If you often find yourself stuck in a loop, scrolling through your Instagram Explore page because you just can’t get enough, you’re not alone. In a bid to constantly enhance the user experience, Instagram has made it a mission to show you only the most relevant content that you’re likely to engage with. That means understanding how the Instagram algorithm works will help you develop a strategy to improve your visibility and grow your following on the platform.
But with Instagram constantly making changes and evolving its algorithm, it can be difficult to keep track of. So how exactly does the Instagram algorithm work in 2023? Let’s take a closer look.
How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2023:
What Is the Instagram Algorithm?
The Instagram algorithm isn’t a single algorithm but rather a combination of algorithms, processes, and classifiers that work to personalize the individual user experience. Instagram initially used a simple chronological algorithm that displayed posts in order of how they were created. But the Instagram algorithm in 2023 has become a highly sophisticated system for determining which content to display to each user based on what they care about the most.
According to Instagram, each part of the app uses its own algorithm. That means the Feed algorithm works differently from the Explore page algorithm. And the Explore page uses a different algorithm from Reels. This is because how users typically interact with different parts of the app varies. For example, people tend to look for Stories from their closest friends but would want to discover fresh content when they go to the Explore page.
This sophisticated ranking system ensures that the user experience is highly personalized according to each user’s preferences. That means no two users will see the exact same thing on their Explore page. Similarly, even if the same person manages different accounts, the content recommendations won’t exactly be the same across those accounts.
How Instagram Ranks Feed Posts and Stories
Instagram users want to see content from friends and family in their Feed and Stories. So the ranking process for these two is more or less the same. Aside from the occasional ad, your Feed and Stories will only display content from people you follow.
In order to accurately rank the content in your Feed and Stories, Instagram prioritizes the following signals:
- Post information – The Instagram algorithm looks at the popularity of a post in terms of likes. It also considers other minor details like post timing, duration (in the case of videos), and location (if any).
- Information about the poster – To get a sense of how important the person is to you, Instagram considers signals like how often you interact with the person and whether those interactions are recent.
- User activity – Instagram tries to understand what you might be interested in based on factors such as how many posts you’ve liked and what types of content you tend to engage with.
- Interaction history – Instagram tries to get a better idea of your general interest in seeing content from a particular user by looking at signals like whether or not you comment on their posts and vice versa.
The Instagram algorithm then uses all of this information to make predictions on how likely you are to interact with a given post. For example, in the Feed, it will look closely at how long you are going to spend looking at the post, how likely you are to comment on it, like it, or save it, and how likely you are to check out the profile. So posts that you see high up in your Feed are ones that the algorithm considers you’ll most likely take an action on.
How the Instagram Explore Page Algorithm Works
The main goal of the Explore page is to introduce you to new things. So although Instagram still delivers content based on what you’ll be most interested in, most of the posts will come from accounts you don’t follow.
To determine which posts to rank, the algorithm first looks at posts you’ve interacted with in the past. It then finds out who else has interacted with those posts and what other accounts they’re interested in. This helps the Instagram algorithm to narrow down which posts to rank for your Explore page.
After finding a group of posts you might be interested in, Instagram then ranks them using the following signals:
- Post information – Instagram looks at the popularity of a post based on how many likes, comments, and saves it’s received. But these signals weigh much more heavily for the Explore page than for Feed and Stories.
- Interaction history – Although the post may be from an account you don’t follow, Instagram can understand how interested you are in their content based on whether you’ve interacted with their posts in the past.
- User activity – Instagram considers the posts you’ve liked, shared, and commented on. It also looks at the history of how you’ve interacted with other posts in your Explore page.
- Information about the poster – Instagram also considers information about the poster such as how much interaction they’ve received in the past few weeks. This helps the algorithm to find high-quality content from a wide range of users.
How Instagram Ranks Reels
The main goal of Instagram Reels is to entertain. As a result, many of the videos you see will come from accounts you don’t follow. It’s very similar to the Explore page in that aspect. The main difference is that instead of just considering what you might be interested in, Instagram focuses specifically on content that might entertain you.
Instagram makes important predictions such as how likely you are to watch a Reel until the end and engage with it. Another important consideration is how likely you are to visit the audio page because this could signal whether or not you’d want to make your own Reel. The most important ranking signals for Instagram Reels are:
- User activity – Instagram looks at the Reels you’ve interacted with recently to get a better understanding of the content that might be relevant to you.
- Interaction history – Some of the videos you see might be from accounts that are new to you. But if you’ve interacted with them in the past, it helps Instagram understand how interested you might be in their content.
- Reel information – Signals about the content elements in a Reel also help Instagram to rank videos appropriately. This may include information like audio tracks and popularity.
- Information about the poster – When it comes to Reels, the algorithm tries to give everyone an equal chance to find their audience. So smaller creators and new accounts have a chance to shine and reach a wider audience. Video popularity is an important consideration so the algorithm can display content from a wide range of people.
