For active Instagram users, a question that lingers in the minds of many is, how in the world does Instagram decide which posts that I see first on my Feed? What about my Stories? Reels?
Most simply pass it off as a labyrinth that’s too complex, too complicated to explore or question the technicalities of it.
As a business owner, however, it becomes beneficial for you to know the ins and outs (or at least the very basics) of the famous “algorithm” so that you can market and produce posts for the most favorable results.
The algorithm itself is a beast and there are, as expected, many technical details that come into play, but we’ve simplified the basics of it so that you can understand how to better market your business and benefit from the algorithm itself.
What is “the algorithm”?
The infamous Instagram algorithm is referring to the process that the system performs to determine which posts on your Feed, Stories, Explore content, and Reels appear first.
The algorithm is not a single, omnipresent entity that’s watching your every move, but rather a combination of processes and classifiers that each serve an important role to make the most of the user’s time.
The format of the top social network for sharing photos was different at its time of inception back in 2010 than it currently stands today. At that time, a user’s Feed would show posts in reverse-chronological order, so that you would see the latest posts first.
However, in 2016, Instagram announced that feeds would no longer follow this reverse-chronology format, but that feeds would favor “the moments you care about.” And so the Instagram algorithm was born.
How does the algorithm choose which Feed, Stories, Reels, and Explore posts appear first?
The algorithm uses a variety of different factors to determine which moments that you care about, called “ranking signals”:
- Relationship: characterized by whether two users follow one another, interact with each other, or search for one another.
- Frequency: defined as how frequently the user opens the Instagram app and scrolls through their Feed.
- Session time: referring to the length of time that a user spends on their Instagram Feed.
- Timeliness: meaning that more recent posts will appear far higher on a user’s feed than posts that were made hours or days prior.
- Interest: determined by the assumed interest of the user and what they have liked and viewed in the past.
- Following: referring to how many accounts a user follows, which will affect the amount of content that a user sees.
With these key factors in mind, let’s explore different steps that your business can take to organically capitalize on the Instagram algorithm.
7 Ways For Your Business To Benefit From The Instagram Algorithm
1. Post frequently
Instagram has stated on multiple occasions that posting often is in every user’s best interest if they want to be seen by more people. Instagram also does not penalize users for frequent posts, however, the algorithm will break up posts from the same user to create a diverse feed.
The head of Instagram himself Adam Mosseri stated that users should include two feed posts a week and two Stories a day in their content strategy as a recommendation to get more followers.
As a business owner, it could be challenging to commit to posting regularly, but automated social media tools like Practina make it simple by creating posts relating to your industry and publishing to your social media accounts automatically.
2. Use the right hashtags
Hashtags are a beneficial way to get your posts organically seen by more people, and most importantly they are free. Using hashtags makes your business’s posts searchable to those who have an interest in or are seeking out products and services like your own.
Businesses should not choose their hashtags haphazardly, but detailed and accurate hashtags are recommended. This requires some research into what is trending in your industry and specialty, as well as common descriptors relating to the post itself.
You can always check to see what content appears on some of the hashtags that you are considering to make sure that they are not banned or overpopulated (which would affect the number of people that see the post).
Instagram also discourages copy-pasting the same long stream of hashtags onto every post, as the algorithm will penalize for this. You can, however, save specific hashtags for future use on different types of posts (as long as you’re not using the same exact list for every single post).
The important thing to remember about hashtags is that the quality of the people who see your posts is always more valuable than the quantity, as you want to make sure the right people find your page.
3. Post when your target audience is on the app
While this is not a guarantee of engagement, your posts can rank a little higher on the algorithm if you catch the time frame that your ideal customer is on the app.
In order to find the best time to post for your audience, it will require a little research seeing their behaviors, the behaviors of those within your business’s industry, and also the general behavior of Instagram users overall.
You may not remember to post at the exact moment that your target audience is assumed to be online (and you don’t want to miss this delicate timeframe). Many scheduling tools, however, have social media content calendars that you can use to schedule your posts in advance for the software to post at your audience’s ideal time.
Simplify your life: Practina uses analytics to determine your audience’s best time to post so that you don’t have to worry about it.
4. Use high-quality, captivating content
On a photo-sharing app, as you would assume, the best way to stay relevant and draw attention to your posts is to take incredible photos, videos, and overall high-quality content.
Although one can think that it’s difficult to post captivating images and videos when you own a dental practice or a law firm, it becomes that much more critical that these businesses use captivating content to draw an audience.
Business owners can think outside of the box by taking beautiful pictures of eye-catching scenes that give your followers no choice but to stop and like your post.
Your posts should also provide value to your target audience, and this can be done by sharing valuable information, tips and tricks, and frequently asked questions in order to educate your followers.
Inspiration when you need it most: If you’re at a loss for what to post, Practina produces custom-made content for your industry inclusive of fun facts, tips, and common questions to educate your following (and take one less stress out of your day).
5. Publish stories consistently
Instagram has stated explicitly that Stories do not have any impact on the algorithm.
Nonetheless, Stories still serve as a positive promotional tool for your business because many users will sift through their Stories on a daily basis.
A third of the most popular Stories come from brands, which makes it a meaningful tool for businesses to capitalize on.
Stories should not serve as a replacement for Feed posts, but businesses can benefit, as Adam Mosseri stated, from posting two Stories a day and two Feed posts a week.
6. Host giveaways and contests
Free stuff is the best way to get engagement, and boosting engagement is the best way to benefit from the algorithm.
For example, if you own a home improvement business, you can host a contest encouraging your followers to send you their most recent home improvement project, and the winner would get a free consultation on their next project.
You can create a hashtag for the contest specifically and set rules for users to follow, such as tagging three friends, sharing one of your business’s posts on their story, and the time frame to enter before you select the winner.
You can also share those who tag the hashtag to your story as well, as it furthers engagement, which is favored by the algorithm.
7. Review your analytics
You can use analytics to figure out which of your posts are performing well, which of your posts are struggling when your target audience is online, and which hashtags are the most effective.
You can also see which of your content is garnering the most engagement and where that engagement is coming from (hashtags, followers, etc.).
Smart tools like Practina streamline the analytics for all of your social media accounts, including Instagram, so that you can see what works best across the board.
Seeing which content is working most effectively will help you to make changes in your content strategy to benefit from the algorithm.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to social media marketing, but understanding more about how the Instagram algorithm works will be beneficial for your business to be seen by more people, and even more specifically, your target audience.
While this could seem like a lot, there are steps that you can take to automate portions of the process so that it’s less stressful on you.
Practina’s intuitive software for social media marketing creates high-quality posts for your industry, determines the best time to post for your audience, and organizes all of your social media analytics in one place so that you can get the most out of the algorithm.
Sign up for a free account today to see how Practina can help your business explode.