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7 Ways to Use the Instagram Algorithm in Your Favor

Posted by Emma Urbanek on August 10, 2017
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Remember the good ol’ days of Facebook? When you could post something on your business page and people would actually see it? Well, as you probably know, those days are long gone. When Facebook introduced its newsfeed algorithm, it severely limited the reach you could get with an organic Facebook post. Now, Instagram has an algorithm of its own.

You may have noticed that, lately, your feed is full of the posts you expect to see, but they aren’t ranked solely on the time they were posted. While the new algorithm isn’t a fan favorite- it’s not so bad. Once you understand the factors that come into play, working with (or beating) the algorithm is within reach!  

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We’ll go over seven factors to the new Instagram changes and how you can optimize your content be shown near the top of the feed! 

1. Engagement


The biggest factor in the Instagram algorithm is the post engagement. Ya know, if you like it, put a ring on it? Just kidding…kind of. In social media, engagement means the popularity of your post and whether it’s earning action from your followers.

Instagram monitors comments, likes, shares, and views - with direct shares getting their own ranking. One thing to note is that comments are rated higher than likes within the algorithm. This is because commenting requires more from your followers than just double tapping your photo, ergo the post is more engaging.

While collecting tons of engagement is important, so is the timeliness of that activity. Instagram rewards posts that get instant engagement and pushes them to the top of followers’ feeds. One quick way to get engagement on your post is by using hashtags to attract people who are interested in those topics.

Pro tip: Have your team and employees like or comment on your posts as soon as they go out. Instagram will see that you have nearly instant engagement and could put your post up toward the top so that more people can engage with it.

2. Relevancy


The next factor that comes into play is the relevancy of your post. Instagram is getting a lot better at tracking your activity to see what content you often interact with, and then putting that at the top of your feed.

Keep this in mind when you’re working on creating content. By picking consistent themes or topics, you can work with the algorithm to attract serious followers who will be more likely to interact with your post.



The algorithm is smart. As most things techy are. If you’re consistently interacting with certain accounts and users, they’re going to get bumped right to the top of your feed.

Think about it for a second.

You’re scrolling through your feed and you’ve seen two posts from your favorite influencer account, even though only one of those posts was from today. Instagram thinks that since you’re so active with this particular user, you’re okay with seeing more of their content over time than new content from someone that you don’t often interact with.

This keys back to that engagement factor, making it more important to create engaging content for your users.

4. Timeliness


The time you post your recent update does still have a small part in where your photo will show in your follower’s feeds. Some people are posting once or twice a day and checking their feed three times that much, Instagram takes that into account.

For example, if you’re constantly looking through your feed, Instagram’s algorithm will be plugging away trying to get most relevant and recent posts in front of you. But if you don’t check Instagram for a few days at a time, let alone put your own updates out there, you may see posts from three to four days ago to help you get caught up on the most popular posts.  

5. Profile Searches


Call it creepy if you want, but Instagram notices the profiles and hashtags that you search when you are in the Discover feed. This helps the algorithm determine what type of content you’re interested in and helps put that content towards the top of your feed.

The same goes when you're in the Discover feed. You’ll see more of the type of content you search for opposed to different content that seems random.

6. Direct Shares


If you ask Instagram, sharing is caring.

The new algorithm ranks direct shares, a share of a post in direct message, as a higher form of engagement. When followers share a post with someone, Instagram takes that action as a sign that both accounts involved would like to see more of that content in their feeds.

Again, this is why creating engaging content is KEY.


7. Time Spent


If you’re familiar with the Facebook algorithm, then you should be familiar with this factor. The Instagram algorithm uses the amount of time your followers spend on your post as a way to gauge where your post should fall in your follower’s feeds. 

Pro tip: You can create longer captions to keep people on your post longer. One very important thing to remember is to make sure your caption is super interesting and engaging, otherwise people won’t click the “more” option and they’ll keep scrolling past your post. This means you’ll have wasted your time crafting that longer caption and not see any return for it.  

Battle The Algorithm

While it may seem like beating the algorithm is an uphill battle, if you’re creating engaging and relevant content, you’re halfway up the hill. The biggest challenge that this new change brings is that it causes profiles to post truly their best content. You can't just flood your feed with multiple poor posts because that will cause your organic reach to drop.

Check out three other strategies that can boost your algorithm performance:

Use calls to action (CTA) in your post.

By simply asking your followers to take an action such as commenting on your post, your engagement can increase. If you can convince your followers to take action, they’ll spend more time on your post as well. Talk about two birds with one stone. When you have longer views on your post and an increase in engagement, Instagram’s algorithm will notice and you’ll see the rewards.

Be more active on Stories.

When you post to your Story, your followers have additional opportunities to interact with your content. You can go into more details about your post or simply post an update sharing that you do have a new post that followers should go check out. Need more ideas? Simple posts like that are easy to start using and pull a lot of weight when it comes to the algorithm.

Be strategic about hashtags.

Don’t just use hashtags that are popular and have nothing to do with your audience. While you might get more traffic, you probably won’t be getting in front of the right people. Do some research and see what hashtags your audience is already engaging with and use those on your content.

Pro tip: Search the hashtags you’re using and engage with other users’ content, especially if they’re in your audience. Pick a few that you’re impressed by and comment or like their post to engage with your community. Then the next time they see one of your posts, they’ll be more likely to interact with your post! 


It’s not impossible to beat the Instagram algorithm, and working with it is much easier than you might think. Now that you know engagement, relevance, timeliness, direct shares, searches, view duration, and relationships are the major factors of the algorithm, you can get out there and start using them to your advantage. 

Beyond using those factors to improve your posts, don’t forget to use calls to action to encourage your audience. Instagram Stories and hashtags are also great tools to draw attention to your posts! #winwin 

Do you have any Instagram marketing hacks that you like to use? We’d love to hear them! Drop them in the comments below!

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Posted in Content Marketing, Social Media