Last Updated on June 24, 2022
The Instagram algorithm is a complex concept. Essentially, it determines how content posted on the platform should be displayed to other users. Mastering the Instagram algorithm means learning how to optimize each post with the right hashtags, good Instagram captions, and excellent content.
Unfortunately, it can be notoriously difficult to get your head around all the rules. Like the Google or Facebook algorithm, Instagram’s method of content management is constantly changing. The efforts that worked for you during 2021 may not be as effective in 2022.
Fortunately, if algorithmic guidelines are making you sweat, you’re in the right place. We’re going to look at everything you need to know about Instagram’s algorithm in 2022, and how you can use it to improve your content’s reach.
How The Instagram Algorithm Works
The Instagram algorithm is a proprietary mixture of factors which the platform considers when deciding which content should appear at the top of a user’s news feed. Notably, while the algorithm impacts the default feed for users, Instagram introduced the ability to arrange feeds chronologically in 2022. There’s also an option for creating “curated” lists of recent posts from your favorite accounts.
If your users have rearranged their feed using one of these two options, the Instagram algorithm won’t have an impact on what they see. However, even with these changes, the vast majority of Instagram users will still be viewing the default feed.
The Instagram algorithm works to boost the quality of the content users see when they visit the platform. According to CEO Adam Mosseri, the aim is to give you a more personalized and engaging browsing experience. Whenever you open Instagram, the algorithms instantly determine:
- Which posts are placed at the top of the newsfeed, and in which order
- Which posts are featured in the Instagram Explore section
- Which Live Videos, Stories, and Reels show up first in the live feed and respective tabs
How The Algorithm Works For Feed Posts
The Instagram Feed is the primary space where people explore and search for new content on Instagram. The algorithm sorts through the content of the accounts you already follow, and predicts your likelihood of interacting with a post based on:
- Post details: This includes how many likes the post got, whether it’s been tagged with a location, how long it is (if it’s a video), and when the content was posted.
- Information about the person: Instagram tracks how many times you interact with a person through comments, profile views, and likes, to see how interesting that person is to you.
- Activity: The type of posts you generally interact with throughout Instagram gives the algorithm a clue into what you might enjoy viewing.
As Facebook and Instagram focus more heavily on “quality” content, it also places posts marked as “false” by third party authenticators much lower on the feed.
The Explore Page And The Instagram Algorithm
The “Explore” tab shows content from people you don’t yet follow on Instagram, making it an ideal environment for businesses hoping to find new customers. The contents of this page are organized according to similar factors to the standard feed page, however, certain factors, like your previous relationship with a content creator, won’t apply.
Instead, Instagram will focus primarily on the kinds of posts you’ve interacted with in the past. The algorithm considers:
- Post details: This includes the overall popularity of a post, focusing on signals like how many people like, comment and share the content, and how often these activities occur.
- Your activity: What kind of posts you’ve liked, saved, or commented on in the past. The algorithm can also look at how you’ve behaved when browsing the Explore page before.
- Poster information: If an account has a lot of interaction with other users in recent weeks, this signals Instagram that it has plenty of engaging content.
The algorithm will pay particularly close attention to locations, hashtags, keywords, and other distinct elements common among the posts you usually interact with. For influencers and businesses on Instagram, this means succeeding on the Explore page means knowing what your competitors are posting, and what kind of content your users enjoy.
How The Algorithm Works For Instagram Stories
Stories are easily one of the most popular features of Instagram, with 70% of all users watching Stories on a daily basis. As of 2022, there haven’t been any particularly significant changes to the Instagram algorithm from a Stories perspective.
Rather, Stories follow a similar algorithm to the standard news feed. This means the accounts you interact with most will be placed at the top of your news feed. However, due to the short-lived nature of Stories, you could also find timeliness to be more important when ranking for stories.
Posting Instagram Stories more frequently and knowing when to post them (when your audience is online), can improve your chances of success.
Instagram Reels And The Instagram Algorithm
Reels are one of the more recent additions to Instagram, but they’ve gained a lot of popularity in a short space of time. Reels are designed for fast-speed entertainment, similar to Stories, so you’re likely to see a focus on timeliness when Instagram organizes these posts.
Similar to Home feed posts, Instagram also prioritizes Reels according to what it believes a viewer will be most likely to interact with. This means examining things like:
- View completion rate
- Engagement (Likes comments and shares)
- Taps on a user’s profile
Instagram suggests that brands and creators should focus on creating Reels that use creative effects like filters and text, and that can inspire their audience. You can also expect your Reels to be ranked according to some of the more basic rules of the Instagram algorithm.
For instance, the algorithm will consider the popularity of the poster, the data of the post, including what music it uses, and the history of the person interacting with the Reel.
5 Tips To Combat The Instagram Algorithm In 2022
Once you understand how the Instagram algorithm works, you can begin to optimize your posting strategy with a focus on the factors that matter most.
1. Post At The Optimal Time
Timeliness is an important factor in the Instagram algorithm. The platform will automatically prioritize more recent posts. This means if you want more reach and followers, you need to post when your fans are likely to be online.
There are a few ways to boost your chances of posting at the perfect time. You can consider looking at market research from major brands. For instance, Sprout Social suggest the best time to post on Instagram is between 11am and 2pm on a Tuesday.
