To get the most from any social media platform, it’s important to understand how each of the algorithm’s work – because it’s these algorithms that decide which content gets seen and which content does not.
As each social media platform develops, the algorithms change and with the explosion of new Instagram features over the last few years, the Instagram algorithm is always changing, so we’ve put together some tips to optimise your Instagram reach in 2021.
How the Instagram algorithm works
Every time someone opens the app, the Instagram algorithm combs through all available content and decides:
- Which posts go to the top of the feed and in which order
- Which posts are featured on the explore tab
- Which order stories, live videos, reels and IGTV video shows up
But how does the Instagram algorithm decide whether a piece of content is worth showing to a particular person at any given time?
Basically, it looks at the user’s past behaviour, sweeps all the available posts or pieces of content, and then evaluates each one to predict how interesting it is to that user. The most interesting content goes to the top.
To do this, it considers thousands of individual data points, which are also known as ranking signals.
Instagram ranking signals that you can control
The ranking signals fall under three main categories:
- Relationship – there is an assumption that people who have interacted with your account in the past will be interested in your content. It evaluates your relationship by looking for:
- Do you follow each other?
- Have they searched for you by name?
- Have you messaged each other or left comments?
- Have you tagged each other in posts?
- Do they save your photos?
As a business account, if you have an audience that is loyal and consistently engaging with your content, the algorithm will recognise that. In other words, quality content and engagement are key to improving your Instagram reach.
- Timeliness – there is also an assumption that your most recent posts are most important to people. While it’s believed that all posts do at some point show up in a user’s feed, newer posts often rank higher in the newsfeeds than older posts.
One of the easiest ways to improve your Instagram reach is to post consistently and aim to post when your audience is online. To reach a consumer audience, data suggests that’s Wednesdays and Fridays, between 8am-10am, noon and 7pm-9pm.
- Interest – The algorithm’s job is to give the people what they want (or a healthy mix of what they want plus some new related content).
By tracking user affinity and being very good at understanding what is in a given photo or video, Instagram knows how to get your posts to more people that are interested in your market.
This means that to get your content in front of the right people, it needs to be truly appealing to your target audience. By taking a customer-centric approach, you’ll be able to tell a story – which is what matters to people on social media.
Instagram ranking signals that you can’t control
There are three other factors that will affect your organic reach, but they have more to do with your audience’s behaviour than yours:
- Frequency of use: If you have followers who open their feeds 12 times a day, they’re more likely to see your post than people who check Instagram twice a day. People who don’t open the app frequently end up with a backlog of content built up and therefore rely more heavily on the algorithm to select what they see.
- Following: This logic is similar to the above: people who follow 1000 accounts miss more posts than those who follow 100 accounts.
- Session time: If your followers spend a lot of quality time with their feed, they’re also more likely to see every post available.
With more than 1 billion monthly users of Instagram worldwide, spending time optimising your social media profiles is well worth the effort.
By prioritising quality, customer-centric content and regularly engaging with your social platforms, you’ll improve your chances of increasing your brand visibility and being seen by more potential prospects.