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How the Instagram Algorithm Works (And How to Use It to Your Advantage)

13 min read

The Instagram algorithm is an ever-evolving platform that affects how visible your content is to your existing and potential followers. For a business owner selling on Instagram, understanding how the algorithm works is an essential part of being successful there.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what the Instagram algorithm is, why it matters, and what you can do to make sure your content gets noticed. We’ll also provide tips on how to use the algorithm to your advantage so that you can maximize your reach and engagement on the platform.

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What is the Instagram Algorithm?

The Instagram algorithm determines which posts appear in users’ Feeds. It is based on various factors such as user history, post popularity, timeliness, and more. The goal of the algorithm is to show each user-specific content that they are likely to find interesting or engaging, thus increasing user engagement overall.

Even if two people follow the same accounts or like similar content, their Feeds will still look slightly different from one another. It depends on who follows them back and how often they interact with certain types of posts.

Why Should You Care About the Instagram Algorithm?

It’s important for businesses and content creators alike to understand how the algorithm works to maximize post visibility and engagement rates. By optimizing your posts according to current trends and best practices, you can ensure that they reach as many of your followers as possible. High visibility leads to higher brand awareness and potentially increased revenue down the line.

Moreover, keeping up with changes in the algorithm gives you an edge over competitors who may not be aware of emerging trends or best practices. Staying up to date keeps you ahead of the curve when it comes to maximizing brand visibility on Instagram.

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?

The Instagram algorithm prevents users from drowning in an endless stream of content. Only posts with high engagement make it to followers’ feeds. To make sure each of your posts is seen, liked, and shared, you’ll want to follow the tips below.

Here are the factors that Instagram’s algorithm considers when prioritizing posts in a feed:

  • Interest: based on your past engagement with similar content, the Instagram algorithm predicts if you’re going to enjoy this post.
  • Relationship: how close you are to the person who shared the post, based on how often you interacted with their profile in the past.
  • Recency: how recently the post was shared.
  • Frequency: how often you open Instagram.
  • Following: if you follow a lot of profiles, the platform will show posts from a wider scope of accounts.
  • Usage: the app takes into account if you stick to short sessions or spend more total time browsing.

As you can see, the Instagram algorithm considers your past behavior to create a unique feed for you. To ensure you’re enjoying your personalized feed, the app also prioritizes the content with the most engagement from other users as well.

Tips from the platform itself (Image: Instagram’s @creators)

The most important engagements for feed ranking are comments, likes, shares, saves, and views for video posts. Fake interactions (such as comments from bots) are identified and don’t count.

​​How to Work With the Instagram Algorithm

Now that we’ve gone over some basics on what influences a post’s position in someone’s timeline, let’s talk about some actionable steps you can take to get your posts a larger reach and gain leverage against competitors.

First, switch to a business profile. With a business profile, you can access your profile analytics, which is called Instagram Insights. The insight tool will help you understand who is engaging with your business and which content gets the most interactions from your followers. Pay attention to which reels, stories, posts, and IGTV perform well. Then you can create more content that works.

Once you have a business profile, keep in mind the following points when working with Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm.

Get More Interactions for Your Content

You’ve learned that interactions (likes, shares, comments, and views) are vital for proving to the Instagram algorithm that your content is compelling and worth showing to bigger audiences. So how do you create content that people want to engage with?

Here’s how to encourage audience engagement on Instagram:

  • Check Instagram Insights to find out when your followers are most active. You can then use this data to maintain your posting schedule. Post frequently and consistently.
  • Use Stories Stickers like polls, emoji sliders, and question stickers.
  • Write captions that promote conversations. Include a call to action at the end. For example, ask your audience to share their thoughts and ideas. Make sure to reply to your follower’s comments.
  • Share a preview of your reels or IGTV videos to your feed and stories to get more views.
  • Use hashtags to reach audiences relevant to your brand and categorize your posts.
  • Encourage your followers to react to your stories with quick emojis.
  • Invite your followers to DM you with questions or feedback.
  • Use geotags to make your content easier to discover.
  • Post stories several times a day to appear at the top of your follower’s stories feed.
  • Post reels regularly to reach more people outside your following.
  • When sharing a life hack or tip, remind users that they can save it to try later.

