Are you a member of the Instagram frustration club?

How does the Instagram algorithm work?

Instagram — logically, but unfortunately — does not go into the details, but does share 6 factors that influence your place in the feed. With all these factors, the following tips, so you can increase your reach on Instagram with less frustrations.

1. What did you find interesting before?
2. What is your relationship to a user?
3. How current is a post?
4. How often do you open Instagram?
5. How many people do you follow?
6. How long do you use the app?

  1. What did you find interesting before?
    Who you follow, of course, determines what content you see in your feed. But the place of all those posts and stories is mainly determined by what you have found interesting before.
    ‘Interesting’ should be seen in a broader sense than just likes. It’s about the entire behavior that you exhibit on Instagram. For example, which type of posts or stories do you watch the most or the longest? What are you looking for? Which hashtags do you follow? The platform uses artificial intelligence to determine the content of photos or videos and show you more related content.
    For example, do you like to look at photos of sun, sea and beach? You don’t have to be surprised if a lot of golden beaches are suddenly showing off in your ‘discovery’ tab. And if one of your friends posts a photo on the beach, that photo will undoubtedly be higher in your feed than a friend who mainly watches and likes football photos.

Instagram uses several metrics to determine whether the user finds something ‘interesting’. One positive outlier is not enough. With relevant and catchy content, make sure you consistently rank high on likes, shares, and comments to regularly appear high in the user’s feed. A good social media strategy is indispensable.

2. What is your relationship to a person?
A second factor is the relationship you have with an Instagram user. Although Instagram usually doesn’t know who your partner, best friends and family members are, the platform does try to make an estimate.
It does this by checking with whom you have an above-average amount of interaction on Instagram. The more often you interact with an account, the closer that person is to you and the more of their content you’ll want to watch.
Here too ‘interaction’ is a broad concept. That can be a message in a DM, for example, but also opening stories consistently or being tagged in someone’s photos are signals of proximity. So you are more likely to encounter posts and stories from people who are close to you in your feed.

Post consistently for a good spot in your followers’ feeds. To build a relationship with your followers, there must be enough content with which your followers can interact. If you also respond to comments, you give the algorithm a signal, as it were. You are close with your followers and build a bond.

3. How current is a post?
The topicality of posts and stories also counts, of course. The more recent a post, the greater its relevance. Instagram therefore more often shows messages that have been posted recently.
At the end of 2019, Instagram was regularly criticized for showing too old posts. For example, some users saw previews of football matches that had already been played in their feeds. The algorithm is expected to become even stricter in this regard; the more recent, the better.

4. How often do you open Instagram?
Factors 4 to 6 weigh less, according to Instagram, but they are still worth taking into account.
The order of a user feed is also affected by the frequency with which the user opens the app. Instagram tries to show the most relevant stories and posts since the last visit. If that visit was a relatively long time ago, you will mainly see highlights from the past period. A user who opens the app every hour will have a feed that is a bit more chronological in nature.

Estimate or research the type of followers you are dealing with. If they are die-hard Instagram users, feel free to post more often and not every post has to be a huge hit. If they open the app less often, it is better to limit your posts to the really top photos and videos.

5. How many people do you follow?
You don’t get much more logical than this factor. The fewer people you follow, the more messages and stories you will see from those individuals. And vice versa, of course. If your followers follow a lot of others, they are less likely to see your post.

Wondering what reach percentage (reach/number of followers) is ‘good enough’? See how many accounts your followers follow. The fewer people they follow, the more people you should be able to reach with your Instagram posts.

6. How long do you use the app?
How long you spend on Instagram determines whether you only see the crème de la crème, or also the posts that score less well according to the algorithm. The further you scroll down, the more often you come across those types of posts.

Facts and fables about Instagram’s algorithm

The working of the algorithm had been known for some time, but the wildest rumors still circulated about Instagram. High time to provide some clarity and debunk a few myths.

Photos and videos are treated equally
One of the persistent rumors is that the algorithm would prefer videos over photos. This turns out to be a myth. Only if your behavior shows that you prefer to watch videos as a user, you will mainly encounter videos in your feed.

Instagram now gives you the option to see the most recent posts.
Instagram is definitely going to offer an option for a reverse chronological timeline. This means that you see the most recent posts first, instead of the content that an algorithm recommends. The reverse chronological timeline would be better for the psychological well-being of young people in particular, but could also prevent polarization and information bubbles.

‘Fake’ interactions are recognized and do not work
There are so-called like pods, in which groups of people agree to like each other’s posts and provide a response. While that can have a positive impact on your reach and engagement in the beginning, the algorithm can recognize this behavior and nullify the effect.

You don’t have to use all the features for a good place in the feed
Some optimization gurus believe that you should use every feature Instagram offers (from IGTV to Stories and Livestreams) to be favored by Instagram’s algorithm. Your posts would therefore end up structurally higher in feeds than the posts of accounts that only post regular posts. Incorrect, Instagram says. So just use what you want to use for your content.

Business and personal accounts are treated equally
Ever since Instagram introduced Business accounts, rumors have been buzzing about the reasons behind that decision. Instagram would like to make the distinction so that it can show posts from brands and companies less often, in order to earn more money from advertisements. Instagram calls that nonsense. The Business accounts are purely for additional features and statistics.

Short comments are also included in interaction
The aforementioned like pods generally have strict rules, if you participate, you must like posts and provide a comment longer than 3 words. Shorter comments would be too easy, quick and insincere, and would be automatically penalized by the algorithm. This is also not true. If no other strange patterns are discovered, short comments are also just sincere interactions.

You won’t be penalized with a lower ranking if you post too often
Is there such a thing as posting too often? For the people who have to view your posts, yes, but at least the algorithm won’t penalize you for it. If you get little interaction on the individual posts due too high in frequency, it will of course be a different story.
Then you will be charged for that, and your posts will be shown less often in the future. But the frequency itself doesn’t matter. So in theory you can post every hour, and if they all get enough interaction, you won’t be penalized with a lower ranking.

The Instagram algorithm is constantly changing
When we talk about algorithms, you might envision people pushing buttons behind complicated dashboards. This allows them to determine which posts end up higher in a feed. It’s time to get rid of that notion. The algorithm is based on artificial intelligence, it is highly self-learning and above all, continuously subject to change.
If A works best today, it could be B tomorrow. So it doesn’t make much sense to give super practical tips. It is better to just focus on the 6 principles on which the algorithm is based. They are less changeable and give you some insight into the underlying processes.

Like it or not, Instagram will remain a battle for attention for the time being. If you want to win that battle, you would do well to take the lessons above with you. In the long run, this will yield more than forced tricks to manipulate the algorithm.

Do you still belong to the frustration club?

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Veronique Beauprez

Veronique Beauprez

'your blind spots consult. Motivation for self leadership - https://ko-fi.com/s/6fa5f51904

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