4 Ways To Explore And Understand The Instagram Algorithm

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Crafting an amazing post is a huge step toward building a big Instagram account. But you see, It doesn’t end there. Your well-crafted post needs to be seen by more Instagram users and get all the engagement it deserves. To achieve this, you need to appease the great Instagram algorithm. Many users have heard of the Instagram algorithm but they don’t quite understand how it works. If you fall into this category of Instagrammers, then read on for more tea on what the mighty Algorithm is about and how to navigate it.

What is the Instagram Algorithm?

The Instagram algorithm is a bunch of signals, rules and operations that rank content on Instagram. The chief of Instagram, Adam Mosseri describes it as a “variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose”

The algorithm delivers content that is relevant to you, i.e it personalizes your news feed so that you can see what you like. With this, you can stay longer on the platform and make better use of your time.

In 2010, when Instagram first launched, the platform functioned a lot differently than it now does. Posts were merely a single stream of photos arranged chronologically. 

However, as the platform grew to accommodate more users, many people were missing feed posts from those they followed or cared about. Instagram then decided to help its users get posts that are relevant to them by introducing the algorithm in March 2016.

Also, the algorithm evolved a lot since then, the changes were made to ensure that users keep enjoying seamless content consumption on the app.

If you have a good understanding of the Instagram algorithm, you can create and modify your posts to rank better on the newsfeed. Instagram followers will see your posts and engage with them. 

4 ways to explore and understand the Instagram algorithm 

Every aspect of the Instagram app has its own specialized algorithm. Instagram ranks content on various people’s accounts based on how people use or view feed posts, stories, the explore tab and reels. 

Think of it as a robotic system that works based on a user’s activity and personality. The algorithm does this by considering signals like:

  • How relevant the content is to you or your Instagram activity: from your previous interest as shown by your interaction with Instagram posts, the algorithm can scrutinize posts for content you’ll like and show them to you.


  • The extent of your relationship with your followers: this means that your interactions matter a whole lot. Before ranking your post in someone’s feed, the algorithm will ask, do you follow each other? Do you send each other Direct Messages? Do you leave comments on their posts? Do you tag each other in your posts? Did they search for your name on Instagram? 


  • The information about the post: for example, the time you made a post, your like, comments or share count, the location from which the post was made. For videos, its duration, the quality and effects are vital. 


To help you better understand how the algorithm works, we’ll analyze how the algorithm affects the 4 key Instagram features.

1. Instagram algorithm for Feed posts

It’s true that the algorithm is ever-changing and over the years, we have seen it change even with the feed posts. For feed posts, factors that matter a lot to the algorithm before it prioritizes posts on your timeline include:

  • Likes: it analyzes the possibility of you liking the post.
  • Comments: what’s the likelihood of you making a comment on the post?
  • Saves: it calculates the likelihood of you saving the post.
  • How inclined are you to tap on the profile of the account after seeing the post?
  • Duration spent on a post: how much time you’ll likely spend on the post.

The Instagram algorithm can assess the likelihood of you taking those actions based on information from the previously mentioned signals. Additionally, the algorithm for feed posts considers factors such as:

  • The quality of your photo and video 
  • If your post violates Instagram’s community guidelines
  • If your post was reported.

2. Instagram algorithm for stories

We all know that Instagram stories are only available for 24 hours. This feature definitely changes the algorithm’s game.  

The Instagram stories algorithm ranks and presents content to you based on your interaction. It focuses on the account you engage with more often than on the content of the story. This makes accounts that get instant delivery of likes and other engagement metrics to do much better. 

To hack the stories algorithm, create stories that facilitate interaction from your audience. Use stickers like the poll, quiz, question and emoji slider stickers to boost engagement on Instagram stories. 

3. Instagram algorithm for Reels

As said by Mosseri, Instagram Reels are designed to entertain. And like the Explore tab, most of the Reels are from accounts you don’t follow. This surely makes the algorithm prioritize posts based on content that interest you. 

From your activities and engagement with other Reels, the algorithm can deduce the type of content you like and bring them to your Reel timeline. Your previous interaction with the creator also suggests to  Instagram that you are interested in their content. 

The popularity of the Reel creator also plays a huge role in the Reel algorithm. This certainly explains why you see Reels from influencers a lot.

Additionally, Reels that are made with special effects, filters, texts, and music and are shot vertically stand a higher chance of success. Some factors that are unfavourable for the Instagram Reel algorithm are:

  • Low quality or pixelated Reels
  • Reels that have been shared somewhere else 
  • Reels shared from another app or watermarked. For instance, Reels with origin from Tik Tok.
  • Reels that violate the Instagram community guidelines.

Tip: to score higher on the Instagram Reel algorithm, make your Reels entertaining so that it interests more people. Also share your Reels to your feed and stories to increase their visibility and discoverability.

4. Instagram algorithm for the Explore tab

The Explore tab is that part of Instagram where you see a variety of posts from top Instagram accounts. Instagram doesn’t necessarily need you to follow all the accounts that pop up on your Explore tab. It needs you to spend more time on the app and possibly engage with content that resonates with you.

The Explore algorithm focuses on posts that you have interacted with. For example, if you once interacted with posts about a holiday getaway, then the Explore page will present you with such content. This shows that your interest also plays a role in what appears on your Explore page. The more likely you are to like, share or save a post, the more the Explore algorithm will show it to you.

Final thoughts

There you have it all laid out! As you create content, take note of all the factors we have discussed here. Be sure that your post is something people will likely share, save, comment on and like before hitting the publish button. 

Your content should be so engaging that people spend a long time on them without even realizing it. Consider the uniquenesses of each content format. Then take the necessary steps to optimize them so that the algorithm will promote them to those likely to engage with them.

Now, have a great time creating valuable content and scoring the favour of the mighty Instagram algorithm.

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