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The Principles Behind How The Instagram Algorithm Works & How To Optime

Btw, have you every asked yourself if your Instagram is actually even worth growing? If not, you should. It might help save you a whole bunch of time and energy. It’s not worth it for everyone…

Instagram is a company owned by Facebook and they exist to make money from advertising by capturing and selling your attention.

The more time you spend on Instagram, the more money they make.

They analyze your user behavior data to understand how to capture your attention for as long as possible.

Instagram keeps track of every single thing you do while using the app. That includes the time your eyes spend viewing a particular post, the number of times you view someone’s profile or even what the microphone records when you’re using the app.

The posts that keep us on Instagram for longer are posts with high engagement.

Interactions, in Instagram’s case, refers to likes, comments, shares, DMs, time spent viewing the post, saves, and a few other metrics none of us know Instagram is measuring. By dividing these metrics by the number of total followers the poster has, we get a post’s engagement. The higher the engagement, the more likely we are to pay attention to the post. Btw, here’s an article about the best Instagram content scheduling and post automation tools. Using them will help your posting process a lot more efficient 👍🏽

The Instagram Algorithm was built in to show you high-engagement posts first.

Making sure users see high-engagement posts as soon as they open the app is of utmost importance to Instagram because those posts are the ones that keep us on the app for the longest (and they make more money the longer we are on the app). That’s what the algorithm does. It serves us the posts we are most likely to engage with, first.

For now, it decides where and how to show our posts in the following way:

  1. We post something.
Have you seen a post like this on Instagram? it’s actually not true that Instagram “limits” your posts. What happens is that they show it at a point in your followers’ home feeds that they don’t scroll all the way down to. Btw, this shirt is awesome and you can buy it here.

But that will change whenever Instagram develops new technology to better measure what posts are the most likely to be engaged with.

So to be algorithm-resistant, we need to create super engaging content that is highly differentiated, within in a category that isn’t saturated.

Create super engaging content.

  • Measuring our engagement data to understand what captures our audience’s attention the most: Before you measure your engagement, you need to be creating new content frequently (or you won’t have anything to measure). Once you are, we can measure which posts your audience engages with most to get an objective understanding of what gets our audience’s attention. To find this information, use your Posts engagement data in your Instagram Insights page.
To measure your engagement data, go to your Instagram Insights page, tap into the Posts section, tap in the filter section at the top within that page, and filter All posts by Engagement within the last 6 months and Apply.
  • Making our high-engagement content event better: Once our engagement data has shown us which types of posts our audience wants, work hard to make those type of posts even better and more nuanced.
At the top of this feed, you’ll see the posts which get the highest engagement from your audience. These are the posts your audience has had the strongest emotional connection within the last 6 months. Those are your high engagement posts and they are the ones you need to continue to post and improve upon. In the case of one of my accounts, @macramemakers, the engagement data made it very clear to me that my audience likes to see complex macrame pieces with the person who makes it in the photo.
  • Continually testing new content: Our follower’s tastes change over time, so to be able to identify how it changes and to keep them engaged we have to continually post new types of content that we think they might enjoy, and again, use our engagement data to measure if it actually did.

Be highly differentiated within a content category that isn’t saturated.

  • Posting at the right times: Since how highly our posts rank on our follower’s Home Feeds depends on how it compares to the posts from the other accounts they follow at the time that we post, we need to understand at what time our followers like to engage with our posts. To do that, use your Instagram Insights data or more powerful tools like Squarelovin.
To find what times are best to post for your audience, go to your Instagram Insights, then the Audience tab and scroll to the bottom, where below Gender, you’ll find Followers. Here you can toggle between Hours and Days to see when they are the most engaged with. You want to post at the times in which they are most engaged. In my account @pinlord’s case, my audience engages most on Mondays and Fridays, at 12–3pm. Those are the times my posts are most likely to be highly ranked on their Home Feeds.
  • Focusing on creating content in categories that aren’t saturated: Since the algorithm decides how highly to rank someone depending on their likelihood of engaging the user in comparison to everyone else they follow, if there are a lot of people that create content similar to ours, the lower our chance is to always be ranked highly (simply because it is less likely that we will create the most engaging content when there are a lot of people creating content similar to ours). That’s why you want to create content in categories that aren’t saturated with other content creators. A simple way to gauge how many people are creating content similar to yours is by seeing how many posts there are in the most popular hashtag about whatever topic you create content about. The more posts there are within that hashtag, the more saturated it is likely to be.
For example, I want to start a new Instagram account that is likely to do well with the algorithm, but I’m not sure what topic I want to focus on yet. Three topics that interest me are yoga, macrame and cacao ceremonies (weird tastes, I know…). I search for the main hashtag in each of these categories and these are the number of posts that show up in each hashtag: #Yoga has over 51,000,000 posts, #macrame over 1,300,000 posts and #cacaoceremony only slightly more than 14,000. If I want to be in the least saturated topic, which of these categories should I choose? By far, I’ll have a higher likelihood of being the most engaging account within the Cacao Ceremony category in comparison to the other ones (because I’ll be competing with less content).
  • Be as differentiated as possible within our content category: On the flip side, if we are the most engaging content creator within our category, we’ll always be ranked highly. The catch is, it’s very very very difficult to be the most engaging content creator within a category. BUT, the more differentiated we are, the higher our chances are. What differentiated means truly depends on what type of content category we’re talking about, so the more creative you are, the better. What’s essential to keep in mind is that people have options when it comes to choosing who they follow if they’re interested in a particular topic, and Follows (and attention) are a scarce resource. Why would they realistically follow you over everyone else who is creating similar content to you? If we don’t have a crystal clear answer to this, it’s likely that we aren’t very differentiated.
Only until you’re growing organically by being differentiated enough should you do Instagram growth hacking tactics like exponential engagement. Best to always do it by hand, but if you’re interested in learning more about how to do it through Instagram bot automation, here’s a guide on how to automate an Instagram bot safely.

The algorithm will always change, but Instagram won’t.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article! If you enjoyed it, you can support me by signing up to my Instagram Small Business class, sharing this article and giving it a bunch of claps. You can also follow me on Instagram to get updates whenever I publish a new piece ❤



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Eduardo Morales

@pinlord 📌 @potteryforall 🌱 & @macramemakers 🍶on Instagram. Demystifying how Instagram works👌🏽 Follow for updates: https://instagram.com/theeduardomorales