The giant social media companies dominate marketing partly due to their popularity, but also because they are constantly refining their algorithms to take advantage of user preferences and behaviors on social media. Until recently, the way these algorithms work has been a closely held secret, but Instagram recently took reporters behind the scenes to explain how their algorithm sets up the feed on every Instagram account. So 101 Management, Inc., wants to offer you some tips on ways to take advantage of this knowledge.

Key feed factors

If you’ve ever read the comments on any column or article on a web site, you’ll notice that they are posted chronologically. Each new comment pops up as users hit “post.” And that’s the way Instagram worked in its infancy. As its users expanded and the number of feeds became unmanageable, however, it changed that process to one focused on user engagement; that is, what each user probably wants to see when opening the app.

Here are the main drivers of ranking in the Instagram algorithm:

1. Interest

Just as Google tries to read your mind when you begin to search for something, Instagram does the same based on past posts in which you’ve shown an interest. These will then rank higher on your feed.

2. Timeliness (aka “Recency”)

Even though it’s done away with the chronological feed, Instagram still takes into account the fact that users want to see fresh information. The latest update to the algorithm attempts, as Instagram reported, “to ensure that the newest posts are more likely to appear first in feed [so] your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about.”

3. Relationship

If you engage frequently with someone’s posts, Instagram logically considers that to be a strong indicator that you want to see more from them than from someone you don’t follow very often. It also places top priority on content from your friends and family, assuming those posts will be the most important to you.

Additional—though less important—factors influencing ranking include:

  • frequency—how often you check the app affects how often the feed is refreshed
  • following—it includes at least one post from every account you follow
  • usage—your history of quick check-ins vs. longer sessions influences how “deep” the feed catalog goes


How to use this knowledge

Now that you have a window into how Instagram “thinks,” let’s see how to use that information to refine your Instagram marketing strategy.

1. Keep it interesting

If you want users to read your posts, make them something they can’t resist: a meme, an animal video, a coupon, Instagram contests, a freebie . . . think of what makes you read a post when you’re pressed for time and tempted to swipe left. Include relevant hashtags, keep blatant advertising to a minimum, and check Instagram Insights to better understand your followers’ interests.

2. Prioritize relationships

Featuring user-generated content (UGC) about your product or service may prompt users to tag you in their posts, thus increasing your exposure. Always respond to comments as quickly as possible, and encourage conversations among your followers. And make it a two-way relationship by responding to likes, re-gramming posts from fans, and generally letting them know you’re listening. Also, consider using direct messages (DM) as a way to deepen a relationship with an existing client.

3. Watch your timing

Instagram Insights can give you the information you need to time your posts to coincide with when your audience is most active on the app. And be sure to educate your followers on how to use Instagram’s “notifications” feature so they’re alerted whenever you post.


The social media marketing experts at 101 Management, Inc., can show you other ways to increase your Instagram engagement, including how to make the best use of Stories, how to analyze results from Instagram Insights, and how to use influencer marketing and Instagram ads to jumpstart your momentum among your followers. So let us know how we can help.