Understanding the Instagram Algorithm in 2021

The Instagram algorithm is an important tool that basically decides which posts people see when they open their feed. I’m here to talk about how the algorithm actually works and some key tips in getting seen more on the feed.

How the algorithm works

The algorithm is based on user trends, so Instagram is trying to show each person what they want to see. Instagram focuses on the relationship, interest, and timeliness when deciding who sees your posts. Instagram will bump up posts from accounts that you already react with. This is why interacting with your followers is so important. Instagram will also show people similar to posts they’ve interacted with before. If a user interacts with videos the most, the algorithm will show them more videos.

Posts that are more recent will likely be pushed higher up on the feed which is why it’s important to post when your followers are the most active. That’s not the only factor however, since Instagram hasn’t had a chronological feed since 2016.

  • Frequency of use: Instagram will show a user the best and most fitting for them since the last time the user opened the app. So users who don’t check the app often will only see your posts if it’s engagement is high.
  • Session time: Users that spend a longer amount of time on the app will see more posts, even the underperforming ones. Whereas, users that are only on the app for about five minutes, will only see the highest performing posts.
  • Following count: A user who followers thousands of accounts will not see every post from their following. But a user that only follows a couple hundred are more likely to stay caught up with everyone’s posts.

One thing that doesn’t effect the algorithm or how high your post shows on the feed is the type of account you have. Having a regular, business, or creator account won’t affect this at all as well as if your content is branded or organic.

Quick Tips

Post consistently. This one is an obvious one but the reason is to help build those relationships with your followers. Consistent posting isn’t the same for everyone though. You need to pick a schedule that you are able to maintain, whether that be every day, every other day, or three times a week. It is more important to stay on a schedule than post every day for a couple weeks and then stop completely for a month. This also goes for stories and IGTV. Posting a story (or multiple) every day will help build the relationships even more especially when it’s a day you are not posting to your feed.

Use hashtags the right way. Hashtags are a great way to attract new followers to your account and bring up engagement. However, you want to be sure to only use hashtags that are relevant to your post or account. If the hashtag isn’t relative then the person is likely to not follow your account.You also want to use a wide range of hashtags. Ones that are popular that are looked at often, and ones that are smaller that you would be likely to rank on.

Putting your hashtags in the caption or commenting them doesn’t make a difference on engagement. I personally prefer the comment just because it makes the post look cleaner. You also want to be sure to not use the same hashtags on every post. Instagram will mark the post as spam if it thinks you are copying and pasting the same hashtags, which will make that post not visible to any of the hashtags you used.

Use all of Instagram’s tools. It’s not a secret that Instagram favors users that use every tool. Try using IGTV, stories, and the questions/polls options to drive engagement up. Another odd one that I have personally seen help is editing your post in the app even if it’s just a little. It’s because Instagram sees you using it’s tools and wants to show others to promote it.

Insta pods. Insta pods are group chats that are made amongst similar creators that engage on each other’s posts. These are shown to help since it brings up your engagement but it is only a short term fix. If you decide to do this it is best to create the group chat outside of the Instagram app and when you paste the link to your post be sure to delete anything past the question mark. This is how Instagram can track where the link is being shared to and if they catch on to it being an Insta pod they will mark your post as spam and show it to less users.


this https://www.instagram.com/p/CAjTh9CH4LE/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

gets changed to this https://www.instagram.com/p/CAjTh9CH4LE/

If you do decide to make the group chat on the Instagram platform, be sure to not share your post in the group chat for the same reason, instead just message that you had made a post.

Build quality relationships. I touched upon this since the algorithm is based on engagement mostly. But in order to build a relationship on Instagram, you should engage with your followers. Treat comments as a conversation and respond back to them preferably in a timely manner. You should also respond to DMs for the same reason. Some other things to help build the relationship is to use the questions/polls feature on the stories to get users to engage with you. A little cheat that I discovered to help build relationships is to go through and like the most recent photo (or two) of the users that like your post. Doing this shows Instagram that you have a relationship and it’s not just one-way and will show you posts from each other more.

According to the head chef of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, the platform is concerned about the wellbeing of its visitors. He claims that they’re doing everything they can to give us the most relevant and fastest user experience with these algorithm changes. They understand that this platform needs to be mindful of its role in modern society and the mental health of its users. If it isn’t, it will become useless and forgotten, just like many social platforms that came before it.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

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