How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2022

How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2022
Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash

What is the Instagram algorithm?

Firstly, let’s see what is this Instagram algorithm and what you should do about it.

If you’ve been using Instagram for a long enough time, you might have already realized that Instagram doesn’t show posts from all the people you follow. Similarly, the posts you post are not reaching 100% of your followers!

Even the explore page and reels feed always shows a few types of posts. For example, if you once liked a cat photo, you will always see cat photos!

Instagram has a method of doing this. It uses “algorithms” that are made with artificial intelligence.

The 2022 Instagram algorithm

Instagram has more than one algorithm, it has different algorithms for different parts of the app. We will discuss 4 of the most important algorithms.

1. Home feed

2. Stories

3. Explore page

4. Reels feed

How does Instagram algorithm rank posts on the home feed?

Your home feed on Instagram mainly consists of posts of people you follow.

However, you see posts of only a few of them. Typically, it’s the people you engage with the most.
But it’s not only that, here’s an overview of the key ranking signals Instagram cares about.

1. Relationship with the creator:

For example, let’s take a creator called Josh. And then there’s Oliver who recently found Josh on Instagram and followed him. For a couple of days since then, Oliver would always see Josh’s posts on the top of the feed.

But with time passing, if Oliver doesn’t like, comment, save, share Josh’s content much, he would stop seeing Josh’s content frequently.

However, let’s say Oliver was a stalker. He would secretly admire Josh’s posts but never engage. Even then Oliver would continue to see Josh’s post. Instagram’s algorithms are very advanced. It even takes the time you spend on a post as a signal of a good relationship.

2. How old is the post?

Instagram will always favor a 2-hour-old post over a 17-hour-old post.
Therefore, the most recent posts will be shown at the top of your feed. (But it is not chronological order)

3. How well is the post performing

So going back to our earlier example of Josh and Oliver, let’s think that Oliver didn’t engage with Josh’s posts and he stopped seeing Josh’s posts frequently.

But Josh made a special post today and his followers are going crazy over it. It has double the average amount of likes and people are sharing it everywhere too.

Instagram will easily identify that this post is popular and will start showing it to the less-engaged followers like Oliver as well.

Now, this is what Instagram looks for, but how can you, as a creator “hack” these signals and make sure you rank on the top of the feeds of your followers? Let’s look into some methods you can use.

How to rank on the top of your Instagram followers’ feed?

Encourage engagement

Ask your followers to engage with your posts with a simple call-to-action in the captions or the post itself.
Ask people to do one thing, either to like, comment or share.

Get to the close friend's list

If a follower adds you to their close friends’ list, they are more likely to see your posts on the top of their feeds. (Source: Instagram Blog)
Ask your followers to add you to their close friends’ list using stories.

Post when your followers are online

When your post is new, your followers are more likely to see your posts on the top of their feed. To find out when your audience is active, visit insights > total followers, then scroll down to find the most active times.

These methods will help you get to the top of your followers’ feed. But followers seeing your posts isn’t enough. You want them to see your stories as well!

Let’s tackle that in the next section.

How does the Instagram algorithm rank stories?

You only see stories of the people you follow.

However, since you are less likely to scroll through the whole list of stories, you watch the stories of a few people only. As a creator, you will see that only about 5–20% of your audience sees your stories.

The story ranking algorithm is quite similar to the home feed, but let’s have a detailed look at it:

1. Relationship with the creator:

Similar to home feed rankings, if you frequently engage and DM someone, you will see their stories at the top.
And people in your close friends’ list will almost always top the list too.

2. Actions on the story

Instagram monitors how long people watch through your story, whether they quickly swipe to the next story, whether they are pausing and checking the story more, and whether they exit after seeing your story.

However, this seems too technical, so if I break it down in a way you can grasp, it means that Instagram monitors how engaging a story is. If viewers love the story and engage with it, that story will be shown to more and more followers of the creator.

3. Time of the latest story

For example, let’s think that Josh posted a story at 11 am. Then his stories might rank as the 14th on your feed.
But then if Josh posted another story at 1 pm, his stories might be pushed up to the 6th position.

These are all various things that Instagram looks for when ranking stories, now these are some actionable tips for you as a creator to do to make sure your stories reach maximum people.

How to increase your Instagram story views?

Use engagement stickers

Polls, slider stickers, question boxes are all engagement stickers that your audience loves to interact with.
Therefore use them on stories frequently.

Post stories around the day

This is a good way to hack around the ranking signal “Time of the latest story”.
If you post stories around the day, for example, 9 am, 11 am, 2 pm, 5 pm, and 8 pm, you can get a lot of views.

Skip a day from stories

If you continuously got low story views this method can increase the count.
For example, if you have 1000 followers and you were gaining just 60 story views the past week, skip stories for a day. After that post, a news story and you can get 80–100 views.
This works because if you continuously post stories 1 bad story could lead to all the other stories after it getting lower views. Skipping a day refreshes this.

