The History of Instagram Algorithm – Everything you need to know

Photo by Jakob Owens

Instagram is designed with two goals in mind. Maximizing the time you spend using the platform and monetizing this presence by selling your attention to advertisers. The more time you spend on the app, the more money they make. The Instagram algorithm was built to keep you on the app for longer. The posts that captivate us the most are those with “high engagement statistics”. The algorithm is designed to rank your feed, showing these posts first. This means that accounts you like and engage with will often be displayed at the top of the feed. The algorithm is constantly changing, as the company tweaks the criteria for what constitutes an “engaging” post, but we are here to help you to take full advantage of the system currently in place.

The History of Instagram

In order to understand the functionality of the Instagram algorithm, it is useful to consider the history of the company. When the app was released in 2010, it went from a handful of users to the number one free photography app in a matter of hours. By December of the same year, Instagram had over 1 million users. Shortly after the release of the Android version of the app in 2012, Instagram was acquired by Facebook for a whopping $1billion. By December of the same year, the new management was already causing controversy with changes to its Terms of Service. Facebook enabled Instagram to sell its users’ photos without notification or compensation. This policy was later retracted due to an overwhelming consumer backlash. Despite this rocky start, Instagram continued to grow exponentially under the new management throughout the next years.

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram influenced the way that the app was designed on a technical and conceptual level. For example, the app began to utilise a storage technology called Cassandra, developed by Facebook. Another notable change came in March 2016, with the implementation of the Instagram algorithm.

History of the Algorithm

When Instagram first came out in 2010, the feed was simply organized chronologically. However as the company grew, and the popularity of the app skyrocketed, it became harder to keep up with the sheer quantity of content. So they decided to implement an algorithm to help organize that content more effectively. The goal was to show users content more relevant to them which not only makes the overall experience of Instagram more enjoyable but again keeps them using it.

When Instagram first introduced the algorithm, people were, to put it lightly, discontent. A petition called “Keep Instagram chronological” on even gained around 70,000 signatures in only 24 hours. However, since the algorithm was implemented, users have been more actively engaging with the community, liking and commenting on more photos.

How it Works

Your Instagram feed is unique, personalized based on the posts you like and interact with. The algorithm uses machine learning to predict the posts you will like the most, based on your past engagement. Even if you follow the same accounts as someone else, you will not see the same content. The feed is based on how you have previously interacted with posts. Tech Crunch

Photo by Marvin Meyer 

So how exactly does the algorithm work? After a post, the algorithm shows that post as a percentage of total followers. This process measures the level of engagement, in comparison to similar posts from the past. This data is used to predict engagement from each of your followers compared to all other posts, from all of the other accounts they follow, since they last opened the app. Hacker noon. Every time you log in and see the home feed, it resets to display a new set of posts.

There are three main factors which determine the order of your Instagram feed: interest, proximity in time, and relationship. The first refers to the prediction of your in potential interest in a post, given your past behaviour on similar content. The second factor, is when the post was shared, with priority given to more recent posts. Lastly, your relationship to the person sharing the post affects its ranking. Posts shared by people you interact with frequently, by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos, are pushed to the top of your feed.

In addition to these main factors, there are three other features that influence post rankings, these are frequency, following and usage. Frequency refers to how often you open the app. The algorithm adjusts to show you what it considers to be the best posts uploaded since your last visit. The number of people you follow also influences your feed. The more people you follow, the bigger the pool of posts for the algorithm to choose from. So you will generally see less content of any individual accounts. How long you spend on the app also determines if you’re seeing a small selection of posts curated by the algorithm at the top of your feed. This provides a comprehensive view of the content posted by the accounts you follow. As you continue to browse, you will eventually see all of the content posted by the accounts you follow.


Is Instagram “shadowbanning” users for using repetitive hashtags?

