Understanding the Instagram algorithms is a crucial step to getting noticed and followers. Decoding the algorithms starts with knowing the algorithms themselves: Stories & Feed, Explore, and Reels. This post will examine the most important signals, how ranking works, top tips, and what to avoid.

What are the algorithms?

The algorithms (yes, algorithms plural) are used to classify, filter, score, and rank your account and posts. According to Instagram: “Each part of the app – Feed, Explore, Reels – uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it”. The algorithms aim to predict what the user might find interesting and want to see. They create a personalized experience for the user (even with Explore), ultimately keeping them on the app longer. Each algorithm uses thousands of signals (data points) with various weights to create a score for the post or Reel and sorts them by rank. 

Feed Algorithm

The Feed algorithm first scopes the content to only posts from people you follow. Then collects signals based on:

  • The post: captions, hashtags, content type, engagement, and recency 
  • The author: following each other, classifying the account and posts
  • The viewer: interests, content type preference, 
  • The activity between author and viewer: liking/comments, viewing older content. 

These signals are used to predict the likelihood that the user will:

  • Like it
  • Comment on it 
  • Save it
  • Tap on the profile
  • Spend time on the post

These signals (and thousands of others) and the above predictions create a score, and the posts are ranked based on the score.

Explore Algorithm

This algorithm attempts to find posts users might be interested in from accounts they don’t follow. The potential pool of accounts is based on users that have liked the same posts you liked and collecting posts they liked from accounts you don’t follow. A bit wordy, but the Venn diagram below explains it better. 

Instagram Algorithms
This is replicated over many users to build the Explore tab

The signals are almost the same from the Feed algorithm, except engagement signals (likes, comments, saves, etc.) about the post weighed much more. Again, the goal is to give a score for the likelihood you will interact with the post based on signals and predictions. 

Reels Algorithm

The videos in the Reels tab come from accounts you don’t follow and have similar signals to the Explore algorithm. The main difference is what it predicts. The algorithm predicts whether you will watch the video, click to listen to the audio, and watch the entire video. Instagram wants Reels to be entertaining, so make sure your Reels are short and fun. You want people to listen and watch the whole video. 

Top Tips for Beating the Algorithms

  • Reels, Reels, Reels
  • Posts during peak engagement hours
  • Encourage engagement 
  • Post consistently
  • Optimize your bio with keywords 
  • Use relevant hashtags 
  • Follow @mosseri for the latest updates

What to Avoid

  • Watermarks  
  • Low-resolution or quality 
  • Potentially upsetting or sensitive content
  • Vaping or smoking
  • Political in nature

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