Understanding the Instagram Algorithm: What you Need to Know

Instagram is one of those platforms that will make you EXTREMELY happy but also make you want to throw your phone at the wall and scream. In order for you to grow on Instagram, you need to first understand the algorithm that they have created. 

The algorithm is a system that is supposed to help users see content that is relevant to them.

The question that then arises is, “Why would someone follow you if your content is not relevant to them?”

That is a great question and at this point in time, there is no answer.

I am going to try to explain this to you in the most unbias way possible. Instagram basically created the algorithm as a way to “help users only see content that is most relevant to them, as I mentioned before.

This resulted in the tanking of distribution of photos across the platform. Not just for influencers, not just for bloggers, not just for brands. EVERYONE.

There has been a ton of speculation that upgrading to a business account will hurt your engagement because when you upgrade, not only do you get the opportunity to see statistics but you also get the opportunity to purchase ADS. That’s right, ads.  

Speculation states that when you upgrade to a business account,

your engagement will tank over time and you will eventually be more desperate to purchase ads, therefore making Instagram money.

Regardless of whatever speculation is out there, I am going to do my best to give you all of the information you need to understand the algorithm, grow your following, work with brands, and be successful!

Without further ado, let’s get into how the algorithm works!

The Algorithm Focuses on 3 Things:

Interest: Interest is how much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, or rather, how much someone will care about your post, with a higher ranking for what matters to you/them. This is determined by past behavior on similar content. 

If someone has liked a similar post of yours in the past, they are telling Instagram that they like your content and want to see it more. So, when you post similar content, it will be distributed to that account. 

Recency: This is just how recently you posted based on when they log on. Instagram prioritizes timely posts over weeks-old ones.

This is why it is so important that you POST when your FOLLOWERS are ACTIVE. (We will get into how to find this time out later) 

Relationship: Relationship is how close you the person is to you. Instagram will share your posts to accounts that have interacted with your content a lot in the past.  

Things that are taken into account are; tagging, messaging, commenting, liking and now saving.

Beyond those 3, there are 3 more Factors

Frequency: Frequency has to do with how often someone opens Instagram. Each time you open it,  the app will try to show you the best posts since you were last active as well as ones that you haven’t seen.

Following: If your followers follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider spread of people. So those followers will see less of your content. It’s important that you keep your followers active with your content so you don’t fall off their grid. 

Usage: Usage has to do with how long your followers spend on Instagram. This will tell Instagram which posts they should see first.  If your followers are on for a short time, they are going to see what Instagram thinks is the “best” posts to make sure that they are seeing the most relevant information before leaving. Instagram will dig deeper into the people the person is following if they spend more total time browsing.

How can we use this information to help us grow?

Now that you know how the algorithm works, let’s show you how you can use the information above to get the algorithm on your side. 

So you know that people need to interact with you… obviously, but how can you get them to do so? 

Well, first of all, be transparent with your audience. Ask them on your stories to answer a question on your latest post or to give it some love. (We will get into the specifics later, but these are just some quick things you can do to put the algorithm on your side!) 

Remember that the algorithm is a bot, or rather a group of bots. That being said, what you are trying to “beat” is a computer. 

Understanding who your target audience is will really help you with the algorithm. Are you trying to reach everyday people? Bloggers? Who? 

The main way around the algorithm is to get followers that don’t follow a lot of people.

(Obviously, the account above is new, it’s my kittens but you are looking for someone that doesn’t follow 5000 people.)

Your “ideal” follower (if looking for everyday people) would be someone that follows under 1000 accounts, is active multiple times a day, every day, and stays on Instagram for multiple minutes at a time. 

The higher the usage and frequency of when your audience is using Instagram, the better your chances are of being seen and getting engagement. 

Remember that Instagram isn’t supposed to be a game and you aren’t competing with anyone but the algorithm (if you look at it like that.)

More Quick Tips:

A few other quick tips that will help you right away is posting consistently! You may be asking how much am I supposed to be posting, and that is an excellent question. One that we will talk about more in-depth later. 

Posting consistently on Instagram will allow you to stay in the follower’s head while also gaining new followers each and every day. 

I know you’re probably saying to yourself, “yeah I gain followers but I lose just as many if not more” I get it. I do. But you will never ever be able to stop the follow unfollow method. The best thing you can do is block the accounts that look like spam (which I will get into later) as soon as they follow you. 

For me personally, I also block guys because they aren’t my target audience. (No offense to men, of course, they just aren’t who I am looking to attract.) 

The last tip that I can give you right now to help you with the algorithm ASAP is to post content that your followers like. For example, you may absolutely love selfies but your followers may not. Although the idea of Instagram is supposed to be about you and what you like, it is actually about your audience and what THEY want!

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