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How The Instagram Algorithm Works

Figuring out how Instagram’s algorithm works can be akin to finding buried treasure; never quite sure if you’re digging in the right place, searching for something shiny and exciting that you’re not sure actually exists. Luckily, I’ve got your map of the Instagram algorithm right here and X really does mark the spot!

Why do you need to know, you might be wondering. It’s useful to understand how the algorithm works both from the point of view of your viewers and to help streamline your own content.

In this blog, we will uncover:

So if you’re ready to…well, dig in and unbury this ocean treasure, then read on!

What The Instagram Algorithm Aims To Do

Understanding why the algorithm behaves the way it does is the first step to unearthing the truth about its wily ways, and the brains behind Instagram are becoming demystified. Adam Mosseri’s recent update on this very topic acts as a great window for us, as he starts by telling us that the algorithm is now more focused on trying to show you content you’ll actually be interested in - as opposed to whatever is newest or generally trending.

The algorithm (which is just a fancy word for ‘process’ really) does many calculations to figure out what you will most want to see on your feed, with the ultimate goal of making the most of your time and giving you a better user experience on the platform. Clearly, we can’t consume all of the available content all the time (let’s face it, we scroll way too much as it is!), so the 2022 Instagram algorithm assesses what’s out there and ranks it according to how valuable it is to you.

Instagram really does care about our experiences and productivity which is encouraging!

How The Algorithm Assesses Content On Your Feed

The algorithm opens four different treasure chests of information to figure out what you might like to see on your main feed. These are:

  1. Information about the post, i.e. its subject matter, how many likes it has, whether it is video content, images, quotes for example.

  2. Information about who posted it i.e. are they a friend, or someone who posts often?

  3. Information about you i.e. do you usually ‘like’ video content or spend time looking at posts of this nature?

  4. Information about your history with the person who posted i.e. do you habitually like, comment and interact with this person?

All this information is collated to show you things that might be interesting to you; for example, if one of my close friends who I regularly ‘DM’ on Instagram posts a cute video about sea turtles and I spend a lot of time looking at sea turtle content day-to-day. Chances are, it’ll show up in my feed! Chronology is a much less important factor than it once was, although it does still play a small role in the ‘ranking’ of content - so if my friend’s sea turtle post is brand new, it’s even more likely to make me smile that day.

Of course, Instagram can’t read your mind and so sometimes has the map upside down. It has to rely on ‘proxies’ which are predictions about what you might do with a post, based on your historical activity. The shell-rific thing about this though, is that YOU can influence your feed by knowing this! More on this a little later…

Fun fact - people connect with friends on Instagram more than businesses

All About Explore

No, I’m not talking about that coastal detour you took on your last holiday, but about the ‘Explore’ tab on Instagram. The 2022 Instagram Algorithm uses a similar set of variables to work out what you might want to see here as it does for your main feed; it defines a group of things you might like based on what you’ve liked before.

The Explore feed’s indicators are:

  1. Information about the post

  2. Your interaction history

  3. Your activity

  4. Information about who posted the content

Take a look at what my explore page currently shows me based on these indicators I have fed to the Instagram algorithm 👇

The difference here is that posts are recommended based on your own habits, experiences and engagement rather than who you’re following. As you can see from my explore tab, I love educational posts about Instagram, surfing, memes, reels and quotes. So the next time you head over to your explore tab, take a look and see if it really does represent what you like. If not, then by the end of this blog post you'll certainly be able to know how to influence it for the better!

Top tip: If you want to increase your visibility as a brand or business, try focusing on who your audience is at a ‘user’ level rather than viewing them as prospective client. Get to know them as a person and what they like to see, not always what they need to see to convert them into a sale!

How Do We Influence What We See?

As I mentioned earlier, you can influence your own experience on Instagram. This is great because if you’re someone who struggles with it as a negative space, you have the potential to turn it into a totally shell-rific place to sunbathe instead! It doesn’t take too much heavy thinking, but it will be a thought process that becomes embedded in your subconscious.

Think about it as manifesting your ideal feed: What does that look like? How do you want it to make you feel? Who doesn’t love that notion.

Here are a few ways you can influence your feed and get the 2022 Instagram algorithm feeling golden!

  1. Choose who you follow; let’s leave following someone just because they follow you in 2021

  2. Use the ‘close friends’ tool to signal to Instagram who you really like

  3. Mute people if you’re not enjoying their content; this removes the need to unfollow them, which can feel uncomfortable, but has the desired effect

  4. Mark something as not interested’ in the Explore tab; doesn’t get much more explicit than that!

Following these steps and making an effort to influence your feed will make your little Instagram island a haven, full of people you actually like posting things you actually want to see. The time you spend on Instagram should be positive, and if you’re a business or brand user of the platform this will also lead to a more sustainable experience - social media heaven!

If you want to get even more in-depth about how it all works with regard to video content, stories and Reels, Later has this useful article to break it all down. To say Aloha to more social media inspiration, tips and updates head over to my blog and dive in.

Get into the 'rhythm' of that algorithm, Islanders #letsflourish 🌺


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