  • Shadowbanning is “the act of blocking a user’s content on social media sites, in such a way that the user doesn’t know it’s happening. If you’re shadowbanned on Instagram, your content won’t appear on anyone’s feed unless they already follow you.” When the algorithm was first released, many Instagram accounts were affected by a mysterious glitch in the app, which was shadowbanning posts if users repeated the same hashtags too often––which Instagram considered as spammy behaviour.
  • Although Instagram doesn’t openly admit to shadowbanning, there is a possibility that the algorithm does limit the visibility of accounts that display spammy behaviour. In order to avoid being potentially shadowbanned, make sure that you do not use automated posting tools or bots, and that you’re not using broken hashtags

Does posting more hurt your performance in the Instagram algorithm?

  • No. Posting more often will not hurt your account’s performance in the feed. However, if you post several times in a row, there is a high likelihood that another account’s content will be placed in between your posts.

Does the Instagram algorithm favour specific kinds of content?

  • There are many theories about the algorithm favouring specific post formats, specifically recently released features, in order to promote Instagram’s latest innovations. However, this is just an urban legend. Instagram’s feed ranking method does not favour users who use Stories, Live, or other special features of the app. Furthermore, feed ranking does not favour the photo or video format uniformly. People’s feeds are sorted based on what kind of content they engage with most. Thus, if you never pause while scrolling to watch videos, you might see fewer of them.

Click here to read our tips on how to beat the algorithm!

How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm in 2019

In order to optimize your Instagram account to achieve the best possible performance. It is key, not only to understand the Instagram algorithm but also why it exists in the first place. The Instagram algorithm is built to keep you on the app for longer. It uses machine learning to predict and rank the posts you will like the most, based on your past engagement. Why? The company is seeking to prolong your time on the app in order to make a profit. Instagram makes money by selling our time and attention to their clients, advertisers. The algorithm is constantly changing, as the company tweaks the criteria for what constitutes an “engaging” post, but this article will show you how to take full advantage of the system currently in place.

The three main factors which determine the order of your Instagram feed are interest, proximity in time, and relationship. Interest refers to the algorithm’s prediction of your potential interest in a post, given your past behaviour on similar content. When the post was shared also influences its placement in the feed––with priority given to more recent posts. Lastly, your relationship to the person sharing the post. Posts shared by people you frequently interact with are pushed to the top of your feed. In addition to these main factors, there are also three other features that influence post rankings: frequency, following and usage. (For more information on how the Instagram algorithm works check out our article: ‘Everything you need to know about the Instagram Algorithm’).

There is no universal ‘hack’ or formula that you can use to beat the Instagram algorithm, however, there are certain things you can do to make sure that your content performs well in the feed. This being said, here are our 5 best tips to grow your account using your new found understanding of the Instagram algorithm.

Always post when your audience is most active on Instagram.

Photo by Steve Daniel

If you randomly post at times when fewer of your followers are on the app, your content is less likely to gain engagement quickly and the algorithm is more likely to push your post down the feed.

Use the ‘insights’ feature of your Instagram account to monitor when your audience is most active on the app. Unfortunately, this is not available to personal accounts yet. This means that in order to access this tool, you will need to use a ‘business’ account on Instagram. You can switch your account from personal to business in the settings tab. The insights section is a native analytics tool. It is useful because it provides data about your engagement statistics as well as audience activity and demographics.  

Apps such as Hootsuite and Later can also be useful in order to gain more insights and statistics about your account as well as schedule your content to automatically post at a specific date and time. This way you can save time and plan ahead with what and when to post.

Measure your engagement data to gain an understanding of your audience’s interests.

In order to be able to measure and analyse your engagement statistics using the Instagram insights tool, you need to be frequently creating new content, or you won’t have anything to measure. Once you have posted a variety of content at different times and tried a few different strategies and techniques, you will then be able to start analyzing your strategies. You will be able to measure which posts perform the best and which ones your audience engages with most to get an objective understanding of what captures your audience’s attention. It is then up to you to analyze this information and figure out a pattern.

Focus on creating fresh and unique content.

To be favoured by the algorithm, one needs to create content that is highly differentiated, within a category that isn’t saturated. It is crucial to be as unique and compelling as possible, within your content category. The algorithm determines a post’s ranking depending on the likelihood of engaging a user, in comparison to everyone else they follow. So, if there are many users creating content similar to yours, it lowers your chances of being ranked highly.