However, since every Instagram audience is different, there’s no guarantee your customers will follow the trends. The best way to get a more accurate posting time is to use your Instagram Insights to see when the best time to post on Instagram is for your audience. If you have an Instagram business account, you’ll be able to see when your followers are most active, and schedule posts accordingly.
Consider using a scheduling tool to ensure you’re always publishing your content at the most beneficial times, even if you’re not able to get online.
2. Post More Reels
New features on Instagram tend to get more attention than older ones. Reels are one of the most exciting additions to the platform right now. They mimic the formatting of TikTok posts, with fast-paced and engaging video content.
Reels are shared frequently by users, which also means you get a higher chance of finding a broader audience. Posting more Reels gives you an opportunity to connect with your audience on a new level. You can post Reels to your main feed to increase discoverability, and you’ll get your own place on the Reels tab too, which boosts your engagement chances even further.
The best way to make the most of Reels is to find ways of entertaining, educating, and inspiring your audience. For instance, @SecondShotCoffee shows customers how easy it is to get fresh coffee at home.
You can also use Reels similarly to Instagram Stories, to promote giveaways and competitions, or collect information about your target audience. For instance @MeUndies and @LivBolish used this Reel to ask users about their favorite products.
3. Take Advantage Of All Instagram Story Features
Instagram Stories are some of the most powerful tools on Instagram. They’re great for creating deeper, emotional connections with your target audience, and they’re much easier to create than long-form videos and IGTV posts.
Around 500 million Instagram accounts use Stories every day, and Stories get their own tab in Instagram, which means you have another bonus method of being discovered. Your followers receive a notification when you publish a story too, which can boost engagement.
Take advantage of all Instagram Stories features available to boost engagement, such as:
- Stickers: Cartoons, gifs, and text you can add to your Stories to make them more interesting and interactive. You can even add Shop stickers to take your customers straight to your store or use caption stickers to make your content more accessible.
- Links: The link sticker on Instagram recently replaced the swipe-up feature, allowing everyone to add links to their Stories for other accounts to click on. You can also add a clickable phone number link if you own a business account.
- Polls and sliders: Polls and sliders allow you to collect information about your target audience and their preferences. They’re a great way to learn about your followers
You can also save portions of your Instagram Stories to the “Highlights” section on your Instagram profile. This helps to make your profile more engaging and improves the amount of time people spend browsing your content.
4. Use Hashtags For More Visibility
Hashtags are one of the many tools Instagram uses to collect contextual information about a post. Sharing hashtags in your captions shows your followers what your content is all about, while helping you to reach specific people in search of certain kinds of content.
The best hashtag strategies involve a range of different types of tags for each post. You can add up to 30 hashtags per post – though most experts recommend using around 9-15. Some of the hashtags you should use include:
- Location tags: Geolocation tags or location hashtags connect your post to a specific place. Location is something the Instagram algorithm considers when determining how relevant a piece of content is to a user.
- Trending tags: Trending tags are the words and phrases which generally gain the most attention on Instagram, like #TBT or #InstaLove. While these tags have a lot of competition, they can be very appealing to the right audience.
- Niche tags: Niche hashtags focus specifically on smaller groups of people. For instance, you’ll reach a more specific range of customers if you use the tag #PugOwners rather than just #Dogs.
- Branded hashtags: These are the hashtags you create yourself to generate engagement for your brand. You can use branded hashtags to convince your customers to get involved with your company by creating specific pieces of content. For instance, you can ask customers to use your branded tag whenever they share a picture or video of them using your product.
Use Your Instagram Insights to collect information about the tags that generate the most engagement and attention from your target audience.
5. Interact With Your Followers & Other Accounts
Finally, if you really want to master the Instagram Algorithm, you’ll need to make sure you’re embracing the “social” side of social media. As mentioned above, relationships are one of the primary points Instagram will consider when deciding how to rank pieces of content.
The more you connect with your followers and other influencers by commenting on their posts, liking pictures, and more, the more likely you are to rank.
Commenting on the posts of people who follow similar brands to yours is an excellent way to draw attention back to your profile and the content you share. You can also use this strategy to form partnerships with influencers and other complementary brands in your space.
A commitment to regular engagement with your audience will also help you to build deeper relationships on Instagram. Responding to user comments and posts shows you care about your followers and value their input.
Mastering The Instagram Algorithm In 2022
The Instagram algorithm can seem like an incredibly complex thing, particularly as it continues to change year after year, with a focus on delivering more relevant and interesting content to users. However, the concept is a lot simpler than it seems.
More than anything else, the Instagram algorithm wants to make sure it’s sharing the best content possible with people online. This means if you want to rank higher, all you need to do is create the best possible content (including Reels and Stories), share it at the right time (with the best hashtags), and engage regularly with your target audience.
Posted by: Igor
Igor is a SEO specialist, designer, and freelance writer. He believes that knowledge can change the world and be used to inspire and empower young people to build the life of their dreams.
When he is not writing in his favorite coffee shop, Igor spends most of his time reading, traveling, producing house music, and capturing light with his camera. He is a sucker for good coffee, Indian food, and video games.