What Instagram Avoids Recommending
Although Instagram aims to give people a place to express themselves, it also prioritizes safety most of all. That’s why it sometimes takes down posts that are potentially harmful and go against their Community Guidelines. Additionally, the algorithm limits the visibility of certain content that is:
- Labeled as misinformation by third-party fact-checkers. These are displayed less prominently in Feed and Stories
- Potentially upsetting or sensitive. For example, content that promotes vaping or tobacco are not shown in the Explore page or Reels
- Political in nature i.e. focusing on political issues or are created by/on behalf of political parties and figures as well as government officials
- Low-resolution or watermarked
Tips to Make the Instagram Algorithm Work for You in 2023
Regardless of whether you’re trying to rank on Explore, Reels, or Feed, the number of interactions you get plays a major role in your content visibility. So if you want to make the Instagram algorithm work for you, it’s important to create content that drives a ton of likes, shares, comments, and even saves.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your ranking with the Instagram algorithm and grow your account:
1. Create Fun, Bite-Sized Reels
With Instagram heavily promoting Reels, you can leverage it to gain more visibility on the platform. Make room in your content calendar to create lots of Reels to keep your followers engaged and eventually attract more people.
The algorithm ranks Reels for their entertainment value so make sure you keep things fun, light-hearted, and entertaining. And since it also considers whether people watch a Reel until the end, you should try to keep your videos short so that there’s an increased likelihood of people watching the entire thing.
Ulta Beauty regularly creates Reels showcasing skin care and beauty tips and product reviews. The videos are short, fast-paced, and to-the-point, informing and entertaining the audience at the same time. As a result, most of their Reels command over 100,000 views.
2. Get Your Timing Right
Since interactions are a strong ranking factor in the Instagram algorithm, you need to get as many likes and comments as possible within the first few seconds of posting your content. That’s why it’s important to catch your followers when they’re the most active and therefore, most likely to interact with your posts and Stories. Otherwise, your content can get buried in a sea of posts and Stories from other accounts that are already getting tons of engagement.
According to data from various studies, Thursdays are the best days to post in general. And the best time to post is between 2 PM and 3 PM. Besides this, 11 AM on Wednesdays and 10 AM on Fridays are also good times to post.
But since there are variations across these studies, it’s best to look at your own analytics data to see when your followers are most likely to engage with your Instagram content. You can then use tools like ContentCal, Loomly, or other scheduling tools to automatically send out your posts at the optimal time. You can even schedule your Stories using the right tools, with Later and Buffer being popular options.
3. Invite Story Interactions
When ranking Stories, Instagram uses popularity as a ranking signal, which means it prioritizes content that gets a lot of interactions. So if you want your Stories to be visible to more people, make sure the ones who are viewing it are enticed to interact with it. You can make use of polls, question stickers, and emoji sliders to invite people to interact with your Stories.
See how Omsom, the Asian food brand, gets people to interact with their Stories by getting them to vote between two different food options. This drives interactions and ultimately improves the visibility of their content in the Instagram algorithm.
4. Get People to Comment
With posts and Reels, engagement is an important ranking signal. So if you want your content to rank higher in Explore, Feed, and Reels, you need to drive up your Instagram engagement. Likes are great, but comments are even better to significantly boost interactions and improve your chances of getting on the Explore page.
You can make the most of your caption space to encourage people to comment on your posts. Write captions that add value to the content by giving context or telling stories. (Another great benefit of this is it boosts the time people spend interacting with your posts as they read through your caption.)
More importantly, end it with a call to action – be explicit with what you want them to do i.e. leave a comment. You could ask them a question or give them a prompt, encouraging them to share their thoughts.
For example, in the following post, Jeeca, the content creator behind @thefoodietakesflight, asks her followers how many wontons they can eat. This invited a lot of comments from people who eagerly shared how many they can eat.
5. Use Relevant Hashtags
Hashtags are an important ranking signal as they help the algorithm to understand what the content is about. So optimizing your posts with highly relevant and popular hashtags is a great way to improve your ranking and visibility on the platform.
If you’re not sure what hashtags to add, use our Hashtag Generator Tool to automatically come up with the most relevant hashtags for your posts. Just upload your image file and the tool will detect keywords relevant to the content. You can then choose from these keywords to generate highly relevant and popular hashtags to use.
Become Instagram Famous
Whether you’re a brand or a content creator, becoming Instagram famous is all about knowing how to work with the algorithm. Make the most of the tips shared above to create a strategy that will ensure a higher ranking in the Instagram algorithm.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I use the Instagram algorithm to my advantage?
You can take advantage of the Instagram algorithm by creating high-quality content and encouraging more interactions because Instagram prioritizes signals like content popularity.
How is the Instagram algorithm calculated?
Instagram uses a combination of algorithms, processes, and classifiers to determine the most relevant content for each user. It considers various signals such as user activity, post information, interaction history, and information about the content creator.
How to get your Instagram post to the top of the Feed
The key to getting your Instagram post to the top of the Feed is by boosting your engagement rate. Besides posting high-quality content, invite people to comment on your posts so that more people are able to see it in their Feed.
Why is my Instagram reach so low?
If you are creating high-quality content, posting at the wrong time and low interaction rates could be the biggest reasons why your Instagram reach is low.
How to use the Instagram algorithm for Story views
Since Instagram prioritizes interactions in ranking Stories, you can get more Story views by encouraging interactions through polls, emoji sliders, and question stickers.