How The Instagram Algorithm Works in 2019

Understanding how the Instagram Algorithm works, and what factors apply, can help you get more reach on each of your individual posts.

There are many reasons to want to better understand the Instagram Algorithm, primarily so your content will be seen by more of your followers, but also for discoverability and growth purposes. After testing tons of different posting techniques and strategies, across 22 different clients, and 100s of different posts, here’s what we know affects your post within the algorithm, and how to create content that is optimized for the Instagram algorithm.

Before we break down what does affect the algorithm, it is equally important to understand what does not, and what generally accepted ideas about the algorithm are just myths.

  • How often your account posts to Stories or uses Instagram Live does not affect how your post shows up in the algorithm.
  • Your account does not get downranked in the algorithm for posting more frequently.
  • A business account has just as much favorability in the algorithm as a personal account, so reach should be consistent, no matter what type the account is.
  • Across the platform, there is no favorability of photo over video or vice versa, but individual accounts might see more of one than the other depending on their preferences.
  • Your post will never be hidden. If your followers keep scrolling, eventually they will see your post. This blog article is to help make sure that your posts show up at the top of your followers feed when they check the app.

Now that we know what does not affect your post’s reach, let’s look at what does effect it.

How A User’s Feed Is Curated

The algorithm is designed to personalize the feed for each user differently, and give them the content they want to see, first. That is based on three main factors: interest, recency, and relationship.

  1. Interest is using past behaviors to predict what type of content you are most likely to engage with. If a user spends a lot of time looking at and interacting with dog posts, the algorithm is going to prioritize more dog posts to the top of their feed and in the discover tab.
  2. Recency is when the post was posted. Instagram favors recent content over older content. So, even with the algorithmic feed, posting time is still important. Look into your Instagram Analytics to better understand when your followers are most active and post accordingly.
  3. Relationship is how engaged a user is with an account. Have they engaged with your content in the past? Have you engaged with their content in the past? It’s important to be active in your feed, commenting and liking pictures that are appropriate to your brand, and posts that tag or mention your brand.

Secondary factors to personalize a user’s feed are how frequently that user opens the Instagram app, how many people they follow, and how long they spend on the app on a daily basis. Each time a user opens the app, the algorithm is designed to show the users new content, and as they spend more and more time in the app they will continue to find content that they haven’t seen before.

Now that we have a clear framework of how a user’s feed is curated. Let’s take a look at the factors for your posts, and what you can do to optimize your content to increase reach and engagement.

Factors To Increase Your Brands Engagement

Before you post there are some factors that have already been decided in Instagram’s algorithm. So once you understand those, it’s important to begin to optimize them consistently and see your reach change over time. This is called your existing quality score. Your existing quality score is made up of a few different factors: are you posting good quality content consistently? Is your following actively engaging with your posts? And are you engaging with your followers? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are already one step ahead of the algorithm.

Once you post, Instagram begins to look for initial engagement triggers. These triggers are set by the first group of your followers to see the post. If your post is getting a lot of likes and comments, people are spending a lot of time with your post, and people are sharing it with their friends (either in the comments or DMs), Instagram will see it as an engaging piece and prioritize that for your other followers and move your post up within the algorithm.

Using things like longer captions, asking a question, and creating interactive content can be a good way to increase engagement time and increase your initial engagement triggers. You should keep in mind your existing quality score and initial engagement triggers for both your long-term Instagram growth strategy, as well as each individual post.

As you can see, there are so many different factors pulling the algorithm in different directions, and each feed is individually curated. It is important to take these principles and apply them to your Instagram strategy, with constant testing to see what works best for your brand.

About Lilo Social

Lilo Social is a creative social agency based out of Brooklyn, NY. Clients include Microsoft, Under Armour, Maroon 5, PEZ, Foot Locker, among others. To learn more about Lilo Social check us out here.