Photo by Toa Heftiba

This is why it is key to create content in a category which isn’t saturated. An easy way to find out how many people are also posting about your chosen topic is by looking at the number of posts under the most popular hashtag about your topic. The more posts there are, the higher the saturation of your chosen topic.

Create engaging content.

Because we know that the total percentage of our audience, depends on how a small percentage of them engages with each new post, we have to maximize the engagement potential of every post. You can create engaging content by using a variety of different formats, leveraging hashtags, humorous captions, posing challenges or questions to your followers, etc.

One great example of how to do this is a Call to Action (CTA). Some of the most popular Instagram Call to Action formulas include “double tap if….”, “tag your friend who…”, “comment your favourite…” etc.

In order to optimize your engagement potential, it is important to use all of the resources and tools available on the app including stories and the live feature. That way you keep your content varied while still maintaining a consistent presence in the feeds of your followers and attracting new viewers.

Engage with your community

After you have created unique and engaging content, it’s time to make sure that it is seen by interested users. Keep in mind that the first hour after you post is crucial––the more likes and comments you receive during that time period, the higher your post is ranked in the algorithm.

In order to maximize the engagement potential, it is crucial to be active within the Instagram community. By following other users and liking and commenting on posts related to your account, you increase your visibility which helps you gain new followers and increase the engagement on your own posts.

Using hashtags correctly is crucial to increase your reach, as well as your community engagement, because it helps increase the exposure of your posts to people who are interested in that kind of content. When you use hashtags you are filing your post under a category which users who are posting similar content or simply those interested in those categories can access.

Another way to maximize engagement and increase traffic to your account is cross-promotion. This means promoting your post on other social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat.

Final Points

Although the algorithm is constantly being updated, the overall goal of the company does not. Remember, Instagrams primary goal is to make money. If you want to grow a following you must consider this. But most of all, take time with your content, think creatively and produce content that is different. If you simply want a following on Instagram then following our steps will help. However its up to you what that content says about you. Be yourself and you will find your niche in this global network.

To understand what changes can be applied to the Instagram algorithm in the future, it is essential that you first learn about the history of the Instagram Algorithm.

News, LALALAB and Podcasts

Spring is here and INFLURY has cleaned off ready for summer. This months issue will delve into the rise of podcasts, changes to the software and website and our exciting new partner LALALAB.

Good News Berlin Style

Welcome, I want to start off by saying that this will be the first of our Newsletters.  I am planning to produce one of these every month with the intention of keeping you up-to-date on INFLURY’s activities. I will be creating brand profiles for our partners, showcasing the wonderful brands we are collaborating with. It is also the perfect format for us to notify of changes and developments in Influencer trends and Instagram. I will also detail changes to Influry accompanied my an email to our Influencers,  including upcoming brand opportunities. If the need is there, we will also produce In-depth articles on certain topics we feel deserve it. With that, let’s move on to the INFLURY news.

INFLURY: Updates and News

Has anyone noticed a change in the air? Summer is officially on its way and INFLURY has undertaken a spring clean. With the new software update now functional we are ready to start using it to its maximum. More changes will be made, but at this point, the software is doing its job. There may be changes to the UI in the future, guaranteeing ease of use. Now it was time to turn our attention to the website.  

The website content has been going through numerous drafts, rewrites and changes for months now.  At the beginning of this month however, we were finally satisfied with the content, it was now a matter of design.  The good news is that the design is being created as we speak. We are trying to create two websites in one, with the Advertiser and Influencer sections bringing their own unique “personality”.   When the new site is live, we will certainly notify you all so you can have a look around.

For now though check out our current website:

Podcasts, A Growing Medium

Online Influencers are often creating and popularising trends on social media. The latest of these trends is the growing number of podcasts. Many Micro-influencers on Instagram also have successful podcasts to accompany their accounts, while successful podcasts also have Instagram accounts. The interconnectivity of these different platforms is a trend that cannot be underestimated.  But podcasts have been around for a while, so why this recent explosion in numbers? Is it simply a passing fad? Or could it be the start of another burgeoning online media Industry?

