How Does the Instagram Reels Algorithm Work?
Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Reels are currently the number one method for organic growth on Instagram. We've seen our reach and our clients' reach skyrocket from implementing quality Instagram Reels strategies. Unfortunately, Instagram still isn't sharing insights for Reels, so developing an Instagram Reels strategy from scratch for a client can kind of feel like walking around in the dark. Luckily, Instagram just revealed how their Instagram Reels algorithm is ranking reels - so we have a new set of tools to use when curating a strategy that's sure to up views. Let's break it down.
How Does the Algorithm Decide Which Reels to Show You?
In a recent post on the @creators account, Instagram pulled the curtain waaaay back on how they're ranking Reels. Instagram decides which Reels to show users based on how likely they are to:
1) Watch the Reel all the way through.
2) "Like" the Reel.
3) Comment on the Reel, saying it was funny or entertaining.
4) Go to the audio page and make their own Reel.
Okay, so what do those guidelines mean for the process of creating Reels?
1) To get users to watch your Reel all the way through, you need to do one of two things: (a) make the Reel short and sweet (b) give them a teaser to keep them watching, ex. "My last piece of advice grew my account more than any of the others."
2 & 3) To get users to Like or Comment on your Reel - ask for it in the caption using a classic CTA like "double tap if you agree!" or "Drop a 😂 in the comments if you're laughing right now."
4) Using trending soundbites is always a good idea with Reels, but every once and awhile you should try to toss in an audio you created yourself. This way you have the possibility of users using your audio and bumping your Reel up in the algorithm. This Media A La Carte Reel used an original audio that many other Instagram users used. How many views did this reel get? 76.2K.
According to Instagram, the most important signals you give the algorithm for what kind of content you want to see are:
1) Your activity. Instagram looks at which Reels you've liked, commented on, and engaged with and then give you similar recommendations.
2) Your history of interacting with the person who posted, meaning that you're more likely to see Reels from accounts you interact with frequently.
3) The Reel's audio track, what the video's content is about, and the Reel's popularity. I.E. if the Reel is wildly popular but you don't normally interact with that kind of content, it will probably still end up in your Reels feed.
4) Information about the poster and how others interacted with the poster. If the poster is similar to people you already follow, their Reel will be suggested to you.
What do we learn from these Insights? Engaging with your followers and engaging with accounts in your niche who don't follow you is extremely important! The more you interact with others, the more they'll interact with you - which means you'll start to move higher up in their algorithm. If Instagram knows that your account is all about being a florist, and you constantly engage with other florist's accounts - your Reels will be suggest to users also interested in floral arrangements a.k.a. your ideal audience.
What Does the Reels Algorithm Avoid Recommending?
The algorithm avoids recommending Reels for reasons like:
1) The Reel has a low resolution or watermark.
2) The Reel is focused on political issues.
3) The Reel is made by a political figure, political party, or a government official or made on their behalf.
The watermark reason is old news (and very annoying for content creators tbh). But ... we really aren't fans of the political issues insights. Instagram is notorious for limiting the reach of BIPOC activists sharing about social justice issues. Now Instagram is saying that those activists can't use Instagram's number one growth tool to reach more users? Not a good look Instagram. Not a good look. We're hoping that after the backlash Instagram has received for this set of guidelines, they'll reconsider and change them. Check out the comments section on the @creators post to see what we mean.
Now it's time to apply these new guidelines to your next Reels filming session. Don't think that Instagram is merely suggesting these things. They mean it. If you keep sharing content with a watermark or posting Reels that are too long to be watched all the way through, you will be docked by the algorithm. Take these recommendations as the golden gifts they are, and start making content that follows the rules if you want to up your views.
If you need help with your Reels strategy, schedule a one - on - one here or purchase our Reels Guide below.