Instagram is a dominant social platform with one billion active users around the world. It is the most widely used photo-based social network. If you want to increase exposure for your Instagram posts, you must understand how the algorithm works because it decides what content to place on top of feeds. To determine which content appears on top of the feed, the algorithm considers interest, recency, and relationship.
The Instagram algorithm orders its feed according to the predicted interest in a post. Simply put, Instagram is betting that your post will be the most interesting to your followers. The algorithm makes this estimation using a number of factors. First, the algorithm looks at whether or not followers have interacted with similar posts in the past either by liking, commenting, or scrutinizing a photo. Previous engagement indicates the types of posts your followers are likely interested in.
Second, the algorithm looks at whether your followers are following similar accounts. If your followers follow a large percentage of travel accounts, posts by those accounts will appear higher in their feeds. Third, the algorithm looks at your relationship with your followers. For example, if the algorithm sees that your followers regularly search for your account, the algorithm will take that as a sign of interest in your account.
Of course, followers do not want to see the same post over and over again. They also want to see recently published posts. For that reason, the algorithm also considers recency when deciding which post to feature on top of feeds. For example, a 2 p.m. post from Buzzfeed will appear before a 4 p.m. post from The New York Times.
No matter how many accounts users follow, they still want to see the latest post from accounts they care for the most, accounts that keep them coming back daily to the platform.
The algorithm predicts relationships in several ways. First, it considers the number and frequency of direct messages followers send to you. If followers message you often, your post will appear higher in their feeds. Second, it considers engagement on posts. If followers constantly like or comment on your posts, those posts will rise to the top. Third, it considers searches. If followers frequently search for your account, then the algorithm concludes that you and those followers have a close relationship.
Combine interest, recency, and relationship—those factors determine what content appears on top of users’ feeds.
Written by Julian DiMico, an expert in marketing, finance, and technology.