Now go ahead and use these methods to boost your story views!

How does Instagram explore page rankings work?

So far we’ve discussed how Instagram selects a few posts/stories among all the people you follow and show them to you. But when it comes to the explore page, it is different.

The explore page contains posts from people you do not follow. You might have never seen them before too. It is a page to discover new content and new accounts.

2 things happen before Instagram decides what posts you see on your explore page.

  • Selecting posts that deserve being shown to new people through the explore page
  • Select the exact posts to show you.

How the Instagram algorithm selects posts that deserve explore rankings

Out of the millions of posts shared on Instagram every day, a very less number of posts ever make it to the explore page on a large scale.

This is how Instagram determines which content to show:

1. Categorize the creator’s account

Firstly, Instagram analyzes a creator’s posts and understands what types of posts they post.

For example, Josh from our earlier example, who is a car enthusiast in his 20’s posts a lot of pictures of him standing near cars. Instagram identifies these patterns and makes sure to recommend Josh’s posts to other car enthusiasts in their 20’s.

2. Engagement on a post

If Josh posts 4 photos a week, he would realize that some posts of his get massive explore reach, whereas some end up with a little over 50.

This depends on how people react to his posts. Instagram looks at likes, saves, comments, shares along with factors like “Does this post look catchy and attract people?”, “Do people spend a lot of time zooming, and looking at this post?”, “Do people who see this post from the explore page, visit the creator’s account?”.

3. Popularity of the creator

Instagram measures how popular a specific creator is and popular ones get more explore rankings.

Instagram measures popularity by overall account engagement, account reach, and the number of people tagging and sharing your account.

How the Instagram algorithm selects posts you see to explore

Everyone’s Instagram explores page is unique. What you see on it is not what I see.
The explore page is extremely personalized, this is what happens behind the scenes:

1. Categorize your interests

Instagram first shows random posts and adjusts over time. The posts you like, save, comment on, the accounts you visit and follow, the posts you pause and look at for long are all monitored.

Then Instagram understands whether you are interested in cars, dogs, logos, NFTs, or learning to run a business.

2. Your past interactions

After identifying your interests Instagram starts showing posts relevant to those.

But over time Instagram further monitors how you interact with those posts including which ones you open, which ones you open and like, which ones you open but left without liking, and many more things.

Now since you know how the explore page algorithm works, let’s look at how you can rank on the explore page as a creator.

How to rank on the Instagram explore page?

Post catchy images

To get a higher explore reach you need to be able to stand out on the explore page and grab people’s attention.

Add call-to-actions

You can impress people and make them go ‘wow’, but without asking for something most of them won’t do it. So don’t hesitate to ask people to like, comment, save or share your posts.

Share posts to stories for extra engagement

As soon as you make a post share it to your stories and ask people to engage with it. A little more engagement can make a big difference.

Experiment with content

Whatever you do, the number of explores each you receive is not predictable.
Therefore the best way to increase is to keep experimenting with your posts and track analytics.

This is your way to hack through the Instagram algorithm for the explore page.

How does the Instagram algorithm for reels work?

The most important and most popular content format in 2022 is Instagram reels.
Although the Instagram reels feed works similar to the explore page, there are some differences.

The first thing to understand when it comes to reels is that they were made for entertainment.
Instagram prioritizes “how entertaining is this reel?” over anything else.

These are the key ranking signals for reels:

1. Video data

Audio used: A more popular audio results in better audience engagement which is a positive signal

Use of other logos: For example, the Tiktok logo on your Instagram reel is a negative signal

Video qualify: Having better lighting and better camera quality are positive signals

2. People’s response to the reel

Positive signals:

– People rewatching the reel

– Liking, sharing

– Clicking into the audio

– Visiting your profile

Negative signals:

– Scroll fast

– Doesn’t watch the full reel

How to get a better reach for your reels?

Create entertaining reels

Entertainment is the key, utilizing trends is also a good idea.

Use viral audio

Use websites like tokboard.com to find trending audio and use them in your reels.

Create high-quality video

Use better lighting, utilize the back camera for higher quality and make sure your videos are clear.

Use loops and transitions

Create reels that loop so that people rewatch them. Also, use transitions to make them engaging.

This is what you need to know about the Instagram algorithm for reels.

Summary

The Instagram algorithm has been exposed more than ever, however, what we see is that there are no hidden tricks to “hack” your way through the algorithm.

To get massive reach, and explode on Instagram you need to follow the tips I’ve shared in each section and keep posting content consistently.

In the process make sure you engage your audience well too.

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Pankaj Gupta

Pankaj Gupta

I am a SEO and Content Marketer. I usually talk about how to get more traffic to your website, how to get more sales from your website.