Instagram Algorithm Hacks, History & Updates

Akanksha Chandan
5 min readMay 13, 2024

A guide to understanding how Instagram prioritizes content and what you can do to get noticed.

Instagram Algorithm

Hitting refresh on your phone only to see the same vacation photos and dance trends? Yeah, me too.

Instagram, once a haven for curated feeds and creative expression, has become a bit of a wild card for creators. The reason? An algorithm that seems to change faster than your favorite celebrity’s hairstyle. This constant evolution leaves many creators feeling frustrated and confused, wondering how to keep their content afloat in the ever-shifting sea of likes and comments. But fear not fellow scrollers! Let’s dive into the frustration and explore why these talented individuals are feeling left on ‘seen.’

What is the Instagram Algorithm?

Instagram, the social media giant known for its visually captivating content, curates your feed through a complex algorithm. This algorithm determines which posts you see first, impacting your reach and engagement. While the specifics remain a bit of a secret (more on that later!), understanding its core principles can significantly boost your Instagram presence.

Why is the Instagram Algorithm a Secret?

Imagine a recipe for the perfect social media experience. If everyone knew the exact ingredients (signals) that make a post successful, it could be easily manipulated. Instagram aims to prevent spam and prioritize genuine content. They also want to stay ahead of the curve, constantly tweaking the algorithm to keep users engaged.

What Does Instagram Really Say About Its Algorithm?

Instagram has shared what factors the Algorithms rely upon. (Source: creators.instagram.com)

As Instagram grew, it became difficult for people to find all of the content they cared about. There was simply too much of it. So we created algorithms to show you what you want when you want it.

But here’s a misunderstood fact: No one algorithm decides what you see, because each part of the app — Feed, Explore, Reels — has its own ranking system based on how you use it.

1. We use signals to rank everything that you see

Across all of Instagram, our algorithm relies on “signals” based on how you interact with the app, and how other people interact with you.

2. As a creator, signals also affect how you appear

How often people see your content is based on what they like, comment on, and even how you tag or format posts. Try these tips to boost yours:

  • Play to your audience and their niche
  • Post in popular formats, such as reels
  • Tag a location
  • Invite people to engage

3. You can secure a spot with the people you love

The way you engage with other creators and followers tells us whose posts you’d like to see. These signals can help your content reach the people who care about it most and make sure that you see the content you care about, too.

Here are a few things to remember when posting

There’s no wrong way to post. But it doesn’t hurt to bear these watch outs in mind:

  • Avoid back-to-back posts to get a better ranking
  • Don’t spread misinformation
  • Make sure that you follow our Community Guidelines

Cracking the Code: Strategies for Beating the New Algorithm

While the specifics might change, some core principles consistently influence the algorithm. Here’s how to create content that resonates:

1. Post Consistently

Regularly publishing fresh content keeps your profile active and reminds your audience about you. Aim for a consistent posting schedule that aligns with your audience’s activity times (Source: Later).

2. Engagement is King

The algorithm prioritizes posts that generate interactions. Encourage engagement by asking questions in your captions, responding to comments, and hosting polls or contests.

3. Using Right Hashtags

Hashtags help users discover your content. Use a mix of popular and niche hashtags relevant to your post. Research tools like Later or Hashtagify.me can help identify strategic hashtags.

4. High-Quality Content Matters

Visual appeal is key on Instagram. Invest in high-quality photos and videos, and experiment with editing tools to create a cohesive aesthetic.

Instagram Algorithm Updates Over the Years

The Instagram algorithm has undergone significant changes since its inception. Here’s a glimpse into some key updates:

  • 2016: Shift from chronological order to a ranked feed based on engagement and relevance.
  • 2018: Increased focus on video content, prioritizing posts with higher watch times.
  • 2020: The rise of Reels! Instagram starts prioritizing short-form video content similar to TikTok.
  • 2022: Focus on user experience. Instagram emphasizes keeping users on the platform by prioritizing content that encourages in-app features like Stories and Live videos.

Decoding the Latest Instagram Algorithm (2024)

While the exact details are undisclosed, some recent trends suggest the algorithm might be prioritizing:

1. Story Views

Ephemeral content like Stories is gaining traction. Engage your audience with interactive polls, quizzes, and Q&A sessions in Stories.

2. Reels Engagement

Reels continue to be a major focus. Experiment with trending audio, transitions, and effects to create captivating reel content.

3. Live Video Power

Instagram Live offers a unique opportunity for real-time interaction with your audience. Go live to host discussions, answer questions, or showcase behind-the-scenes glimpses.

In a recent Tweet, Instagram broke down exactly why you see what you see on the app:

According to Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri, it’s a complex process: “We add and remove signals and predictions over time, working to get better at surfacing what you’re interested in.”

These signals include:

  1. Information about the post: Is it a photo or a video? When was it posted? How many likes does it have?
  2. Information about the poster: How interesting are they to you? Are they your friend? How often do people engage with their content?
  3. Your activity: Do you tend to watch a lot of videos? What type of content do you typically engage with?
  4. Your interaction history: Do you typically like or comment on the poster’s posts?

The takeaway? The Instagram algorithm monitors every interaction you make on the app — from the posts you like to who you interact with — to serve your content.

Conclusion

The Instagram algorithm might seem like a complex mystery, but by understanding its core principles and staying updated on trends, you can create content that resonates with your audience. Remember, the key lies in consistent posting, high-quality visuals, and fostering engagement. Keep experimenting, track your results, and adapt your strategy for continued success on the ever-evolving platform.

But for a deeper dive and personalized recommendations, consider a comprehensive social media audit. We can help you analyze your current strategy, identify areas for improvement, and craft an actionable plan to optimize your Instagram presence and achieve your social media goals.

I wrote this blog with the help of a super smart tool called Gemini. But it needed my ideas to make it extra interesting for you! I added some fun details and made it my own. Enjoy! :)

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Akanksha Chandan

MBA — Marketing & International Management | Senior Marketing Specialist | Sprouting Interest in Psychology