How The Instagram Algorithm Works

The Instagram algorithm affects how posts appear on users’ feeds, therefore influencing what posts they see, in what order, and how certain posts are favored. Instagram’s algorithm has often been shrouded in mystery, leaving users confused as to when to post and how to use the algorithm to boost their posts’ visibility and engagement.

For anyone looking to gain Instagram followers, learning how to manipulate Instagram’s algorithm can seriously influence the reach of your posts. The larger an audience you can reach, the more likes, comments, and followers you can get. Learning how the Instagram algorithm works can significantly help you improve engagement on your posts and get more followers.


Instagram’s Business Model

Instagram is a free platform; therefore, to make a profit, Instagram relies on advertisements. Their algorithm is always changing to help improve Instagram’s profit margin. To increase profits, they need more users to view more advertisements so that they can sell ad space that businesses want to drive traffic and sales.

The more time you spend on Instagram, the more advertisements you can view; it follows then, that Instagram’s algorithm is designed to encourage users to spend more time on the app. The ultimate goal of the Instagram algorithm is to keep you on their platform for as long as possible. To achieve this, the algorithm tries to learn what posts users are interested in and places those on your feed to keep you engaged and scrolling through your feed, ads and all.

Instagram Analyzes Your Behavior

That’s right, you specifically. Instagram’s technology analyzes each individual users’ behavior on their app to assess what their interests are and what is most likely to keep them on the app. They do this by taking note of all of your activity, including but not limited to:

  • Posts you like
  • Posts you comment on
  • Users you engage with frequently
  • Who you tag in photos
  • What hashtags you use, follow, or like
  • Who you follow
  • Direct message activity
  • Stories you watch
  • Ads you engage with


Essentially, Instagram is showing you want it thinks you want to see based on prior activity, all in an attempt to keep you on the app for longer periods of time.

The Instagram Algorithm: 3 Factors to Consider

Understanding the Instagram algorithm can help you optimize your strategy on the ‘gram. There are three main factors that come into play with the algorithm: your interests, your relationships, and recency. Learning how Instagram uses these factors can help you grow your followers and improve engagement on your posts.

Your Interests

As we’ve already discussed, most of Instagram’s algorithm is trying to determine your interests and then pack your feed with the content that will keep you scrolling. The app gauges your interests through your activity and then tailors your feed to keep you clicking that heart button.

Your Relationships

Have you ever noticed that your best friend’s pictures are usually at the top of the feed when you open Instagram? That’s because Instagram is also analyzing your relationships with other users and showing you those you engage with the most. This part of the algorithm is based on who you follow, who you direct message, who you tag and who tags you, and whose posts you like and comment on the most (and vice versa).

With this information, Instagram figures out who you are close with or most interested in on their platform and places more value on their posts. You can see this reflecting on your Instagram stories as well: the users whose stories you watch more frequently will appear first in line.


Instagram also prioritizes newer content over older content, generally putting newer posts higher on your feed. Many users wish the Instagram algorithm would return to the former chronologically ordered feed that took recency into account over other factors like your interests and relationships. It’s unlikely that we’ll get the chronological feed back anytime soon, however. Still, some priority is given to new posts over old ones in the current algorithm.

How To Use the Instagram Algorithm to Improve Your Post’s Visibility

Now that you understand how Instagram’s algorithm works, you can use that knowledge to stack the odds in your favor. Follow these tips to ensure that your posts get ranked higher by Instagram, leading to more likes, comments, and followers.

Post your best content: This may sound like a given, but sharing great content will increase the value of your post by both Instagram and your followers, who are more likely to like and comment on a great photo. Don’t post just to post – make sure what your sharing is a great piece of content that is true to your brand or aesthetic on Instagram.

Maintain a cohesive aesthetic: Branding on Instagram is important, and your grid on your profile should make it clear who you are and keep within a consistent theme. Use the same filters, post similar content, and create an Instagram aesthetic that will keep followers interested and attract new followers.

Ask questions in your captions: As we’ve said, Instagram’s goal is to keep you on their platform for as long as possible. Asking a question encourages engagement on your post, as followers will hopefully comment to answer. Not only will more comments improve your engagement in general, but if Instagram sees that your posts get a lot of likes and comments they will prioritize your posts on the feed and on suggestion or explore pages.

ask questions on instagram

Post when your followers are active: If your Instagram account is a business profile, you can look at your Insights to see when your specific followers are most active. Otherwise, there is plenty of data on the internet about the best times to post in general and peak activity times for Instagram. Posting when your followers are active leads to more likes and comments, which Instagram takes into account in its algorithm.

instagram peak hours

Tag others and ask them to tag you: Since the algorithm looks at your relationships, the most posts that you are tagged in and that you tag others in, the more likely your posts will be favored by the algorithm. Encourage users to tag your account so that Instagram recognizes your many positive relationships with other users and prioritizes your content.

Use The Instagram Algorithm To Improve Engagement

Now that you know how Instagram’s algorithm works, you can use our tips to improve engagement on your posts. Use your knowledge of Instagram’s algorithm to get more likes and comments on your post and grow your followers, or sign up with Social Buddy to organically grow your Instagram following.

Written by Erin

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