How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work in 2024?

With its engaging layout and visual appeal — not to mention its ubiquity — Instagram is essential to any marketing strategy. But in order to be effective, you need to understand the latest updates, including how to make the most of the Instagram algorithm. 

For example, the introduction of Instagram Reels — vertical, TikTok-like videos that are attention-grabbing and easily shareable — was a significant platform update. Instagram has also successfully narrowed the distance between browsing and shopping, adding a shopping bag icon that allows viewers to seamlessly make a purchase when they see something they like on the app. 

Since the Instagram algorithm prioritizes new and popular features, it’s critical brands implement them. If users aren’t keeping up with these features, they’re missing out on a significant amount of engagement and growth on the platform. 

Here, we’ll walk through the algorithm, how the Instagram algorithm works, and how you can make the most out of your experience on the platform. 

What Is the Instagram Algorithm?

What exactly is the Instagram algorithm? As put by Professor Jory Denny, an algorithm is “a series of instructions telling a computer how to transform a set of facts about the world into useful information.” 

For this specific platform, the Instagram algorithm is a set of instructions that translate the type of content you’re interested in. The goal of this algorithm is to keep you on the Instagram platform, so it wants to provide you with content similar to the content you’ve already shown interest in. 

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?

In Instagram’s own words, there is no monolithic algorithm. Instead, Instagram uses “a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”

Back in 2010, Instagram was a photo-focused platform that chronologically delivered content to users. But as Instagram’s popularity exploded, users were missing a majority of the posts in their Feeds. To fix this problem, Instagram created its algorithm, which shows users the most relevant content.

Since then, the platform has undergone several changes, including Instagram’s video-forward initiative and algorithm updates. While this information is great, you may be wondering: how does the Instagram algorithm work today

Instagram uses an array of what they call “signals” to determine what you see on your page, including: 

  • The time a post is shared. 
  • Your previous engagement on the platform. 
  • Whether or not you’ve interacted with the user who posted the content before. 

Instagram gives these factors (and many more) different weights, which it then uses to make predictions based on whether you will like something. Each section of the app — the Feed, Stories, Reels, and Explore — has its own algorithm to provide you with content since these sections all have (somewhat) different purposes. 

What Is the Explore Page?

While Feed and Stories are usually filled with posts from people you know and sponsored ads, Explore promotes photos and Reels from people you likely don’t follow. As the name suggests, Instagram wants you to explore new content and find new users to interact with. 

It’s set up in a visually appealing, endless-scrolling grid format to encourage users to keep looking for interesting content. 

Instagram Algorithm for the Feed and Stories

Feed and Stories both typically show people you follow and advertisements, so this algorithm factors in: 

  • Information about the content — like whether you’ve liked videos by this maker in the past and how long it is — which helps the algorithm estimate how appealing it will be to you
  • Information about the content’s maker, like how many users have interacted with them recently and whether or not you’ve interacted with them before 
  • Your general activity as a user, including the posts you’ve liked, commented on, and shared

Instagram Algorithm for the Explore Tab

While the function of the Explore tab is to give you a broader view of content on the platform, the more specific the content you watch in Explore — say, about Hollywood gossip — the more of that niche content you will be served. Follow one insider gossip account, and others will appear on your page. 

Essentially, the Explore algorithm considers the content you’ve engaged with in the past and provides you with something similar. 

Instagram Algorithm for Reels

The Reels algorithm functions somewhere in between the Explore tab and your general Feed, aiming to capture your attention for the entire span of the video production. When it comes to Reels on the platform, Instagram wants to show you videos from people you follow while also showing you new, relevant content. 

10 Tips To Rank Your Instagram Videos and Get More Views

The Instagram video algorithm works hard to make sure viewers are connected with relevant content. You can make the most of it with best practices, including: 

Tip #1: Post Consistently 

The Instagram algorithms take previous posts into consideration, so you’ll need to build up a positive record on the platform. Consistently present yourself as an authority in your field, so if someone is following one account in a similar niche or location, the algorithm will direct them to you.

Tip #2: Stay on Trend

When considering your content, Forbes recommends asking: “Is it relatable? Is it entertaining? And is it trendy?”. Use social media trends as opportunities to connect with your audience. On Instagram, this might look like taking part in a dance challenge, utilizing a trending hashtag, or putting your own spin on a popular audio. 

Tip #3: Use Analytics to Optimize Your Content 

Gain insight into how your posts are performing by keeping track of your Instagram analytics. You can learn what your audience likes the most, what content can be replaced, and what time your posts perform best. Once you have these (and other) insights, you can optimize your content to share posts your audience is more likely to engage with. 

Tip #4: Be Concise 

While Reels can be up to 90 seconds, many don’t need to be. Social media video posts that are as short as 3 seconds long have success across different platforms. Use the time you need to effectively tell your story, but don’t use more time than necessary.  

According to Hootsuite, the ideal length for an Instagram Reel is 15 seconds. But this number won’t work for every business — you’ll want to test video content to find what works best for your audience. 

Tip #5: Use Humor

In the words of Cosmo Brown, “Make ‘em laugh.” Many people are on social media for entertainment, so getting your message across depends on making it an enjoyable watch. Plus, funny video content is more likely to be shared between friends, family, and peers, increasing your chances of even more brand awareness. 

Tip #6: Post Authentic Content 

User-generated content (UGC) — or content that at least feels user-generated — can create an immediate connection with your audience and build trust. Since social media algorithms promote content between users already engaged with one another, you’ll want to use this opportunity to connect with as many users as possible. 

Tip #7: Natively Share Content 

Native content refers to content specifically made for a platform. When creating content, you’ll need to keep the video requirements in mind, including the Instagram video ad specs. Native content can help your brand reach a wider audience and increase engagement by looking like it was meant specifically for Instagram — because it was! 

Tip #8: Engage with Your Audience

Simply posting on the platform isn’t enough. You’ll need to engage with your audience by responding to comments on your posts, commenting on other users’ posts, and more. You can also use platform-specific features like questions and polls in Instagram Stories to encourage participation and engagement from your audience. 

The more connected you are on the platform, the more likely the algorithm will promote your posts. 

Tip #9: Utilize Different Features

A comprehensive Instagram marketing strategy should include static posts, Reels, and Instagram Stories to connect with your audience. Each feature can provide your brand with certain benefits, so be sure to (at least) test them out. While you might not use every single element of the platform, many will help you more effectively reach your audience. 

Tip #10: Understand Your Audience

You’ll need to understand your audience to effectively connect with them. Who are they? What are their interests? Are they shopping on the platform? 

On Instagram, the majority of users are between 18 and 34, but you still have the opportunity to connect with other age groups. The more information you have about your audience, the more you’ll be able to create content that effectively connects with them. 

Make Instagram Videos at Scale

Any influencer can tell you that mastering the Instagram algorithm requires quality and quantity. No matter the size of your marketing team, working with video makers and production teams can help you make the most of your video marketing strategy

At QuickFrame by MNTN, we connect you with leading teams from around the world to create the video you need to stand out. As a Meta partner, the QuickFrame team understands best practices across the platform and can help you make the most of your video marketing budget. 

From Instagram Reels to video content for your website, our end-to-end video production platform enables you to create video content for every platform and objective.

Contact us today to learn more about Instagram video production.

Instagram Algorithm: Final Thoughts

In the latest updates, Instagram is giving people more control over what content they see, especially on their Explore pages. With this refinement on the user side of the platform and content created specifically for your target audience, the Instagram algorithm will be able to put your content in front of the people most likely to engage with it. 

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