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.