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is simply a person or group of people talking on a subject, made available as an audio file. How long you ask? How long is a piece of string? Podcasts range from 5-minute bite-size chunks and 20-minute commuter friendly chats all the way to 1 or 2-hour lengthy dissections of situations. The diverse range allows for several applications for various genres and formats each one with its own unique appeal to audiences and by extension, advertisers.

But what is behind the appeal to podcasts? Why have their numbers exploded?  The ability to create a podcast relies on some basic recording equipment (microphones, audio editing software), a room and someone to speak on it.  With the availability of this technology and the affordable price, podcasts have become a great way for aspiring influencers and creators as well as attracting those who made a name on other sites and platforms.

YouTube and Instagram, to mainstream news outlets, influential creators are turning to podcasts, often using them in addition to their existing formats.  Combine this with large mainstream formats facilitating the postings of podcasts for easy consumer access and the growth of podcasts numbers makes a great deal of sense. Applications like iTunes, Soundcloud and Spotify have created a vast network of podcasts in huge numbers. Apple recently announced that it will soon split iTunes between podcasts, movies and music into separate applications. This highlights consumer demand for podcasts.

The Variety of Podcasts

In terms of content, podcasts have one of the greatest varieties of genres across online formats. Many creators simply talk about their daily lives, with a group of friends telling stories, others have created book clubs, interviews with public figures, comedy shows, politics, economics, celebrity gossip, the list goes on. This has made podcasts one of the most engaging content forms currently available. Consumers pick a podcast that they think they would like and many people listening to the end. Podcasts can be in small 20 minute segments but many.  For advertisers, this provides the perfect location for targeted digital marketing.

Brand support of podcasts has increased alongside their popularity. What makes them so desirable is that the adverts are read out by the podcasters themselves. For an hour podcast, there might be around 4 minutes of advertising space, considerably lower than that of TV and youtube. However almost all listeners will consume a full advertisement, and with the small amount of time dedicated to advertisements, the adverts themselves provide a more powerful message.  

The downsides to podcasts, well the price. Podcast CPM is often, by some estimates to be around $30, much higher than your average Instagram CPM. Obviously, this price varies, but the engagement of podcasts is reflected in the high price. However, podcasts do not have the same audience numbers seen on Instagram, and for this reason, the quality of podcasts advertisements is often dwarfed by the scope of Instagram.

LALALAB- Brand Profile

Social Media and smartphones have made the process of showcasing our photographic lives, to family and friends simple and easy.  With Facebook alone containing around 350 billion photographs across its lifetime. But what have we lost for all this has created?  The tangible side of photography has seen a rapid decline with the rise of the digital, and the lack of physical evidence of our lives can often seem dawning and superficial. However, INFLURYS latest partner is here to change that. Step forth LALALAB.

LALALAB, originally called Polagram, was created in 2012 by 3 friends with the goal of printing photos from social media while keeping things simple. Printing photos for customers in over 75 countries around the world, they have certainly kept printed photos a desirable and simple addition to our photographic lives. With products ranging from large calendars to photo strips straight out of a booth, LaLaLab is the new way to create physical photography affordable with a professional finish.  This has to lead them becoming the highest rated printing app in Europe and according to their website, printing enough photos to eclipse the Eiffel Tower every 11 days. Without a doubt, LALALAB is a perfect addition to anyone who desires photos the old fashioned way.

How does LALALAB work?

LALALAB works like any other smartphone application. Downloaded straight to your devices you can then access your photos across all social media and Cloud services, as well as pictures saved onto your smartphone.  Simply choose the images, pick the product you want those photo to be on and voila. With a generation of people all over the world taking pictures every day, most of us have more than enough content to choose from, displaying an online world, offline.

LALALAB have a variety of different products to choose from, have a look at their Instagram

INFLURY and LALALAB will soon be teaming up for the first time. Together we aim to reach 660 thousand followers per month across Germany. We are using their mini-vintage prints and photo strip products for the campaign, two products which perfectly capture LALALAB’s brand. We are extremely excited, and we hope to work with LALALAB, and we cannot wait to start posting content with our influencers. Find out more about LALALAB on their website

That’s all for this month. I look forward to writing more of these in the future, See you soon.