How Instagram’s Algorithm Works and How to Make It Work for You

Instagram has done marketers a favor to the extent no other social media or search platform has—it shared its top ranking factors. With the top ranking factors revealed, businesses may be able to more successfully use Instagram to engage their fans, expand their fanbase and build consumer loyalty.

Instagram’s Top 3 Ranking Factors + 3 More Factors Affecting Viewership

A user’s Instagram feed is populated by content determined by Instagram’s algorithm. That algorithm ranks content based on:

  1. Interest, and interest is calculated based on previous Instagram activity. The algorithm takes into consideration what users have viewed, searched for, and interacted with in past sessions.
  2. Recency of the post, with newer images and videos ranking higher than older ones.
  3. Relationship with the poster. When, how often and what types of interactions a user has with another user/account that posted will affect ranking, so users are likely to see more content from posters that they’ve liked, shared, commented on, etc.

The algorithm determines what comprises the feed, but the variety of what users see is determined by each Instagram user’s idiosyncratic behavior. Factors affecting how new any one user’s “new” content is include:

  1. Frequency of Instagram logons. Instagram users who logon multiple times a day compared to those who logon once daily or just a few times per week may actually see some of the same content in their feeds because there just may not be enough lag time for the algorithm to index new content (especially videos) to deliver.
  2. Size of your following. The more people/accounts a user follows, the more variety the user is likely to see of images and videos in the feed because the algorithm has more content to select from.
  3. Average time spent on Instagram per session. If users jump on-off of Instagram quickly, they may be more likely to see new stuff in their feed each time whereas if a user gets on and stays on Instagram, the algorithm must dig deeper to deliver new content.

Because you cannot control user behavior, the top three algorithm ranking factors are the ones most relevant for businesses wanting to get their visual content seen on Instagram.

Making Instagram Marketing Work for You

It’s really no secret how to get your content to show up in Instagram users’ feeds:

  1. Post high-interest content
  2. Post often so your images and videos are always “recent”
  3. Build a massive following

However, remember that you are not posting for posting’s sake. Your posts need to work to generate interest, drive traffic to your website and boost conversions. And one way to achieve interest and improved Instagram rankings is to post a mix of images and videos.

Keep in mind, though that the most popular video content on Instagram is often from production houses that post dozens of videos each week and can accommodate just about any trending topic. Your images and videos need to be more focused, and that will restrict their ranking potential, but that’s not a bad thing—it just keeps your posts relevant to users actually looking for what you have to offer rather than the entire Instagramiverse.

You will be popular among users who are actually looking for your products and services if you deliver:

  1. Content that is relevant to what you do, what need to fill and/or what problem your product/service solves for your target audience. Just be aware—always—that you are not posting commercials.
  2. New content regularly, at least one new video per 10 image posts, and that ratio should be maintained (at the least) each week.

Building your following organically will just take time.

With the availability of free and low-cost image and video editing apps, you can produce your own Instagram posts, even video content, virtually free of additional expense. However, you may see returns for your Instagram marketing efforts faster if you have a marketing strategy and high-quality video presentations. can help you create an Instagram campaign and recommend a professional videographer to produce your Instagram content. Contact us to get started.