7 Factors that Influence the Instagram Algorithm

Phone showing the Instagram app on it.

If you have questions about how relevant Instagram is for your overall digital marketing strategy, here’s a big incentive for you to invest in this particular platform: Instagram has 1 BILLION accounts active every month. Many of these users overlap with your target audience.

By the way, 64 percent of the users currently on Instagram are between 18 and 34 years of age. So if you’re seeking to build Millennial interest for your products and services, Instagram is where you should advertise your business. But is simply posting enough?

Because of the volume of content posted every day on the platform, Instagram implemented a ranking hierarchy to optimize feeds. Posts haven’t displayed chronologically in a long time. And for those who still think solely of investing in getting more and more followers, think again. There are many more prominent metrics to take into consideration. As well as the already established Facebook Edge Rank, the Instagram Algorithm has some particularities. Here’s a quick list of its main requirements:

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  1. Engagement: At the top of the list is tried and true engagement, the metric that describes how users interact with your profile on Instagram. The IG Algorithm uses engagement to determine if content will appear on followers’ timelines, and, if so, how often. It’s a simple question of math. Divide the number of interactions in a given period by the number of impressions earned in your posts in the same period and multiply by 100 to determine the percentage. And yes, I said “impressions.” The denominator on this equation used to be “number of followers,” but that’s allegedly been replaced. The more interactions, the better—but some interactions matter more than others. I’ll explain farther down.
  2. Consistency: Being a frequent user is essential, but posting consistently is even better. If you have a frequency of three posts per week, try to maintain that frequency with consistency. In that way, you earn more engagement, and the algorithm starts recognizing the account as higher quality.
  3. Time Spent: This one is easy. If a person spends a long time looking at your posts, it’s likely for them to get more and more of your content on their timeline, so posting and engaging with attractive content is critical. Along those lines, video content is a more engaging media at the moment, because of the massive investment Facebook is providing for their video platforms, like IGTV.
  4. Timeliness: Although your IG feed is not chronological, you probably noted that it does display fresher content as much as possible. The algorithm tries to show recent posts, influenced by other factors listed here. However, if someone is not an avid user, they will likely also see some posts from a couple of days before, which makes the half-life of your posts slightly longer for some users.
  5. Search: Just like Google, if you searched something before, it is more likely that you’ll see that link or that topic again somewhere else (in this case, IG’s content on your feed).
  6. Genre: This one has to do with your audience’s interests. The “type” of content and the genre users interact with the most are a sign of what else those users are going to find interesting, so the algorithm refines a user’s feed according to that user’s interests. If you are using Instagram as a marketing tool, keep in mind that your industry segment probably has several subcategories to explore. For instance: Plastic and cosmetic surgery are industries related to the medical field, but users tend to associate them with “beauty” more than with “medicine.” You can easily explore and push further into related segments by studying related hashtags and their relevance. When someone posts with the tag #BOTOX, it’s likely that will be followed by #instabeauty or #skincare, but likely not #dermatology.
  7. Type of Interactions: It is not clearly advertised, but people who work in the social media industry know that on Facebook and Instagram, some interactions are more relevant than others, depending on the degree of commitment from the user to a specific post. Liking things is easy, so it’s lighter in relevance. Commenting takes more motivation and effort, especially when your name is readily visible on someone’s profile. Saving and sharing represent even more commitment, because they convey your contribution and that you want to go back to that post later or you want to endorse it by making it reach more people from your circle. The high-level takeaway is that successful social media publishers invest in content that people would want to save, share, and comment on—not just like.

While Instagram is currently the most popular social media platform, and it’s vital for businesses to have a significant presence there, the seven lessons here represent foundational, enduring concepts of overall social interaction that undoubtedly translate to other platforms and will play a part in future social platforms that are certain to come along.  


Mariana Brigido

Mariana is MetaMed’s social media manager and content director. She brings seven years of experience with online marketing to the table, organizing our client’s online presences and making sure we deliver high-quality content and maximum ROI through social advertising strategies.

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