The 2021 Instagram Algorithm: How to get your content seen?


So, how does the Instagram algorithm actually work?

As a top rated Digital Marketing Agency in Belfast, we understand that it’s hard to trust what you don’t understand. So today, we want to unveil how Instagram really works. There are a lot of misconceptions out there, and we recognise that we can do more to help people understand what we do.

In this blog post, we’re sharing how the Instagram algorithm works for feed posts, stories, the Explore page, IGTV videos, and Reels.

Instagram users were missing 70 per cent of all posts and 50 per cent of their friends’ posts before the app ditched the reverse-chronological feed for an algorithm in July 2016. Despite backlash about confusing ordering, Instagram now says relevancy sorting has led to its 800 million-plus users seeing 90 per cent of their friends’ posts and spending more time on the app.

Yet Instagram has never explained exactly how the algorithm chooses what to show you until today.

Instagram stories - Vindicta Digital Agency

The Instagram Algorithm in 2021

Instagram’s enigmatic algorithm often baffles users. However, deciphering its workings empowers strategic content planning. Grasping the algorithm’s nuances enables aligning your content strategy with it. This harmony optimizes post visibility and engagement. By mastering the algorithm, your content becomes a compelling component within users’ feeds, fostering enhanced connections and interaction. Understanding its mechanics offers a key to maximizing your impact in the dynamic realm of Instagram.

Ready to get up to speed on the Instagram algorithm in 2021? Here’s everything you need to know:

How the Instagram Algorithm Works for Feed Posts in 2021

According to Instagram, there are 6 key factors that influence the Instagram algorithm for feed posts:

  1. Interest
  2. Relationship
  3. Timeliness
  4. Frequency
  5. Following
  6. Usage

1. Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post

When the algorithmic timeline was announced, Instagram mentioned that it shows you content that you’re likely to be interested in first:

“The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”

Instagram looks at your past activity to gauge your potential interest. So, if there’s a certain genre of content that you engage with more frequently (e.g., food), Instagram might rank content in that genre (e.g., food, restaurants, etc.) higher on your feed.

An Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider that ranking of Instagram posts is not a popularity contest. Posts with less engagement that are more relevant to you can still appear right at the top of your feed.

This is why consistently showing up on Instagram is so important.

It sends positive signals to the Instagram algorithm — and gives your audience more opportunities to interact with your content.

TIP: Use a scheduling tool to plan and schedule all of your Instagram posts, captions, and hashtags in advance so you can be more consistent with your posting strategy.

2.Relationships: The Instagram algorithm wants to prioritise posts the accounts that you care about

So in order for Instagram to show you what you want, the algorithm uses your interactions to piece together who is closest to you.

Thomas Dimson, a software engineer at Instagram, shared how Instagram could theoretically figure out who you care about the most, based on how you use the app:

  • Owners of the content you like (possibly including stories and live videos)
  • Who you direct message
  • People you search for
  • People you know in real life

Instagram will try to calculate this relationship (and your interest level) as soon as you follow someone by serving you their content and monitoring how you engage with it.

If you’re running a brand account like our profile – Vindicta Digital, you’re probably not close friends with all of your followers. But if you have a loyal audience that engages a lot with your content, the algorithm will recognise and reward this.

3. Timeliness: Instagram wants us to see the posts from a profile that we care about the most.

The Instagram Algorithm also assumes that the most recent posts are most important to people. While Instagram insists that all posts do, at some

The Instagram algorithm also assumes that the most recent posts are most important to people. While Instagram insists that all posts do, at some point, show up in a user’s feed, newer posts are often ranked higher in the newsfeed than older ones.

For brands, that means one of the easiest ways to improve your Instagram reach is posting when your audience is online.

Tip: Check your Instagram analytics and times in which your audience is the most engaging. 

4. Frequency: How often a user opens Instagram

Every time a user opens up the app, the Instagram algorithm tries to show the best posts since their last visit.

If you open Instagram once daily, you see the posts that Instagram’s algorithm feels are the most relevant for that day. However, if you open Instagram hourly, the app tries to show you the most relevant content you haven’t seen before.

5. Following: Content from all accounts a user follows

If you follow thousands of accounts on Instagram, the algorithm must sort through more content in order to decide what to show you each time you open up the app. This means users who follow large numbers of people might see less from each individual account, whereas users who follow just a few select accounts are likely to see more from their closest friends or favourite accounts.

6. Usage: How long a user spends on Instagram

Whether a user tends to browse Instagram in short bursts or longer sessions can also affect what the algorithm shows. If a user prefers short visits on Instagram, the algorithm ensures it shows the most relevant posts first, whereas, for users who prefer longer browsing sessions, it may provide a deeper catalogue of fresh content to browse.


Instagram algorithm and Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories that appear first in a users feed are from accounts they engage with most. Comments, likes, and DMs all count toward your place in a user’s feed. Users are also shown Stories by location, which is why using location hashtags in Stories is becoming more common.

The more people engage with your brand through Stories, the more likely they’ll be to see your updates every time you post. Knowing this, you’ll want to consistently post Stories to reach people as they open their Instagram account.

How the Instagram algorithm works for Instagram Reels and IGTV

The algorithm for video content like Reels and IGTV is similar to the algorithm for the Instagram feed. Your content shows to people who interact with your account the most.

To increase visibility for your Reels, share them to your feed first and include hashtags. Instagram tends to boost discoverability for new features, so you’ll want to jump on a Reels strategy as soon as possible.

TIP: To extend the reach for an IGTV video, share a preview to your Instagram feed to increase exposure.

The Instagram algorithm may change, but building relationships doesn’t

If you want to get the most out of Instagram, it’s not enough to fixate only on publishing content regularly. Instead, it’s essential that you also focus on overall relationship building and high-quality content while engaging with Instagram users outside of your posts and on them.

Instagram algorithm changes will always happen. But if marketers are willing to change with them, you’ll find surprising new ways to reach your intended audience.

Need help with Managing your Social Media?

Contact our team for a consultation today.

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