The Instagram algorithm: how does it work in 2020?

Herve Mouyal

An algorithm is instructions that allow Instagram and all other social networks to control how information is displayed on your account. I'll try to explain how the Instagram algorithm works. I will also share some tips to help you use the algorithm in your favor because posting frequently and adding hashtags does not guarantee that your subscribers will see your posts.

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Instagram's business model

Before going any further, it is important to understand Instagram's business model while Instagram is free. But as you may have noticed, there are ads on your feed. To be profitable, they need to increase :

  • the number of users
  • the time each user spends on the platform
  • the frequency of use of the application

The more people use their platform, the more opportunities Instagram has to offer its advertisers' ads and thus increase its sales. To deliver relevant content, they need to understand how everyone uses the platform. That's where the algorithm comes in.

Why understand how the Instagram algorithm works?

On social networks, algorithms determine which users see your publications and which do not. On Instagram, they determine which posts you see in your feed, which posts appear on the "Explore" page, and which posts appear in the "Popular" section of the research you do.

Understanding how the algorithm works is crucial for a user who wants to grow their account. This is the key to maximizing the number of people who see and interact with its content in an organic way. We talk about "organic way" because it is about interactions in his publications without the need for him to sponsor them.

If you're on Instagram, you know that ads are increasingly taking up space in the feed. You realize that it is becoming more and more difficult to appear in the feed of your followers. They have to compete with a lot of other content creators. According to Hubspot, only 30% of your followers see your publications on Instagram.

Instagram's algorithm focuses on relevance

Instagram uses artificial intelligence to analyze each user's habits and determine which posts are most relevant to them. Your feed is a reflection of your usage and is customized based on how you interact with other accounts and the type of content you interact with.

In 2016, Instagram stopped displaying publications chronologically in favor of an algorithmic display. Since then, when you open Instagram, you see the most relevant publications first (even if they are not the most recent). The goal is to grab your attention from the very first seconds.

I remember at the time many people were angry not to see the publications in chronological order. Since this change, Instagram has not been as favorable to content creators, lowering the visibility of their publications.

How the Instagram algorithm works

Instagram identifies three main factors that influence what appears on your news feed.

Relationships

First, Instagram prioritizes publications from the people you interact with the most. These are people whose publications you like, with whom you converse the most in commentary or DM. These are also the people whose stories you watch.

The stronger the relationship between two accounts, the more often Instagram will show them each other's content.

Interest

Then the algorithm checks whether your followers are interacting with similar publications or accounts to yours. It looks at interactions such as likes, shares, saves, comments, etc. If this is the case, then these users are more likely to see your content.

For example, if I subscribe to the @Herve_in_Paris account that shares photos of Paris or its trips. And at the same time, I'm subscribed to other travel accounts. I send a signal to Instagram that I'm interested in travel and/or Paris. The fact that I'm also interacting with these accounts will increase my chances of seeing publications from the @Herve_in_paris.

The major difference between connections and interest is that when Instagram looks at relationship factors, they focus on the interactions between your account and a follower's account. While when it determines interest, it looks at interactions between an account and accounts that are similar to yours.

The Recency

Finally, the last factor that Instagram takes into account in its algorithm is the recency of publications. Indeed, the platform displays the most recent (and most relevant) posts higher up in your feed. Publications that are both relevant and recent are the ones that will be displayed first. But it's the relevance that carries more weight.

Some other factors that Instagram takes into account

There are three other indicators that can also influence your news feed.

Your frequency of use

Instagram takes into account how often you use its platform. You will be shown the most relevant publications since your last visit. In fact, Instagram analyzes the content that has been posted in the last few days.

To access content prior to the last few days, you will have to scroll down for a long time depending on how many subscribers you have and how much content they have posted.

The number of accounts you follow

If you follow a lot of accounts, then you may only see a fraction of the posts intended for you. In cases like this, Instagram must choose from a larger number of publications to select the most relevant ones.

On the other hand, those who follow a few accounts are more likely to see all the content of the people they follow.

Your activity on the platform

Finally, Instagram also considers the time you spend on the app. People who spend less time on it will see fewer publications than others. Instagram, more than ever, must offer highly relevant content during the short time these users spend on its platform.

In 2020, sharing has more weight

Since 2019, Instagram has started to hide the number of mentions Like in some countries including Australia, Italy, and Japan. They had announced that they would generalize it to all countries, but as of this date, this is still not the case.

The development of websites that allow you to automatically like several hundreds of photos per hour of accounts you don't even know encouraged Instagram to lower the weight of like in its algorithm. In the last few months, two other indicators have become more important for your post to gain visibility.

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Saving

When a user saves your publication, it's because it creates value and they want to find it easily later.

Sharing

Some people have found your content so interesting that they think it deserves to be seen by more people.

Therefore, they don't hesitate to recommend it to their friends by sharing it as a story. I also personally think that the popularity of the person sharing and the number of people who see it can be important.

Reels

Since a few months, Instagram has gone to war against the Chinese application TikTok and launched this summer its Reels, the exact copy of TikTok. We can therefore publish short videos of 15 or 30 seconds. The success of its competitor is so important, that Instagram has changed this week and for the first time in a very long time its navigation bar to put even more emphasis on the Reels. The first users were literally boosted by Instagram to prove to them that we could do even more views than on TikTok. And if you want the platform to highlight your posts, then I strongly advise you to publish Reels.

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I hope this article will help you expand your Instagram. But don't forget another thing, when Instagram releases a new feature, use it very quickly because it shows the algorithm that you like the platform.

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I have always needed to create and for the past 7 years I have been sharing my creativity by producing photo and video content for luxury hotels around the world as well as for brands. I don't like to stay in my comfort zone because I can get bored very quickly. I need to try new things because for each brand the speaking is different.

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