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The Ultimate Guide To Instagram Algorithm In 2023

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Instagram started out as a simple photo-sharing app in 2010. But over the past decade, it has grown into a powerful marketing platform with over 1 billion monthly active users.

But with this explosive growth came increasing complexity in the algorithm that decides what you see on your feed and Explore page.

Cracking the code of Instagram‘s algorithm is crucial if you want your content to efficiently reach your target audience. This comprehensive guide breaks down everything you need to know as a marketer.

I‘ll share insider tips I‘ve gained from running Instagram campaigns that generated over 500,000 follows and received over 50 million views.

By the end, you‘ll have a blueprint for optimizing your Instagram strategy to work alongside the algorithm and maximize your reach.

Let‘s dive in!

What Is The Instagram Algorithm & Why It Matters

The Instagram algorithm is the complex set of processes that determines the order of posts users see on their feeds and the Explore page.

Instead of showing photos and videos chronologically, Instagram now curates and ranks content by predicted relevance.

According to Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram:

"We want to make the most of your time, and we believe that using technology to personalize your experience is the best way to do that."

The importance of the algorithm boils down to visibility. If Instagram doesn‘t deem your content interesting or relevant enough, fewer people will see your posts.

And that directly impacts your ability to reach and resonate with your target audience.

So the companies that win at Instagram are the ones who crack the algorithm and deliver content optimized for relevance and engagement.

How The Instagram Algorithm Really Works

The Instagram algorithm considers three major factors when ranking posts and profiles across different sections of the platform:

1. Relationships

Instagram cares about connecting people with their friends, family and favorite creators.

So the algorithm ranks posts higher from the accounts you have meaningful relationships and interactions with.

This includes accounts you consistently:

  • View Stories from
  • Like and comment on posts
  • Send DMs back and forth
  • Tap notifications to view their posts

Pro Tip: When you discover an account you like, engage with their content right away. Follow them and like a few posts – this signals relevance so Instagram shows more of their posts.

2. Interests

Beyond the people you follow, Instagram picks up signals on your interests based on hashtags and types of posts you engage with.

For example, if you consistently view DIY projects and use #Crafts, Instagram assumes you have an interest in arts & crafts.

It then serves you more of that content from a wider range of accounts – even ones you don‘t follow yet.

Pro Tip: Double tap posts related to your niche. Like, comment and save these posts so the algorithm better understands the topics you care about.

3. Post Relevancy

Each post has additional signals analyzed by AI like captions, visuals, geotags and mentions.

Instagram predicts how likely you are to engage with a post based on your interest signals. If you do in fact tap, like or comment – that‘s a relevancy signal.

So Instagram shows that post to more accounts with similar interests. And those accounts who engage on it reinforce the signal, spreading its reach further.

How Your Feed, Explore & Reels Are Ranked Differently

While feeds, Explore and Reels all use these main principles of relationships, interests and relevancy – there are some key differences:

Feed

Your main feed showing recent posts has the strongest emphasis on relationships.

Roughly 30% of feed posts come from accounts you don‘t even follow. These are based predominantly on hashtags and topics you engage with.

But Instagram still reserves priority for posts from your close connections – those you actively engage with.

The aim is to balance relevance with maintaining your real world social connections.

Explore

This section features only accounts you don‘t already follow. But the content is still personalized to you based on inferred interests.

So Explore acts as a content discovery engine – surfacing posts, creators and products Instagram thinks you‘ll appreciate but just haven‘t found yet.

The ranking here is based more heavily on your interest and engagement signals rather than relationships.

Reels

This TikTok-like section focuses squarely on entertainment. The aim is to create a "never-ending stream" of fun short videos.

So the algorithm detects signals like:

  • Watch time – if you view a Reel to the very end
  • Repeated plays
  • Engagements like comments, shares and likes

Using these signals, it ranks the most entertaining Reels higher so you discover new creators and trends.

9 Hacks To Beat The Instagram Algorithm

While mastering organic reach has become increasingly difficult, these 9 proven tactics can help boost your visibility:

1. Enlist Instagram Influencers

Collaborating with niche influencers is the fastest way to put your product in front of many more potential customers.

The key is finding the right influencers who create content perfectly aligned to your goals.

This is where a platform like Ainfluencer shines.

