how does the IG algorithm work?

Ever since Instagram changed the way they display content to the users back in 2016, the way the IG algorithm works has been a hot topic of discussion amongst influencers, marketers, and online business owners.

As the algorithm evolves, many marketing tips and strategies that worked before do not work today. This can be very frustrating for anyone trying to grow on Instagram.

By learning how Instagram’s algorithm works, you will be able to explore the great possibilities of the platform by creating great engaging content with organic traffic.

Table of Contents

  1. How Does The Instagram Algorithm Actually Work?
  2. Which Factors Affect The Instagram Algorithm?
  3. Conclusion

How Does The Instagram Algorithm Actually Work?

The Instagram algorithm is quite advanced and relies on multiple factors. It decides when and who sees the content you share and shows the most relevant content for you on your feed, Instagram Stories, IGTV, and Reels.

So, how does it work?

The algorithm shows your latest post to a small group of your followers and measures how fast and how many of your followers engage with your new post. Then, it compares the engagement received on your recent posts to the engagement rate of your past posts – the better the engagement on your recent posts the higher the reach you are most likely to get. The more people see your new post, the bigger the chance to get to the Explore page of Instagram.

Of course, it is more complicated than it sounds as the algorithm is always learning and trying to improve.

Which Factors Affect The Instagram Algorithm?

Everything you see on your Instagram feed and Explore page is a combination of your behaviors on the platform. Even the Sponsored posts (ads) you encounter while scrolling are personalized to match your interests.

The algorithm will show you more of the content you engage with and especially posts from the accounts you interact with the most. This also includes the accounts you follow and similar content to the posts you have liked or commented on before.

So, which factors affect the Instagram algorithm the most?

#1 Your Instagram Feed


By now you should know that the Instagram algorithm is based on your interests.

If Instagram users have enjoyed certain types of posts in the past, the algorithm will make sure to show them similar posts in the future. In addition, if the algorithm thinks that you will like a specific type of content, it will most likely appear in your Instagram feed under Suggested posts.

On the other hand, if you keep seeing content that does not interest you, you can simply mark it as ‘Not Interested’ and you will get fewer posts of this specific type.

Related: Read next – 7 MUST-Read Instagram Tips to get better at Instagram.


The algorithm’s goal is to serve the user only the best and most relevant content. So it makes sense to include the content from other Instagram users that you interact with and care about.

User interactions in the form of likes, comments, story views, and DMs are also important indicators for the content you see on your Instagram feed.

The algorithm also pays attention to the following interactions:

• People you send a Direct Message to
• People you search for
• People you tag

The algorithms also prioritize content with a high engagement rate. However, the most important engagement options for feed raking are:

• For image content – comments, likes, reshares
• For video content – comment, views, likes, reshares

So, it is not about how many followers one account has. It is about the connections you make and the content you create.

Post Time

The time when your post was first uploaded is another important thing that the Instagram algorithm takes into consideration. Instagram wants to show its users the latest and most relevant posts, which means that newer posts have a higher chance of reaching more people compared to posts that are on the platform for a long period of time.

By looking at Instagram analytics and the best time to post on the platform, you will make sure that your post reaches the most people in order to get more likes, comments, and followers.

The more engagement your post receives in terms of likes, comments, shares (DMs), saves, and followers, the more visible it will become. If the engagement rate of your post is good, your post might eventually get to the Explore page of other Instagram users who might be interested in your content.

However, the lifespan of an IG post is relatively short. Most of the time, users will get most of their engagement within the first two days after the post was initially uploaded. This is not a general rule because my own experience has shown me that a post might reach the Explore page days after it was uploaded for the first time. Needless to say, this is rare and most Instagram posts would not get to that point. This is one of the reasons why consistency is key on the platform.

Frequency & Other Factors

If you spend a lot of time on Instagram, your feed will have a more chronological look. You will still see the top-performing content first but you might also see more posts from your followers, including underperforming ones. When there are no new posts to discover, Instagram will show you Suggested Posts. These posts are based on your interests and the content you enjoyed in the past.

If you spend less time on the app, Instagram will show you the highlights of your followers’ posts. The algorithm will show the most popular and top-performing posts since the last time you have opened the app. Your feed will be sorted into posts that the algorithm thinks you will like and want to see.

Another factor that might have an impact on the content you see on your feed is the follower count. The number of people you follow as well as the number of followers these people have will play a small role in the content you see in your feed. For example, if you follow celebrities who have a lot of followers and decent post engagement, you are more likely to see their recent posts compared to accounts you have fewer followers and you rarely interact with.

Related: Read more about Instagram here

#2 Your Explore Page


The Explore page of Instagram is personalized to show relevant and popular content based on every individuals’ interests, similar to the Instagram feed. So, the Instagram algorithm delivers content to users’ Explore page based on past behavior and content interactions. But unlike the content you see in your feed, the posts on the Explore page are from new accounts that you are not following.

#3 Instagram Stories, IGTV & Reels


The way the Instagram algorithm shows stories and video content such as IGTV and Reels is similar to the way it shows content in your feed. It prioritizes accounts that you engage with the most while it also takes into consideration when the content was posted. New stories, Reels, and IGTV from accounts you engage with on a regular basis will appear first in your feed.


Okay, so how does this help?

Well, from everything mentioned above, it is safe to say that while there are no general rules, there are patterns that we can recognize and use in order to grow on the platform.

If you want to take full advantage of the opportunities Instagram has to offer, you need to post at the best time when your followers are most active. This will help you maximize the engagement of your recent post and hopefully, your content will get more reach and even appear on the Explore page of other Instagram users.

It is important to understand how the Instagram algorithm works today in order to find a strategy that delivers results. However, keep in mind that it is always changing. What works today, might be useless tomorrow. So make sure to pay attention to your audience, content, and overall account. Figure out what works best for you and stick to it!


If you are feeling lost in your Instagram journey, be sure to check my Instagram Guide for 2021

Lastly, make sure to subscribe because every second article is about Instagram. 

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