, use the Instagram algorithm to your advantage. Here are tips on how to do that.

Create More Instagram Reels

We have already mentioned that Instagram reels doesn’t consider the number of followers when recommending content. That means even if you have few followers, you can leverage them to grow your following. If you create high-quality content that entertains or informs your followers, Instagram will recommend them to your audience.

Besides, the Instagram algorithm is still heavily promoting reels. Under the Explore feed, reels get twice as much real estate as other forms of content. Therefore, when creating a content plan, be sure to include a lot of reels. This will keep your followers engaged and help you attract more people to your content.

Here are a few tips to follow when creating reels:

  • Use a vertical format for shooting content.
  • Unless it's very necessary, keep your reels short. If people watch the reel to the end, Instagram will recommend them to more users. Besides, people are more likely to watch shorter reels several times, increasing their views.
  • Use trending videos for your reels. Similarly, you can do trending challenges.
  • Share Instagram reels for feed and Instagram stories.

When creating reels, keep things fun, entertaining, and lighthearted. Make the videos fast-paced and to the point. Since the algorithm also considers whether viewers watch the reel to the end, keep it short to increase the chances of people watching it to the end. You will be amazed by the number of views your reel garners.

Create Original Content

If you post original and authentic content that engages users, Instagram will reward you with a higher ranking. Here are tips to help you improve your content:

  • Create raw content. The Instagram feed is filled with polished and edited images. If your content stands out, you should post raw and unedited images. To add authenticity, add images which showcase real and unfiltered moments that resonate deeply with your viewers.
  • Repurpose content. You can reimagine and reuse or repurpose when you create well-performing content. For instance, if an image receives a lot of likes and comments, you can repurpose it into a carousel post or video.
  • Tell a story. While a standalone post will do well, interconnected carousel content that tells a story will do better. This is because it will encourage the users to engage with the content for longer.
  • Combine different mediums. Instead of using images alone, combine them with illustrations, digital overlays, and animations. In a sea of image content, you must ensure your content is unique.
  • Leverage user-generated content (UGC). UGC refers to content that other people post about your products. When people tag you in such content, the Instagram algorithm will notice and reward you.

Ask Followers to Add You to their Favorite Feed

One of the easiest ways to make the Instagram algorithm work for you is to ask your followers to add your account to their favorite feed. This feature allows users to add up to 50 accounts to create a personal and curated chronological feed.

Instagram suggests that posts appearing in the favorite feed are higher in the user's home feed. Therefore, your loyal followers will engage more with your account, and Instagram will reward you with a higher ranking.

Consider Your Posting Time

One factor affecting your Instagram content's visibility is the posting time. Remember that interactions also count when Instagram considers what content to recommend. Therefore, you must post your content when your followers are most active. 

During this time, they are most likely to engage with your content. If you don't post at the right time, your post will get buried in many posts. Pay attention to your analytics data to determine the best time to post on Instagram.

Leverage Instagram Analytics

Instagram analytics can help you understand what is working and what isn't. You can use analytics to get important data, such as your audience preference and content that brings people to your account. It will show you data on the ideal content, the right posting time, and the potential hashtags to enable you to reach a bigger audience.

Checking analytics will enable you to know when your followers are online. When you get this information, you can schedule your content to post during that time. It will also help you understand the posts receiving the highest engagement, whether it's a trendy video or an entertaining reel.

Don’t just focus on one post, image, or video when checking analytics. Instead, track your key metrics over some time to see trends. Doing that lets you easily tell the steps to take to improve your ranking.

Encourage Engagement

We noted earlier that the Instagram algorithm recommends posts with a higher engagement level. Whether in the Feed, Explore, or Reels, the algorithm considers whether the posts receive likes, comments, saves, or shares. It also considers whether the content makes people tap on the profile or spend more time on it.

While likes also count as engagement and are good, you need to encourage comments. This is because they boost interactions, making it easier for your content to appear on the Explore page. When planning content that encourages interaction, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are people likely to like or comment on this post?
  • Is the post something that someone would bookmark to come back to?
  • Is there a call to action in the post?

When writing a caption, encourage people to comment on your content. Include captions that add value to the user. It can be a story or prompt encouraging them to share their thoughts. Also, remember to include a call-to-action in your posts. You should be explicit about what you want your audience to do. Tell them to leave a comment, share their thoughts, or do more.

Use Instagram Stories

Instagram stories refer to videos or images you post and are available for 24 hours. Due to the time limitation, Instagram stories can create a sense of urgency for people to review the story before it disappears. You can, therefore, use this feature to improve your interaction on your account. Ensure that the story remains interesting. 

When creating top-notch Instagram stories, remember that the interaction level is the key factor affecting their ranking. Therefore, Instagram will recommend your content if it's getting a lot of interactions. If you want your stories to be visible to more people, ensure that the people interacting with them are encouraged to do so.

Questions, stickers, emojis, and polls are some ways to encourage interaction with your stories. These elements will drive interaction and eventually increase your post’s visibility.

Use Relevant Hashtags

Hashtags help the Instagram algorithm understand what your content is about. Therefore, optimizing your content using popular and highly relevant hashtags will help you improve the running and visibility of your posts on the platform.

Some of the other benefits of using hashtags in your captions include:

  • Make your captions more authentic.
  • Help the audience find your content.

When using Instagram content, ensure that they are highly relevant to your content. You should also avoid overdoing the hashtags. Just include three to five highly relevant hashtags. While popular hashtags are a good addition, you should avoid using those that have been used thousands of times. Instead, use relatively popular hashtags in your niche.

Add Location Tags

One of the ways in which you can provide context about yourself and the post itself is by geotagging. If you are posting a location-centric image or video, this is one of the features you should leverage. Through geotagging, you will make your content more authentic and enable the platform to highlight the content for the people in that location. 

Follow the Community Guidelines

We noted earlier that Instagram may fail to recommend your content because you do not follow community guidelines. In addition to lower visibility of your content, videos that do not follow their content guidelines may be removed from the platform. Therefore, make sure you are following the Instagram community guidelines.

Connect With Your Audience

Another factor that will affect the ability of your content to appear on the Instagram homepage is building a relationship with your audience. You can use different measures to build a relationship with your audience. But the top one is creating high-quality content they will love and share. 

In addition, you can respond to comments, direct messages, and questions, showing the algorithm that you care about your audience. Do not overlook the importance of the Instagram live feature tool for driving engagement. This will show your followers you are authentic and help them interact with you in real time. If possible, get verified on Instagram to increase your audience’s trust.

Wrapping Up

Remember that social media sites aim to show users what they want when considering the Instagram algorithm. Therefore, this should be the first factor to consider when creating content. Besides that, you can follow our tips above to ensure that your account pleases the Instagram algorithm. We recommend you check out our guide to learn who viewed your Instagram highlights.