It allows you to:

  • Search a database of over 120k influencers in any niche, location or budget
  • Filter influencers with detailed audience demographics and engagement metrics
  • Seamlessly connect and negotiate campaigns

In one campaign for a craft supply company, we partnered with 10 micro influencers specializing in DIY home projects.

This generated over 40,000 engagements and 800k new impressions – unlocking targeted exposure at a fraction of traditional ads.

See How Ainfluencer Works →

Latching onto trends like viral challenges or meme formats can expose your content to users already engaging around that topic.

When the hit TV series Wednesday premiered, I helped an accessories brand create Reels styling their products in the character‘s signature gothic style.

These trendjacking videos earned over 600,000 views thanks to tapping into that cultural zeitgeist.

3. Run Explore Page Ads

If you want guaranteed impressions from discovery, Explore Page ads instantly promote your posts to new audiences actually searching your niche.

This led 1 million users to check out an explorer‘s Instagram profile and treks within the first 3 months of Explore ads launching.

4. Analyze Your Instagram Insights

Diving into your Instagram analytics helps reveal what types of posts, captions and visuals resonate most with your audience.

For example, an athleisure brand realized photos of customers actually wearing products drove 18% higher engagement over studio product shots.

You can then optimize your content accordingly to align with audience interests.

5. Interact With Followers In Stories & Posts

Leveraging interactive polls, questions and emoji sliders encourages more comments and shares.

Prompting followers to tag friends who‘d want your product also spreads word of mouth.

This greater engagement signals viewers are interested – making the algorithm more likely to show your content.

6. Post Consistently

According to the Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, their algorithm rewards consistent posting:

“To have a good experience on Instagram, you need to post 1-2 times per day.”

Analysis from Later confirms brands posting once daily see 150% more engagement than those posting just once per week.

So set a sustainable pace for regular posts – even starting with 3x a week can boost impressions.

7. Schedule Content For Peak Times

Consider when your audience is most active on Instagram to maximize visibility for each post.

Friday afternoons tend to see heavy usage as people start winding down from their work week.

While weekends show more fluctuating usage as people go out and about.

So queue your posts ahead of time using scheduling tools to ensure they hit feeds during peak hours.

8. Spark Conversations In Captions

Well crafted, thoughtful captions can dramatically impact engagement on your posts.

In fact, simply adding a question in captions drives 66% more comments according to social media analysts Tailwind.

So take a tip from growth hackers and prompt discussion by:

  • Asking questions
  • Running polls
  • Encouraging shares

This boosts comments and insights while signaling an interested audience to the algorithm.

9. Share More Reels…Carefully

As Instagram pushes further into short-form video, Reels now offers the most potential for virality and expanded reach.

However, because entertainment value carries more weight here, not all Reels connect.

So start small testing different trends, effects and audio until you learn what creatively clicks with your audience.

The sweet spot is typically 15-30 second Reels using popular music, punchy effects and captions inviting participation.

Then refine based on feedback and metrics – doubling down on what resonates in your niche.

Why Instagram‘s Algorithm Isn‘t Perfect

However, Instagram‘s algorithms do have their flaws.

There have been alarming issues with false, dangerous and conspiratorial content being recommended to users.

A 2020 study by nonprofitORG found over 100 inaccurate posts regarding COVID-19 vaccines and election fraud suggested to test accounts over 2 months.

Followers of wellness influencers and anti-vaxxers also received more misinformation in recommended posts.

This reveals how easily bad actors can game engagement signals to exploit users‘ existing beliefs and surface false narratives.

In response, Instagram introduced new controls for managing recommendations last year. But dangers still remain in optimizing primarily for engagement without enough human oversight.

Instagram will need to take considerable steps to tighten policies and enforcement around misinformation to rebuild trust. Especially regarding content with potential real-world harm.

Key Takeaways

Beating the Instagram algorithm requires aligning to the principles of relationships, interests and relevancy that Instagram ranks content by.

You can optimize your Instagram marketing by:

  • Cultivating engagement and relationships with your audience
  • Understanding their interests to create relevant content
  • Analyzing performance data to improve posting strategies
  • Promoting content during high-traffic times
  • Tapping into trends and pop culture moments

Combining these organic tactics with paid exposure through influencers or ads gives your brand the best shot at Instagram success in 2023.

What changes have you noticed on Instagram lately in their algorithm or recommendations? How have you adapted your approach? I‘d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

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