Instagram Spills the Tea on ‘The Algorithm’

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Instagram recently shared some interesting insights into how it decides what content its users see. Read on for an overview and learn how you can beat it at its own game.

Although Instagram has had an algorithm since 2016, the company is famously rather reticent to share much about how the visibility of posts on Instagram has been governed. Recently (May 2021) they shared some new and interesting insights into how they determine what content users see in the app. 

The first thing they said is that there is in fact, no one single ‘algorithm’. 

😈  Interesting
We also found out recently that LinkedIn has two sub algorithms: one for mobile and one for desktop.

What are the key signals that Instagram uses to decide what you see?

3 Sets of Signals:

  • Information about the post
  • Information about the poster
  • Type of content, following and engagement patterns


Instagram posts are ranked on popularity or how popular they are likely to be. Information about the post’s content and how many likes and comments it is getting informs the ranking. Recency is also considered.


The amount of previous engagement will also determine how often the content is shown. The more engagement, whether that’s double tapping, commenting or visiting profiles, the more likely that content will be shown.

3. Type of content, following and engagement patterns

Instagram shows more of the type of content you most interact with. Some people engage with videos, and are shown more videos. If certain hashtags and subjects matter, Instagram will rank them higher in your feed.. 

🧞‍♀️ This is why hashtags are key! They get your content in front of people who are interested in the subject or type. The more they engage initially, the more likely the content will be further shown to connections. Instagram, like Facebook, and Twitter is built around the Social Graph.

Instagram said: 

“In Feed, the five interactions we look at most closely are how likely you are to spend a few seconds on a post, comment on it, like it, save it, and tap on the profile photo. The more likely you are to take an action, and the more heavily we weigh that action, the higher up you’ll see the post. Once we’ve found a group of photos and videos you might be interested in, we then order them by how interested we think you are in each one, much like how we rank Feed and Stories. The best way to guess how interested you are in something is to predict how likely you are to do something with the post. The most important actions we predict in Explore include likes, saves, and shares.”

What's the Deal with Reels?

Reels are Instagram’s answer to TikTok videos. TikTok has nailed the concept of engaging short videos, and its system uses signals to show you a steady stream of content based on your engagement history that hooks you into an endless rabbit hole of scrolling. We wrote this blog post about our thoughts on Reels when they first came out. Spoiler alert: we’re not massive fans of Reels. TikTok is where it’s at!

Reels are relatively new, but they are improving and it looks like they’ll be here to stay so love them or hate them, if your audience is on Instagram you should be using them in your content mix. 

🧞‍♀️ For those that like to share TikTok videos on Instagram, it’s worth noting that Instagram also restricts the reach of Reels that have the TikTok watermark, so it’s worth knowing how to share videos between the two platforms

How Can We Use This?

1. Aim to get comments on your posts within the first hour

Instagram is noisy and you don’t have that much time before your little creation is drowned out by the sheer tidal wave of newer posts.

No brainer, but post when your audience is most active or online!  Insights will tell you when this is. Thurs – Sun are generally good days. When people comment on your post, be sure to reply ASAP. The algorithm doesn’t distinguish between other people’s comments and yours. 

Keeping a conversation going shows increased engagement, which is a key signal Instagram uses to increase the post’s ranking based on popularity. 


Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, and we strongly recommend that you use every single one of these wonderful little opportunities to organically increase reach and push your content further out. 

While you’re at it, take the time to do some hashtag research now, so you’re not wasting your time with overused hashtags that are invisible and a wasted opportunity. 

Taking the time to make a list of niche, thoughtful, and accurate hashtags relevant to your content will increase the likelihood of it being seen in the first place, and will help to attract an audience that is more likely to be interested in your content and engaged.


We’ve always said that while you don’t have to post every single day, you do need to be consistent, and you have got to be using Stories! Stories tend to be more authentic, sporadic and human, and are designed for driving  engagement. 

Instagram just revealed that the sweet spot for growing your following and having your content ranked highly is two grid posts per week, and two Instagram stories per day.

Want to know more about this fascinating subject?

join our webinar on 30 june at 1pm

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