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Breaking Down Instagram's Algorithm(s)

This week we’re talking Instagram algorithms—yes, algorithmS. A lot has changed since Instagram first launched in 2010, and it’s important for brands to stay on top of the platform’s preferences if they hope to be successful in their social media marketing.


To start…What’s an algorithm?

In terms of social media, algorithms use complex rules and data to determine what users see on a particular app. Researching apps (and simply using them) will reveal some of the preferences of a particular platform. In general, social media platforms want to maximize users and their time spent interacting with the app. You should always ask, “Is this engaging?” before posting content on social media. You—and your social media platforms—want your content to elicit likes, shares, clicks, comments, tags, and more.


What do Instagram’s algorithms look like in 2023?

At this point, Instagram has four unique algorithms functioning on their platform: Feed, Stories, Explore Page, and Reels. Again, the goal is engagement, but we’ll break down the specifics of each arena:

  • Feed: The Instagram Feed algorithm determines what content pops up on a user’s IG feed (and in what order).

  • Stories: This algorithm ranks IG stories in a distinct order (which is why your best friend’s account is usually first).

  • Explore Page: Everyone’s Explore Page is unique based on their interests and what they might engage with (based on their previous likes, shares, and follows).

  • Reels: The Reels algorithm tries to entertain you with videos from accounts you follow and don’t yet follow.



8 Tips to Master the Algorithms


How can brands master these algorithms? Here are our 8 top tips:


1. Create original content

Instagram knows when you’re reposting content from prior years or other platforms. The app rewards creativity and ingenuity by prioritizing high-quality, original content over reproduced content. Diversify your content with inspiring, educational, entertaining, behind-the-scenes, and other kinds of posts.


2. Focus on video

Even though Instagram started as a photo-only app, video content (in the form of reels, stories, and live streams) has skyrocketed (and boosted engagement). Plus, it’s a great way for brands to further cultivate storytelling in their marketing. But if you’re feeling intimidated by video, scroll through @mediaalacarte’s IG to see how we use video in our feed and stories. Take note that videos should be high-resolution (not blurry).


3. Be responsive

Reply to comments and direct messages in a timely manner. Handle crises and negativity with grace and professionalism.


4. Schedule with strategy

Use the analytics in IG Business or a separate social media planning program to uncover the best times to post your content.


5. Post consistently

If you’re consistent and strategic on Instagram, both your followers and the app will build trust in you.


6. Encourage engagement

Create content that literally begs viewers to interact. Throw polls, links, stickers, and Q&As into your stories, go Live for a how-to or behind-the-scenes segment, add branded hashtags to your upcoming campaign, and include powerful CTAs (calls to action) in your captions.


7. Tag, tag, tag

Make use of hashtags, location tags, and account tags to connect and expand your reach.


8. Understand analytics

Instagram Business and social media planning programs literally show you what kinds of content are the most successful. Use this data to fuel your strategy moving forward.

**Always remember to follow Instagram’s Community Guidelines.


How does Instagram’s algorithm(s) differ from TikTok’s?


While Instagram’s algorithms rank content based on chronology, relevancy, engagement, timeliness, and user behavior, TikTok’s algorithm employs AI to continuously learn about a user’s interaction history and show recommended videos. To put it simply,


For Instagram, focus on…

  • Posting high-quality images/videos and curated captions

  • Boosting your engagement rates (likes, shares, and comments) via strategic scheduling, hashtags, and CTAs

For TikTok, focus on…

  • Posting consistently (TikTok recommends 1-4 times per day)

  • Making use of trending sounds, challenges, and hashtags


Again, no matter if you’re on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter, remember that, in a way, your brand has the same goal as the platform: MORE views, MORE followers, and MORE engagement. Aligning your social media strategy to work with these algorithms will be a game changer for your brand. And remember that staying agile is critical in social media marketing. While video is favored today, something else might top the algorithm tomorrow. Having a well thought out but flexible strategy will allow your brand to pivot while still working towards your campaign goals.


Feeling like you can’t crack the Instagram algorithm code? It’s time to ask the pros. Schedule a consult with Media À La Carte to find out how we can support and strengthen your social media marketing strategy.