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If you’ve got a design brand on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed some changes in the way the platform works for engagement. If you don’t, stop wasting time in all the wrong places and unlock the power of social for your business.

The Instagram algorithm, like Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm, has undergone some significant tweaks, and its entire process is mysterious yet excellent at showing the best content to most users. Chances are that if you’re publishing good content, more followers and non-followers will get to see it.

There are several factors that might be playing a part in your content’s ranking on your followers’ feed. So, we’ve decided to list them below in order to help you better navigate your way through content creation on Instagram – after all, if it’s not done right, it will not be effective.

The Instagram algorithm explained


Engagement – How Popular a Post Is

When a brand publishes a post, social media algorithms will typically show the post to a sample audience and gauge the responses. If there is an immediate positive reaction, the algorithm will then show it to more people.

This means that a post with more engagement will most likely rank higher on your Instagram feed. Likes, comments, video views, shares via DM, saves, story views and live video views are some of the engagement types that Instagram’s algorithm will consider in the process.

An interesting fact: if someone you follow has engaged with a post, chances are that Instagram’s algorithm will include it into your feed, under the assumption that you could be interested as well.

However, the social media platform has emphasised that post ranking will not be treated like a popularity contest, as the algorithm will continue to focus more on relevance rather than engagement.

The Instagram algorithm explained


Relevancy – The Types of Content You’re Interested In and Have Previously Interacted With

When Instagram first announced its algorithmic timeline, the platform specified that it would should you the content that you would be most likely to be interested in first, based on your previous engagement practices.

Content that is relevant to your interests will likely rank higher on your feed. This is actually pretty straightforward, so, for the future, don’t be surprised if you see your Instagram feed change genres from time to time, if you’ve switched from liking design stuff, for example, to fashion. The algorithm will shift based on that.

Given the advanced state of photo recognition technologies, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Facebook-owned social platform is able to recognise the type of image before you even add any hashtags.

The Instagram algorithm explained


Relationships: The Accounts You Interact With

Instagram has made it its mission to make sure you don’t miss important posts from the accounts with which you interact with on a regular basis. Content from your “best friends” will likely rank higher on your newsfeed.

And given the ownership that Facebook has over Instagram, it doesn’t come as a surprise if Instagram is able to borrow tools from the world’s biggest social media network to determine your relationships – including family, friends, colleagues etc.

The algorithm also studies your past interactions to determine your so-called “best friends”. According to Thomas Dimson, a software engineer for Instagram, these are some of the ways in which people you care about can be identified: users whose content you like; users you send DM’s to; users you search for; and users that you know in real life.

The Instagram algorithm explained


Timeliness: How Recent the Posts Are

Posts that are more recent will be a priority for any Instagram feed. The logic behind this particular segment of the algorithm is that Instagram wants to show its users posts that are recent, thus more relevant.

A post from a few hours ago will show up first, before one from last week, for example, even if the one from last week has more engagement.

By this point, we can then advise you to post when your followers are most active, in order to ride that wave and get maximum exposure to your targeted audience.

The Instagram algorithm explained


Profile Searches: The Accounts You Check Out Often

Profile searches are definitely something that Instagram looks at when ranking posts in a user’s feed. When you regularly search for specific profiles, it usually indicates that you are interested in their posts and you may not have seen them in your feed before.

Instagram’s algorithm is now more likely to show these posts higher on your feed, in order to spare you the trouble of manually searching for them.

Direct Shares: Whose Posts Are You Sharing

Instagram has made it easy for users to share a post they find on their feed through direct messages. So, naturally, its algorithm tracks this activity to further optimise your newsfeed.

Sharing a post shows that you are most likely interested in that account’s content, which is then taken into consideration for your feed. At the same time, the act of sharing a post with someone else informs the platform that you care about them, so Instagram will then rank their posts higher on your feed.

The Instagram algorithm explained


Time Spent: The Duration Spent Viewing a Post

Once again, there are similarities here between Instagram and Facebook’s feed algorithms. Facebook recently concluded that if “people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them,” even if there was no engagement from their part.

Instagram has also included this in its algorithm – when you spend more time on one specific post, the platform will then surface similar posts higher on your feed.

The Instagram algorithm explained

At the same time, it should be noted that Instagram’s newsfeed algorithm is constantly changing and taking other signals in consideration when ranking posts for you. The objective is always the same: offering users the best experience possible.

Makelight’s Stef Lewandowski also took the following factors into account: how regularly you open the app or post content, how many likes an image has in total and what’s recent like-rate is, how old the image is, whether the post is a video, or if the image comes from a business or personal account etc.

The truth is, people usually don’t see all the new posts when they open Instagram. According to a study by the platform, users miss approximately 70% of the content on their feeds if the posts are arranged in a reverse-chronological order.

This entire new algorithm is great news to marketers, inviting brands to create engaging, relevant and timely content all the time, in order to get the most out of Instagram overall. It will help bring your content forward to more followers, which is better than the old reverse-chronologically arrangement on a user’s feed.

Coshamie is a London-based boutique digital marketing agency that works exclusively with interior design and contemporary art brands, with a focus on great strategies – individually designed to grow brands and fit budgets. Our #EspressoBlog mirrors our commitment to, knowledge of and passion towards design and art. To find out more, have a look at our services or one of our case studies.


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