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Outsmarting Instagram’s Algorithm

Do you ever feel like your business’ Instagram posts never reach the top of your followers’ feeds, leaving them to rot at the bottom? You can thank the Instagram algorithm for that. Although it’s been over two years since Instagram first implemented the highly controversial change from chronological to algorithmic feeds, businesses and users alike are still navigating these changes. Still lost on what an “algorithmic feed” even means? Instagram feeds now show users (what Instagram’s algorithm believes to be) high priority content at the top and low priority content at the bottom. Instagram implemented this change to increase the percentage of posts users see in their feed. According to Instagram, before this change users were missing upwards of 70% posts in their feed and now only miss 10%.

So, how does Instagram rank the posts you see scrolling through your feed? Here are the six criteria Instagram utilizes in ordering users’ feeds.

  1. Interest. Users’ feeds are ranked and ordered by how interested Instagram believes a user will be in specific posts, based on content. Interest is determined by understanding a user’s past reactions to various types of content and predicting their interest in a new post’s content.
  2. Newness. Recent posts are prioritized over older posts.
  3. Relationship. Posts from accounts that followers often engage with will be featured higher on a user’s feed.
  4. Frequency. Content posted since the last time a user has logged on will be prioritized.
  5. Following. If a user followers a large number of people, content from a wide range of accounts will be prioritized rather than a select few people.
  6. Time Spent. Instagram will take into consideration if users are spending short bursts or longer periods on the app to determine where to place the best posts.

Now for the important question, how can your business use the six ordering criteria to beat the algorithm? Here are three ways to keep your posts where they should be: at the top of your followers’ feeds.


CTA Posts

Increase follower engagement with a ‘call-to-action’ on a post. Encourage followers, through captions and content, to like, comment and tag friends on your business’ posts. This demonstrates interest and relationship to Instagram’s algorithm. An easy way to engage current followers while gaining new followers is to host an Instagram giveaway. Follow Harp Design Company’s lead and require users to like the post, follow all your business’ social accounts and tag a few friends to be entered.


Harp Design Company CTA Instagram Post


Develop a Consistent and Successful Posting Cadence

Post on a consistent (but not spammy) basis. Posting often leads Instagram to prioritize your posts, but posting too much may lose followers. Utilize Instagram insights to understand when your followers are most active and develop a regular posting cadence to ensure followers are consistently seeing your posts without over-saturating their feeds. Test and track what posting rhythms and times receive the best response from followers.


Engage Back With Your Followers

Interacting with your followers is an easy way to strengthen the relationship and interest between your page and your followers. Like and respond to comments on your page’s posts with unique responses to show your followers genuine care and appreciation for their engagement. Search through your relevant hashtags and like, comment and repost the best posts that feature your business. If your company needs reposting inspiration, action camera company GoPro effectively runs their account using only user-generated content.


Activate Your “Influencers”

Remember that criteria about Relationship? If your supporters and followers are posting content about and for you, separate from posting on your own accounts, this can significantly grow your reach by hitting the feeds of people they have a personal relationship with that you do not. It not only can beat the algorithm, it gives your company or cause the validity it needs to get new attention. Check out the Social Press Kit if you want an easy, streamlined way to get your content to your supporters and turn them into advocates.


As you can see there are ways to keep your posts from getting buried and lost in the mindless scroll. Successfully maximizing Instagram engagement, despite the algorithm, can be done through understanding the ordering criteria and a bit of trial and error.



About the Author: Emma Yee

Emma is an intern at LA-based creative agency Brand Knew. She is an economics major at Loyola Marymount University. In her free time you can find her perfecting her acai bowl recipe or looking for the best ramen restaurant in LA.

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