Image: Instagram’s @creators

Embrace Video Content

In the vertical video era, using video content on Instagram is key to getting your posts seen by more users. Videos are more eye-catching and attention-grabbing than photos. That can help you capture people’s attention.

Video content increases user engagement, which tells the platform that your post is interesting and relevant. This boosts the visibility of your content in the algorithm, meaning more eyes will see the content you want them to see.

Reels are one of Instagram’s newest features and a great way to boost your reach. They allow you to create short videos that appear in the Explore tab and can be discovered beyond your following. This is great for increasing your visibility on the platform.

@ritual announces their sale with a fun reel

You can use reels for all sorts of content. Reels can be used to showcase your products or services, demonstrate how-to tutorials, and share entertaining content in an engaging way that will keep viewers coming back for more.

@thepetscoutshop makes fun videos about dogs and their owners

Making video stories is also beneficial for increasing your reach. They are great for giving users behind-the-scenes glimpses of your business. They also help you build relationships with potential customers and create an emotional connection with them.

@sugarfina shares customers’ videos in their stories and adds a link to their product

Make a habit of posting video stories and reels often and stick to it. Reels will help you reach a broader audience. Stories will engage new followers and help you build relationships with them.

If you don’t have a lot of videos, start by turning your pictures into videos using reel templates on Instagram. The slideshow format is especially helpful for showcasing your product.

Click “Use template” in a reel that you like, and you’ll be able to replace the clips or photos with your own and it will match the time stamps of the template reel.

Find the Use template button above the creator’s username

If you still want to publish photo posts, consider slideshow posts instead. One Instagram post can contain up to 10 pictures. When you publish slideshow posts, the Instagram algorithm shows them a couple of times if a follower hasn’t seen all the pictures in the post.

A slideshow post featuring products by @indybrandclothing

Also: Shopping in Reels: A New Way to Get Discovered and Sell Your Products

Align Your Content with Your Brand Message

Instagram is a great place to find your potential customers, but to do that, you need to show through your content who your company is, what its values are, and what kind of value it can give its target audience. This helps the Instagram algorithm recommend your content to the right audience.

To gain and retain followers, you need to form a connection that goes beyond people just being interested in your updates. After all, you’re competing for space alongside your followers’ closest friends!

So be a friend! Be a personality. You don’t have to post your products all day, every day. The aim is to create an emotional connection with your potential customers.

@myblissclub shares fun reels their target audience can relate to

There are many ways you can shape your message. Try to find answers to these questions to get started:

  • Why did you start your company?
  • How did you come up with your product ideas?
  • What is your message to the world?
  • What do your customers value in your brand and why?
  • What is the concept that underscores your entire web presence?
  • How does your product work in real life with different people?
  • What is the general mood of your brand?
  • What are the common areas your followers can be interested in?

Remember that your brand message must align with your audience’s interests and values. Nobody reads grownup books to children. There’s no sense in attracting a vegetarian audience by telling them about a hunter’s life.

@sakaralife shares a post that explains their brand values

The same goes for partnering with other brands and influencers. Collaborate with companies and creators whose followers have the same values as your brand. People are more likely to subscribe to your profile after they see a collaboration post if it is something that genuinely interests them.

@jot partners with influencers that capture their brand’s aesthetic

Learn more: Ecommerce Content 101: Easy Types of Content to Make for Your Business

More Tips for Brands on Instagram

Having an Instagram account for your business can be really fruitful. After you get used to the process, it will only take you a few moments to prepare content and post it.

Check out our engaging reels ideas for connecting with potential customers and promoting your business. Once you gain a solid following, it’s time to start generating sales with stories.

Mastered your Instagram profile already? Tag your pics with #ecwid_store so that we can feature you on our page!


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About the author

Anastasia Prokofieva is a content writer at Ecwid. She writes about online marketing and promotion to make entrepreneurs’ daily routine easier and more rewarding. She also has a soft spot for cats, chocolate, and making kombucha at home.

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