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The Infamous Instagram Algorithm

Why did you have to go and make things so complicated, Instagram?

Most Instagrammers noticed the infamous algorithm shift back in the summer of 2016 when suddenly feeds were no longer in chronological order. At first, no one was sure what was going on or how the app was choosing what to display. Fast forward a year and a half, and people are still confused and unhappy with this feature.

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Most users are still wondering how this change was beneficial, considering it cut their number of likes down substantially. Look no further—we’re here to tell you all about it. Once Instagram blew up, users were only seeing 30% of their feed because they followed so many people. In reaction to this, Instagram thought if they showed users the highest-quality content, it would keep people on the app longer, which in turn allowed them to charge advertisers more. This is because their users’ attention is what they sell to advertisers, and that’s why the algorithm puts what it thinks you want to see first on your feed.

So what’s changed?

Instagram is all about engagement. When you first make a post, it is only shown to a small amount of your followers. Instagram measures how fast and how many of those users engage with your post, or if they engage at all. It then compares that data to your previous posts that were at similar times and on similar days. Depending on those measurements, Insta decides how many of your other followers they are going to show your post to. Crazy, right?

Instagram is also now rewarding human interaction. Not only do they want to see people engaging with your content, they want you to engage with the people you follow. Since the social media marketing boom, Instagram had to implement some sort of strategy to make sure the core point of the app stayed true. In simple terms, they want you to use the app for its original purpose – human interaction.

Key Takeaway: provide your audience with value rather than just trying to get value from them.

Based on the algorithm, who sees your posts first?

  • People who search for you
  • People who interact with your content
  • People who you appear to have a relationship with

Again, it all comes back to engagement.

So how should we react to the new algorithm?

Time to answer the question that really matters. What do we do about it? First things first, don’t underestimate Instagram. Every move counts when you are trying to grow a following. Here are some basic tips we’ve come up with:

  • Use analytics to see when the best times to post are. This will vary from person to person, so don’t just go by what you see online. Posting at peak time will help you get quick engagement, which will boost you onto the larger portion of your followers’ feeds. You can get analytics through a third-party app, like Preview, or by using Instagram’s business features.
  • Make use of all the tools Instagram offers. See a new feature? Use it! When the app updates, educate yourself on the changes and adapt. This will make the Insta Gods happy.
  • Be a human. Engage with the people you follow! Show Instagram you have something to offer your followers.
  • Test different kinds of content to see what your followers want to see. Once you find what gets engagement, use it to your advantage.
  • Post often and consistently to stay relevant. This includes on Instagram stories.
  • Don’t post just to post. Put thought into your content. Instagram favors quality content.
  • Encourage engagement with your captions. This will not only keep users on your post longer, but will increase the likelihood of a reaction.
  • Stay on top of hashtag trends and use them effectively. This will increase exposure to people who are likely interested in your content.

Why does this matter to us?

Social media can be and is an incredible tool. And if used correctly, it can produce revenue. It’s ultimately free marketing (unless you choose to do paid, of course). None of us are guaranteed a spot on our followers’ feeds anymore – sad, we know. Instagrammers of all shapes and sizes are having to put more and more thought into what they post. But luckily, if you choose to embrace the algorithm, you can use it to advantage. Those who put the time and effort into it will rise to the top and be back on their way to monetizing through Instagram.


Allie Tittle

A mega social media enthusiast, who loves her weenie dog and spends most of her time doodling. Born and raised in sweet home Birmingham, AL!

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