How to Use Instagram’s Algorithm to Your Advantage

Posted by: Patrick Kirchner 05/19/2020

Harnessing the power of predictive software can help you better reach your target audience

If you pay close attention to your Instagram feed, you may have noticed that you usually only see half of your follower’s posts. Instagram runs on an algorithm to power its feed and predict what it thinks you want to see. In turn, your followers may not be seeing your posts. Like most social media platforms, Instagram’s algorithm is constantly changing around 6 key factors: relationships, interests, timeliness, frequencies, following, and usage.

If, for example, you like or comment on someone’s posts frequently or have multiple tagged photos together, the algorithm will piece these interactions together to assume this person is a friend or family member. Therefore, when the algorithm picks up any new behavioral patterns or trends, it filters in new content based on what the algorithm thinks you want to see.

That means there’s semi-predictable pattern to how specific content reaches an audience within Instagram. Here are 5 tips on how to use Instagram’s algorithm to help you better reach your target with non-paid posts:


1. Spark Conversation

The algorithm prioritizes content based on engagement. Engagement is measured by the number of likes, comments, reshares, and views a post gets. How do you increase your engagement? Spark conversation with engaging captions. All engaging captions include a call to action—and not the standard “click-here for more information” sort. Within the platform, CTAs are worthless if they don’t actually provoke action. So pose a question and have followers answer in the comments. Ask your followers to share their thoughts about a topic. Tag a friend in the comments, or double tap the post if they agree.


2. Post Consistently

The more often you post, the better chance you have of being discovered. This plays into the frequency factor and signals to the algorithm that you’re posting a lot of content your followers might be interested in. Your posting frequency will depend on your business goals. So, when committing to a posting frequency, make sure it’s one you can maintain. There are many tools and resources to help you succeed—you can use a social media calendar to craft and schedule your posts in advance, or hire an advertising agency to handle posting for you. Whichever direction you decide, make sure you’re consistent.


3. Utilize Instagram Stories

Stories are an efficient way to reiterate and give a sneak peak of your post and will give you a better chance of being seen by your followers. The algorithm focuses on timeliness, making sure it’s always showing you the latest Stories. Therefore, when you post multiple Instagram Stories in a row, the algorithm is more likely to move your posts to the front of the list. Even better, go live on Instagram and you’ll automatically be at the front of this list. Dive deeper and make your stories engaging for your followers to interact with. You can do this by applying Instagram Story stickers. The best stickers for driving engagement are the poll, question, and emoji slider slickers.


4. Optimize your Hashtags

When used properly, hashtags are a great tool to use to reach more people. You won’t just reach more people, but you’ll reach more people who are relevant to your business and are more likely to engage with your content. How are you supposed to know which hashtags to use? Start by looking at what hashtags other similar brands and businesses are using. You can also go to Instagram’s explore page and click “Tags” from the top menu to search for a specific hashtag. Pins with similar keywords will show up in the results, along with the number of posts connected to a specific hashtag and which are most popular. Be sure to choose tags relevant to your industry, but don’t overuse them.


5. Slide into your DMs

Answer your direct messages (DMs). Similar to likes and comments, direct messages are an engagement indicator that the algorithm picks up on. Take notice of the accounts you DM—those are usually the accounts at the top of your stories list. The algorithm is focusing on the relationship and interest factors here. Increase your engagement and invite followers to DM you with questions, comments and feedback. Don’t ignore them.


For years, Instagram’s algorithm was a challenging mystery to crack. But now that it’s more predictable, using it to your advantage can increase your engagement and build relationships with your followers.