The Mighty And Ever-Changing Instagram Algorithm
Jonathan Rodriguez
May 27, 2021

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Instagram has an ever-changing algorithm that never remains the same. One day, you might have to start using different hashtags. The next day, you might have to start using some of their new features to take advantage of the algorithm. It seems that there will never be a set algorithm for Instagram 

To prepare for any changes to the Instagram algorithm, you must always keep up with any changes to it and any updates they might have for you. From there, you can plan accordingly to ensure that your posts reach and engage your target audience.  

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A Complex Algorithm

A common acknowledgment amongst many people who are involved in the marketing field is that Instagram’s algorithm is very dynamic in that it never says the same for too long. One strategy might work one month, then the next it’s a different strategy to accommodate the changes in Instagram’s algorithm. To better understand this complex algorithm that Instagram uses, let’s dive into the brief but constantly changing history.

Instagram started to implement the use of an algorithm way back in 2016. The reason they decided to implement an algorithm was that they found out that users were missing out on 70% of posts and up to 50% of their friends’ posts. This was troubling because one of the main uses of Instagram is to keep tabs on friends’ lives.

Since they’ve implemented the algorithm, social media posts have become catered towards each individual user. The algorithm pushes specific posts via 6 rankings signals. The rankings signals are interest, timeliness, relationship, following, frequency, and usage.

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What Are Instagram’s Ranking Signals?

To fully understand Instagram’s complex algorithm, you have to learn about its ranking signals. What are ranking signals you ask? Well, ranking signals are what tells the Instagram algorithm how to push forward a post to the audience. For example, if you like fitness-based posts, chances are that Instagram will likely feature fitness posts on your for you page. The way it comes to this conclusion is because you have presented a known interest in fitness-related posts. Let’s dive a bit deeper into each of Instagram’s Ranking Signals. 


The first ranking signal for Instagram seems to always be interesting. Believe it or not, your feed is not just made up of posts from the people you follow. It is also made of posts that you might like as well. The algorithm works to push some posts to you that you might enjoy and possibly end up following those accounts. For example, football fans will likely get football-based posts since they have a proven track record of liking various football-related posts. 


An obvious ranking signal that the Instagram algorithm utilizes is the timeliness of any social post. What this means is that newer and more recent posts are ranked higher than older and previously posted posts. Instagram says that all posts end up in a person’s feed, but more recent ones are ranked higher than the older ones. 

What this means is that people and businesses can try and time their posts if they want to reach more of their target audience. To better plan a social post, businesses should research when their target audience is most active during the day to ensure that their target posts reach them promptly. 


An integral ranking signal for Instagram’s algorithm is the relationship between a business and its users. To better understand what Instagram means by that, let’s dive a little deeper into the details with an example. Say you’re a business that deals with homemade baked treats. You post a picture of some cookies you’ve baked and designed on your feed. Next thing you know, you get a couple of likes on that post as well as some new followers. 

Now, every time you post, those posts are more likely to reach those people who’ve liked and followed your account since you have a “relationship” with them. People who’ve shown that they like the content that your brand posts, are more likely to receive more in the future. 


Your following and the people you follow play a role in Instagram’s algorithm. On the brand side, if you have a lot of followers, but many of them have been inactive for a while now, then Instagram might rank your account lower than others. This is where you should take the initiative to remove any ghost or inactive followers as they can have a negative impact on your brand ranking. 

On the other hand, Instagram will send you posts based on the people you follow. The more businesses or people you follow, the more options that Instagram has to send posts your way. The people you follow reflect the types of posts that you see on your feed. 


Another ranking signal that Instagram’s algorithm utilizes is the frequency of when you log in and view your posts. If you are the type of person who goes through your Instagram feed every 30 minutes, then chances are likely that posts that are targeting you are likely to reach you.

This is in contrast to if you are the type of person who checks their Instagram feed maybe once or twice a day. At this point, instead of a more chronological order, the Instagram algorithm will recommend posts that it thinks you will like. So if a business was targeting you with a social post, then you are less likely to see it than if you frequently log in and view your feed. 


Your Instagram usage is also another ranking signal for the algorithm. If you frequently are on Instagram and refreshing your feed, you will get new content to look at, but eventually, the algorithm might run out of posts to recommend for you. From there, the Instagram algorithm goes through new accounts and recommends their posts to you.

If you’re on Instagram less frequently, then you will likely see only some daily highlights when you do check on the few times that you do.

Instagram utilizes many ranking signals to help its algorithm send content to any of the relevant users. As a business, you need to understand the algorithm so you can take advantage of it to create and send content that will reach your target audience instead of it just getting lost among the other social media posts. 

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Quick Tips To Improve Brand Ranking On Instagram

The Instagram algorithm, like other social media platforms, can help or not help your business in terms of reaching and engaging with your target audience. Here are some quick tips to improve your brand’s ranking on Instagram. 

Time Your Posts 

Time your posts just right to ensure that they reach most of your target audience at that right time. Knowing when your audience is active and using Instagram can help ensure that your content gets to them so they can view it. 

Start Using Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels is a still relatively new feature that Instagram announced last August 2020. Your brand should look into using this feature since Instagram is trying to get more people to use it. To sort of incentivize users into using it, Instagram seems to be boosting reels on their algorithm.

Some brands like the NFL have experienced a much higher engagement rate posting on Instagram Reels than with their traditional feed videos. Although posting on Reels isn’t a guaranteed way to improve your brand’s ranking, you should look into utilizing it with future content. 

Utilize the Right Hashtags 

Every time you post something on Instagram, you are likely using hashtags at the bottom of your caption. The thing to keep in mind is that you can’t just use random hashtags. You need to take the time to research hashtags that are relevant to your niche and use them selectively in each of your posts. This can help drive more organic traffic to your brand than just using hashtags that cast a wide net and not get much engagement for your posts. 

Engage With Your Audience

One simple thing you can start doing today for your brand is to begin engaging with your audience. You can work on responding to comments and questions or just actively engage with your current followers if the opportunity arises. You can also respond to DMs and create posts asking your audience a question. This nurtures that brand loyalty to your business and can help improve your brand’s Instagram rankings as well.

The Instagram algorithm seems to always be changing, and that is still the case in 2021 and possibly will be the case in the foreseeable future. That is why it is recommended to stay up-to-date with any changes in the algorithm to ensure that your brand is ready to adapt to any changes Instagram might have made to its algorithm.

Who knows, there might be a new feature to start using or certain hashtags might become hidden. Perform the necessary research so that your brand doesn’t fall behind and best prepare your social posts for success within the Instagram algorithm.  

Here at WunderTRE, we strive to make businesses better market themselves. Contact us here today so we can get started with helping you. 

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