Instagram Algorithm in 2021: How It Works & How to Rank Higher
Did you know that over 1.16 billion people around the world use Instagram!
That’s a lot of target audience that your brand can reach!
But how can you make data-driven decisions to increase your engagement rate, reach, and traffic?
By figuring out how Instagram Algorithm works – and making out the most of it!
So here’s the tea: Instagram wants to make sure the posts users see are the best ones perfectly suited for them.
Before Instagram ditched the Chronological feed in 2016, users were missing out on 70% of the posts, and 50% of the posts from their family members.
Despite the constant criticism and wailing you might see on the internet about how unfair the algorithm is treating organic posts- well, we just need to make out the most of it.
So, let’s discuss six main factors that play an important role in helping you understand how Instagram ranks its posts.
- 1 Six Factors of Instagram Algorithm
- 2 Tips to Improve Your Ranking & Beat the Instagram Algorithm
Six Factors of Instagram Algorithm
Do users care about the post?
When Instagram announced the algorithm change, they wanted to share posts that they’d thought you’d like:
“To show the moments we believe you will care about the most. The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
This factor is determined by the user’s past behaviour to predict if your post will be successful.
What shows up first in your feed is determined by what posts and accounts you engage with the most, as well as other contributing factors such as the timeliness of posts, how often you use Instagram, how many people you follow, etc.
— Instagram (@instagram) January 22, 2019
It’s a combination of all the posts users have engaged with in the past. That’s how it’s able to highlight mouth-watering dessert recipes to foodies, or picturesque travel blogging posts to people that love to travel.
Fret not, Instagram is not a popularity contest, so even if you get fewer likes but the user is interested in your posts, it won’t be overwhelmed by the high likes of a not-so-relevant influencer.
We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get. You can still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who’ve liked it, but your friends will not be able to see how many likes your post has received.
— Instagram (@instagram) July 17, 2019
According to Instagram, comments, likes, reshares and views are all essential to high ranking.
That’s why it’s so important to show up to your feed consistently. To maintain a close relationship with your audience, to make them engage with your posts (likes, comments, reshares, saves interacting with stories – the more engaged your audience, the better!)
Of course, there’s no shortcut to this. It just requires you to maintain consistency in your posts, captions, and strategy. You can schedule your posts with the help of a social media scheduler like ContentStudio to plan ahead.
What’s the user’s relationship with the account?
Instagram wants to make sure that the posts you see are from the ones you care about. That’s why it prioritizes posts from your friends, family, and the people you care about.
It evaluates who is closest to you based on:
- If you follow each other
- Regular interaction
- People you direct message
- Whom you search for
- Whose posts you frequently like, comment, share, like.
But of course, if you’re a brand account, this differs for you:
You aren’t best friends with your hundreds or thousands of followers.
(And they aren’t ready to be commenting on how amazing you look in the latest selfie you posted either.)
That’s why you need to post relevant content that stands out to them, build meaningful relationships in your industry, and make it a habit to frequently engage with them. (and vice versa)
Instagram Algorithm also takes into consideration when your blog was posted.
It wants to show you the most relevant content, which means the content posted most recently.
You can hack this by finding out the best time to post on social media.
This is a combination of industry benchmarks, your audience demographics, and data analytics from your past publishing behaviour.
Pro tip: ContentStudio Analytics evaluates the best time to post to every social media based on your social media account’s insights.
If it turns out that your audience’s optimal time to post is at 3 am, then we recommend using ContentStudio’s social media scheduling tool.
Other Ranking Factors:
There are other three factors that impact your ranking on the Instagram Feed but they’re more contingent on your audience’s user behaviour, rather than your actions.
If you have active followers who frequently check their Instagram multiple times a day, it’s very likely they’ll see your posts on their feed. Their feed will almost look chronological since Instagram shows them the best posts since their last visit.
On the other hand, if they check their social media less often, your post might be swallowed in the massive competition of what the algorithm thinks you’d like best. And they may not even scroll down enough to reach your post…
Your ranking on the feed also depends on how many people the user is following.
There’s a big difference between 100 and 1000. If they’re following a lot of people, it’ll hurt your chances of appearing on their feed.
Similarly, users who follow fewer accounts are more likely to see relevant content from their friends, family, and the brands they care about.
This refers to the usage patterns of an Instagram user. Do they have long sessions or short bursts?
If users spend more time on the app, they’re going to see all kinds of different content.
If they don’t use Instagram all too much, there’s going to be a high competition to rank up in the first few slots.
Tips to Improve Your Ranking & Beat the Instagram Algorithm
Build Meaningful Relationships
The best hack of the algorithm – and it’s as real as it gets: win over people’s hearts.
Make them fall in love with your content. They’ll keep coming back for more. High engagement, stronger relationships, valuable interactions.. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Note: If you’re wondering what’s a good engagement rate, it differs for each industry and the number of followers you have. It can be anywhere from 1 to 5%.
To show relevant content, or to build meaningful relationships, we need to understand what our audience wants… This takes us to our next point:
Research, evaluate, and understand your audience
It doesn’t make sense for you to create random content when you really do not know your audience. Unless you’re Google, then your target audience probably isn’t everyone.
Evaluate the following:
- user demographics
- behavioural analysis
- business challenges
- their needs
- what they search for.
This will help you define your brand personality, the publishing time, and the type of content.
ContentStudio‘s target audience is mainly business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketing agencies who are streamlining their digital marketing performance.
That’s why our Instagram page includes product updates and marketing tips & tricks for how users can boost their social media presence (usually including how the ContentStudio app will help their performance too!)
Remember to not make them too promotional though!
While you’re posting on social media, it is recommended that the goal of 80% of your posts should be to add value by educating, informing, and instructing.
As a brand, you need to connect with your users on a human level. This will not only build brand personality, deepen your relationship but also help you get to know your audience better!
Engage. Remember that Social Media is not a one-way conversation!
Engage with the users under your posts, respond to each DM. When people reach out to you on social media, make sure you’re listening, responding, and developing relationships. You can also share UGC that your brand gets tagged in on your story.
Trello shares user-generated content in an amazing (and aesthetic) way on their feed:
View this post on Instagram
All the benefits eventually lead up to purchasing decisions. And building long-term relationships (to generate sales over a period of time.)
Try out all Instagram’s functionalities
Instagram is always coming up with new features so make sure you put them all to good use.
Each feature is set for a different purpose like stories, polls, reels, IGTVs, etc – so play around with them all until you find yourself the perfect mix for your brand!
Hashtags and the keywords you use in your caption are more important than ever – so pay heed to this. Use first-comment hashtags to keep your caption as focused as need be.
Invest in Carousel Posts
View this post on Instagram
With the help of tools like Canva, or Crello, creating graphics has never been easier. So pick a topic that your audience will like, and create educational, informative slides for your audience!
Also: did you know that you can create graphics in Canva directly from ContentStudio?
Your marketing efforts can get lost in the shuffle if you don’t use analytics.
Strengthen your Instagram marketing skills by setting up, tracking, and measuring the right analytics.
Instagram Insights is truly invaluable in analyzing which type of content resonated most with your audience.
No matter how good you are, you can be better. Learning from your previous experiences is the most effective way to boost your performance.
I hope from this blog you learned about how the Instagram algorithm works!
Let me know what strategies you’re using to beat the Instagram algorithm, and keep going to the top!