• Chrissy

Understanding the Instagram Algorithm in 2021

The Instagram algorithm is like marmite it can be so LOVE or HATE depending on how you use it! This blog will make you understand how the algorithm works in 2021 but also how you can make it LOVE you and therefore help you GROW on Instagram!

I am going to cover what type of engagement is important - what Instagram looks for to understand you and your page to therefore share it to relevant audiences - how you can share content to BOOST your ranking in the algorithm AND how your every day use of Instagram can effect how you grow.

The algorithm can be broken down into 6 key essential elements:

  1. Interest

  2. Relationships

  3. Time

  4. Frequency

  5. Following

  6. Use

So... let's look at these in more detail

Instagram doesn't just look at how people interact with your content - it also looks at what content YOU interact with.

What type of posts do you / and have you liked?

What content do you engage with?

What shows up in your feed is based on your behaviour that the algorithm is noticing. You will see the accounts you interact with more, the people who you are tagged in photos with, the types of posts you comment and like often...

Therefore posting on Instagram is important yes but engaging frequently is just as important as it will send positive waves to the algorithm, boosting your content views and so encouraging more people to engage on your content.

So... what engagement does Instagram see as the most important?

That being said we then need to understand what type of engagement is the most important to make the most of the above tip! Instagram views the following as the highest level of engagement:





Encouraging users to do the following with your content is important but also doing the same to other accounts content will be beneficial to your standing in the algorithm too!

One of the most recent changes in the algorithm is Instagram prioritising accounts that mean something to you - for example friends and family. This change came after Instagram had numerous complaints of individuals feeds being bombarded with advertisements.

How can we use this to our advantage?

Simple - Instagram will see your 'close' accounts as those that you message and interact with. So again, it's about your personal engagement with other accounts on Instagram.

This includes -

Who you direct message with

What accounts posts you like, comment and engage with

People you search for on Instagram

Keep that in mind when you are on Instagram. Meaningful engagement is SO important and making sure YOU have that relationship with your audience so that they want to engage and speak with you too is just as important in the new algorithm.

Factor number 3 - time!

Now by this what I mean is that the algorithm on Instagram views yes how much engagement you get but it also views how long ago the post was added. This is because Instagram wants to serve you the latest most up to date content at that time!

Now this is where it leads me nicely on to ..... INSIGHTS

Because Instagram wants to show the greatest and latest at all times, make sure YOU post when YOUR audience is most active! That way you will be the latest and greatest for the algorithm to serve.

To do this you want to make sure you have a business or creator account on Instagram (go into the settings to change this if you are not). You will then get an insights tab for you to look at!! Make sure you use this!

Within here you can actually go on per day and see within each day of the week what times exactly your audience are most active - YAY!

If you post when your following is most active you automatically start your post off with it's best chance to get the most engagement and to get the most new followers.

The next point here doesn't just relate to how frequently you post to Instagram, although that is very important for the algorithm, it also looks at how often do you open the Instagram app? How often do you look through your timeline?

If you scroll through frequently during the day your timeline will tend to look more chronological as it is often showing you the latest and newest posts.

However, if you don't scroll through very regularly then you will notice less of a chronological order on your time line and more so what Instagram thinks is the most relevant within the latest for you.

In terms of boosting your personal engagement through frequency, the more often you post, the more often the algorithm will boost your content. Simple. We have mentioned already that Instagram wants to share the latest and greatest - therefore if you remain the latest and greatest by posting frequently you will continuously be seen!

By following here I don't actually mean your personal number of followers. I am referring to who are YOU following?

If you follow a large number of accounts the likelihood is you won't see most of them very often in your feed as Instagram has more to choose from on who is the most relevant to you and, again, the latest and greatest to send you!

A note that is important and ever so growing is checking your following for any bot accounts. By a bot account I essentially mean a fake account that has no profile picture, no posts and are technically "ghost" accounts. These can in fact damage your place in the algorithm so it is worth while checking for these and in fact removing them if they are following you.

Another worth while hack is regularly going through to see if there are inactive accounts and seeing if they are following you and you're following them. Again, if a large percentage of your following is inactive then this can damage your place in the algorithm.

Last but not least my lovelies is USE.

How often do you USE Instagram?

The algorithm will share content to you depending on how often you use the platform. Meaning that if you use it often you will regularly get NEW content shared to you and even content from NEW accounts suggested for you! The more you use Instagram essentially the deeper into the algorithm you go!

That is it for that - simple but very effective! If you LOVE Instagram and use it often - it will LOVE you back!


Now - what about Instagram stories?

Typically the accounts that appear at the front of your stories are those that you engage with the most!

Again, like the timeline process - Instagram puts a large focus on timeliness and providing you with the latest content. Therefore even if you have viewed the entire story from the day before of an account but they most one more story - they will still come back to the front of your row (as seen above).

Meaning it is super important to continuously and regularly post to your Instagram story to keep getting bumped back up to the front!

Therefore by posting to your stories regularly you have more chance of being seen! The more you get seen, the better your ranking will be.


What about the explore page?

The explore page essentially shows you content mainly entirely from new accounts!

The algorithm for this works very similarly to the algorithm that controls what is shown on your feed and how your posts are shown on feeds. They both essentially deliver content that Instagram sees are relevant and interesting to you.

Now... because you can actually search for keywords in the explore page and this will show up images matching those terms - this suggests that the explore page takes into account much more than just engagement and relevancy. It also recognises what is in your image and relates this back to keywords that are searched.

Essentially the explore page is there to serve people the best and most relevant content to what they seem to be interested in. So by sharing great content, using relevant hashtags, using strong engaging captions, you are already contributing towards being shown on the explore page!

To find out if your post has been onto the explore page simply go onto your post - view the post insights and you will see where the reach on your post has come from!


Finally, how does the algorithm work for IGTV and reels?

So, for IGTV and reel content Instagram again will always prioritise the content seen as most relevant by prioritising content from accounts that you interact with and engage with most often.

Instagram will also serve IGTV videos and reels in the explore feature. Again this is based on what Instagram thinks is most relevant and most enjoyed by you.

TRICK - How to get yours seen!

You want to give them as much of a helping hand as possible. To do this make sure you always share the preview of the IGTV to your feed when you share a new video. This will increase their initial exposure and boost them up in the algorithm!

Make sure with reels you always share them to your page AND include relevant hashtags to boost their visibility.


Some final tips to boost that engagement and your ranking in the algorithm!

1. Utilise any new features that Instagram bring out. For example reels!

2. Encourage engagement through interactive stories with polls, emoji sliders, question stickers etc.

3. Encourage engagement on your posts by including questions and interactive captions!

4. Review your hashtags - what ones are you using? are they still relevant? Try searching for a hashtag you like and see what other ones are suggested. See what other accounts are using. Keep your research on hashtags fresh! This will massively help boost your visibility.

5. Share your own content! If you add a new reel then share it to your stories - same with a post and a new post sticker! Be your own best asset!

6. Utilise your DMs. Stay on top of them. Communicate with your audience! Instagram will boost you in their algorithm!

7. Always review your Instagram insights to keep on top of what your audience are doing and how they interact with you.


I hope you enjoyed that blog and found it helpful!! Please do SHARE the blog and give it a LIKE if you did!

Check out my YouTube channel for more content on how to grow on Instagram and some tricks and hacks - as well as home decor shopping!

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