Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has released a video explaining just how the algorithm (which he refers to as “rankings”) on Instagram works. He explains how Instagram does their best to guess which content each user would enjoy the most—with the goal of keeping eyes on their platform.
In the past, we’ve compared the algorithm to the “popular” girl in high school. The more you follow her rules and do the things she wants, the higher social status you’ll have. We’ve also said that, luckily, you’re an experienced business owner and savvy marketer, so pleasing the popular girl can be an easy task.
We thought we’d break down and interpret what Instagram’s CEO said to help small business owners succeed in the social media algorithm. Here are the breakdowns of how the top content types on Instagram are ranked, and our suggestions for how to make the most of the algorithm.
Stories are the full-screen content that’s available for 24 hours only, unless saved indefinitely to a highlight. They show up at the very top of the home feed in little circles around users’ profiles.
The algorithm ranks Stories by measuring if a user is tapping on a Story to open it, replying to the Story, or reacting to it through an engagement sticker or emoji. The algorithm takes these “signals” and measures each person’s usage to evaluate their viewing and interaction history.
Do you tend to click on their Stories? Do you tend to react to their Stories often? Do you reply to them often? The more the audience engages, the higher these Stories will be up on the list of Stories to view.
Focus on posting several Stories a day with unique content that’s different from your feed posts. This way, more users are inclined to actually click on the Story to see what’s new. Also, use engagement stickers, such as the Poll or Question Box, often to invite users to react to your Story. Lastly, be sure to film video and write captions with questions in a Story to further entice a user to reply to the Story. These will all feed into what the algorithm looks at while pushing your Stories to more viewers. The more people you get to perform these signals on your Stories, the more the algorithm will incentivize your posts.
Posts on the feed include photos, videos, and carousel posts. They make up all of the posts on your account that aren’t Reels. These are posted indefinitely to your profile and show up for a short while in the home feed.
Adam says the goal of the feed is to catch you up on the very best of what’s happening on Instagram since you last opened it—from those accounts you follow and may be interested in. They look at things like how likely you are to like, comment, share, or tap on the profile, as well as how long you spend on the post, to determine how well the post performs.
They also look at how you engage with the creator, how close you are with them, and how often you’re visiting their page and content. And lastly, if the post is popular or “trending”, it’s also likely to be recommended to more audiences because it’s generally well-received and enjoyed!
They take all these signals and connect users to content they’re most likely to interact with.
Essentially, we’re trying to get your account to become a favorite of your communities by having users head to your profile, share to a friend, and leave a comment. We want users to stop their scroll and spend a moment longer on your post.
To help reach this goal, create content that’s both entertaining and educational. We like to suggest that retailers follow the 80/20 rule on social. Learn more about this in our blog post, “Use The 80/20 Rule To Grow And Maintain An Online Community”.
We also suggest writing a thoughtful and enticing caption that may have a user read your post for a while, making them stay on your content for longer than an average post.
Carousel posts are feed posts with up to 10 images/videos included in one post. They’re a great way to entice a viewer to spend more time on your content. Posting at least one weekly carousel is a best practice to grow in the social media algorithm.
Instagram released their own version of a short-form video in 2020, and they’ve been growing exponentially on the platform ever since. Reels are a full-screen video that have a max length of 90 seconds. There are all sorts of editing features to use on Reels, including voiceovers, Effects, audio, GIFs, transitions and more.
Adam said that the goal of Reels is to entertain you, and that most of Reels shown in feeds is from accounts you don’t follow (yet).
Instagram accesses what’s most interesting to each individual user, and then tries to decide which Reels would be the best fit to entertain them. To determine this, the algorithm accesses how a user has interacted with past Reels, using signals like the following:
- If a user watched a Reel until it was over (this helps eyes stay on the platform)
- If the user sent the Reel to a friend (this helps the algorithm bring more eyes to the platform through notifications of friends sending friends Reels)
- If the user clicks on the audio and goes to the audio page of the Reel (which indicates a viewer may create their own Reel using this same audio).
Adam essentially said that they determine what a user has liked in the past, and which creators a user has interacted with in the past. They suggest similar content and accounts to what the user tends to be interested in.
Create Reels with various lengths to see which type of content performs best. Use new features and tools available to you when Instagram releases them. Also create Reels using trending audio, preferably weekly. Crystal Media posts trending original audio each week that business accounts can use in Reels. Check out our Trend Report highlight to save a few of your favorites each week.
Being Shadow Banned on Instagram
When you’re not getting as much reach as you believe you deserve, you may be “shadow-banned”. This means the algorithm isn’t recommending your content to accounts that don’t follow you. Instagram WANTS to help connect your content to the right audiences because when people are enjoying photos and videos they like (and accounts are gaining momentum), it keeps everyone happy and continuing to use the IG app.
You can check if your account has violated any community guidelines, or is not being recommended on the explore and home feeds, by checking your Account Status.
Click on Profile -> Settings and Privacy -> Account Status to check if you’ve had any removed photos/videos, see your account recommendability status, and discover why you may or may not be recommended!
Advice from Adam Mosseri to Reach New Audiences:
- Experiment on the app to see which content types and topics resonate with your audience.
- Check your insights often, and see what’s performing well and what isn’t. From there you can adjust your content strategy to focus on what’s working.
- Collaborate with other creators. Retailers can do this through creating a Collaboration post
- Check your Account Status, address the concerns, and follow the recommendations from Instagram.
His final piece of advice is that Instagram favors original and engaging content. As we like to say here at Crystal Media, you have to be engaging to earn engagement!
What I Want You To Take Away From This Blog:
- Post consistently to your Stories, Reels and Feed.
- Create entertaining and engaging content to engage your viewers.
- Check your account status to be sure your account isn’t being shadowbanned.
Okay, over to you…
Will this change how you post to Instagram? Let us know in the comments below!