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In a recent post Instagram executive Adam Mosseri the Head of Instagram finally “shed more light” on how the IG algorithms work. The address was long overdue. Now marketers and content creators can start focusing on creating quality, entertaining content for their target consumers and audiences. This recent post on Instagram’s website is one of the first official in depth looks into how the Instagram ‘s algorithms work.

We reviewed the announcement and have a few social media marketing takeaways for brands to consider.

Instagram Algorithm

How the Instagram Algorithm works with Feed and Stories Content:

Interactivity is Key

Interactivity is and has always been a driving factor for getting more “organic” reach with your Instagram content. As we addressed in The Difference Between Engagement and Interactivity, engagement and interactivity with your content can determine its organic reach on the social media app.

“In Feed, the five interactions we look at most closely are how likely you are to spend a few seconds on a post, comment on it, like it, save it, and tap on the profile photo. The more likely you are to take an action, and the more heavily we weigh that action, the higher up you’ll see the post”

What this means for Marketers: Creating content that focuses on soliciting engagement and interaction is important if you plan on executing your social media marketing strategy on Instagram. 10 Ways to encourage Interactivity on social media

Instagram Users Matter More than YOU

Users’ behavior on the app will determine if they see your content. Who they follow, content they like and save, will drive what the IG algorithms show them in their feed and stories. 

What this means for Marketers: Your activity on Instagram should not be your focus. It is THEIR activity and engagement not yours – focus on creating content for your ideal consumer/audience. Spend time engaging with your ideal community but don’t obsess over it. There is no magic formula of commenting on 10 posts and liking 20 before you share new content on the app. So stop wasting time and start focusing on your intended audience. 

Timing and Frequency of Your Posts Make a Difference to the Instagram Algorithms

Instagram mentioned that timing matters but so does frequency. Make sure you are sharing content when your users are on the app, and spreading out your content.

“We avoid showing too many posts from the same person in a row.” 

What this means for Marketers: If you have some great new Feed content, stories or reels to share, pump the breaks! Schedule it out so it does not overlap. Less is more in this case. If you need to, save things as drafts and share later, or schedule them in Creator Studio (LINK) for publication at an optimal time and frequency. 

How the Instagram Algorithm works in the Explore Feature

Instagram Users Matter More than YOU

Again, it is all about the user—not you! 

What this means for Marketers: Creating content specifically for your target audience will go a long way. Stop focusing on reach and vanity metrics and focus on providing your target consumer value in what you share. That is what will drive organic reach AND conversions. 

Instagram says it looks at “what posts you’ve (the user) liked, saved, and commented on in the past. We then look at who else likes Cathay’s photos, and then what other accounts those people are interested in.”

Interactivity and Engagement Matter 

“The best way to guess how interested you are in something is to predict how likely you are to do something with the post,” i.e. how you engage and interact with the content.” Just like we mentioned before with feed content, your ability to be discovered in the Explore feature is heavily determined by how much users engage with your content.

What this means for Marketers: In other words, create content for driving user engagement and interaction, such as likes, saves, comments and shares. Include call-to-action asks for engagement in your captions and videos.

Content Popularity Contest 

Unfortunately, Instagram made it clear in their announcement that organic discoverability still weighs heavily on vanity metrics. Meaning the more engaged your content gets, the more people see it. This also means people can still buy their way into authentic engagement and benefit in reach. However, this does not mean they will benefit or see a ROI if they go this route.

What this means for Marketers: Post popularity is determined by likes, saves, shares and comments. As noted above, creating content with calls to action soliciting that kind of activity helps elicit engagement.

How the Instagram Algorithm works with Reels Content

Make it Entertaining

Instagram says Reels should be aimed at being entertaining. Focusing on content entertaining to your target audience is a major factor into organic reach in Reels. Quality of the video and audio content also matters, so no more “just showing up.” Save that for stories.

What this means for Marketers: Look for ways to entertain your target audience. Grab their attention and focus. Hold their attention to the end. Just like everything else, what the user finds entertaining is what is most important so don’t just look to trends when creating reels.

Past Interactions of the User Matter

Instagram says, “Much like Explore, the majority of what you see is from accounts you don’t follow. So we go through a very similar process where we first source reels we think you might like, and then order them based on how interesting we think they are to you.”  View completions, likes, audio saves, are some of the key factors in determining what new reels are sourced for users.

What this means for Marketers: Look for creative ways of mixing original audio and trends. Get users to the end of your videos, tell them to read more and leave comments. 

Overarching themes of the Algorithms:

Overall the Instagram “algorithms” focus on the same things:

This makes it increasingly important for marketers to find ways of creating content strategies that focus on the following:

This is not too far off of what social media marketers already know, but we are hopeful this announcement will help debunk some of the crazy content theories on the platforms. If you have fallen victim to the “10 posts, 20 likes and 3 saves,” or whatever other content sharing engagement formula there is out there, you can stop now. 

No, seriously! You’re wasting your time.

Like all great marketing efforts, focusing on your target audience and consumer will result in a ROI. Too often we see brands getting stuck in the mud of algorithm theories that simply don’t work. Focus on your audience; their problems; and how your product, service or content can provide a solution. 

Instagram also addressed the controversial topic of Shadowbanning. Read more on that here: Shadowbanning on Instagram

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