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How to Hack the Instagram Algorithm in 2021

How does the Instagram algorithm work? And what has changed in 2021? These are the questions on every social media guru’s mind. You have probably already noticed some changes in your Instagram feed when you click on your favorite purple icon on your phone screen and notice which posts appear first. For example, the feed is no longer chronological. And some of your favorite follows might have disappeared from the top of your newsfeed or your stories. The Instagram algorithm has caused a lot of confusion, even for social media experts. But don’t worry! In this article, we will tell you how to hack the Instagram algorithm in 2021 and in turn, get more engagement for your brand or your company. 

instagram algorithm 2021

Instagram Algorithm 2021

The Instagram algorithm is how the app determines the order of the posts you see as you scroll through your feed on the app.

If you spend time on Instagram every day (no judgment!), you probably already realize that Instagram’s algorithm is even more mysterious than Netflix’s latest popular true-crime documentary. But once you understand a little about how the algorithm works, you can tailor your social media marketing strategy to make it work for you. Here’s everything you need to know about the Instagram algorithm in 2021. 

Factors that Influence the Instagram Algorithm in 2021

According to Instagram, there are six main factors that influence its algorithm for feed posts. These are: 

  • Interest
  • Relationship
  • Timeliness
  • Frequency
  • Following 
  • Usage

Let’s break each of those down in more detail. 

Interest

The Instagram algorithm is basically trying to decide what posts it thinks you will hit the “like” button for, and then putting those posts at the top of your feed. Insta doesn’t just take the accounts you follow into consideration, but also the accounts and content that you have liked previously. So, what you see in your feed is a culmination of what you have liked in the past.  

It is important to show up consistently on Instagram in order to send positive signals to the Instagram algorithm. It gives your followers more chances to engage and interact with your content. 

This is where an editorial calendar comes in handy. It allows you to plan and schedule your content for Instagram in advance, so you never miss a post and can be sure to consistently appear on the app. 

Relationship

Instagram cares about your relationships. No, really. It wants to show you posts from your family, friends, and people you care about first. The Instagram algorithm uses your interactions with other users to determine who is close to you and show their content to you. This includes people whose content you like, people you DM (direct message), accounts you search for, and people you know in real life (for example, people who you tag in your pictures from a fun night out on the town. Pre-COVID, of course.) 

how to hack the instagram algorithm

Timeliness

Though Instagram did change up its feed from being chronological, it still does take into consideration when you posted your content. It wants to serve users with the latest, most interesting posts. That’s why it is important to post when your target audience is online, in order to garner the most engagement. 

Frequency 

The order of your feed also depends on how often you open the Instagram app. If you open it frequently, it’s more likely that your feed will be chronological, since Instagram will try to show you the most recent posts since you last visited. However, if you don’t open Instagram very often, your feed will be sorted based on what the app thinks you will like, rather than chronologically. 

Following 

Now it’s time for the question you probably get less often than “how many followers do you have?” But instead, how many accounts do you follow on Instagram? If you follow tons of people, the Instagram algorithm has more options to choose from, so you most likely won’t see all the content from everyone you follow. This makes it worth eliminating accounts you follow who are inactive or “ghost” accounts – from both your following and followers. If your following is full of inactive accounts, they are actually hurting your Instagram ranking. 

Usage

Instagram also takes how much time you spend on the app into account. For example, if you spend a lot of time on Instagram, you will see more posts. If you spend enough time on Insta, you can even run out of new content. Then, the app’s algorithm will serve you suggested content based on accounts it thinks you might like. However, if you only log onto the app for a couple minutes every day, then you will just see the latest highlights. 

instagram algorithm

What Engagements are Important for the Insta Algorithm? 

The most important engagements for feed ranking on Instagram are comments, likes, reshares, and views for your videos. 

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work for Instagram Stories? 

The Instagram algorithm works similarly for Stories at the top of your feed as it does for regular posts. The Stories that appear first will be from accounts you engage with the most, perhaps through likes, comments, story views, reactions, or direct messages. The Instagram Stories algorithm also places a lot of import on timeliness, since Stories don’t last long, anyway. If you engage with a particular account frequently, their stories will be bumped to the beginning of your feed each time they post (even if you’ve already watched their previous stories.) 

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work on the Explore Page? 

The algorithm for how the Explore page works (and decides what to show you) and how your feed works are fairly simple. Each tries to deliver content to you that it thinks you will be interested in, based on your previous engagements on the app. However, your Instagram feed is made up of content only from accounts you chose to follow. The Explore feed shows you content from accounts that you do not follow, but might be similar to the accounts that you do. For example, if you like and follow a lot of accounts about the Royal Family, you will most likely see several similar accounts on your Explore page. 

The Explore page is always updating. Instagram is constantly adding additional topic categories and advanced search functionalities. For instance, you can search keywords or hashtags to find new content you might be interested in. For its search results, Instagram prioritizes the posts that have performed the best. 

How to Get Your Content on the Instagram Explore Page

If you are trying to get new followers on Instagram, one way to do so is by getting your posts on the Explore page. But how do you go about doing that? It might not be as difficult as you think. If you share content on a regular basis that has well-written, strong captions, and niche, relevant hashtags, you are increasing your Explore page ranking. Think of it as similar to utilizing SEO techniques to increase your search ranking on Google. 

How the Instagram Algorithm Works for IGTV Videos and Reels

Next, you might be wondering how the algorithm works for two of Instagram’s newer features, IGTV videos and Instagram Reels. For these, the algorithm prioritizes content from the accounts you engage with the most, as well as posts similar to the content you regularly interact with. Instagram shows you suggested IGTV videos and reels in the Explore pages, as well as the new Reels tab. 

new instagram algorithm

Tips for How to Hack the Instagram Algorithm in 2021

If you want to increase your engagement on Instagram, you need to know how to hack the Instagram. These tips will help you improve your ranking with the Instagram algorithm, increase your following, and reach more of your target audience. 

Utilize Instagram’s Newest Features

If you want to quickly gain favor with Instagram, the best way to go about it is to embrace the app’s latest and greatest features. Instagram loves when users jump on the latest trends and take advantage of then. 

Encourage More Interactions with Instagram Stories Stickers

One way to increase engagement with your audience is to utilize Instagram Stories stickers. The more engagement you get, the higher you will be ranked by Instagram’s algorithm. The best ones (in our opinion) are the question stickers. Polls and emoji slider stickers are an easy and quick way to get engagement. The best part? Virtually any brand or business can use them. 

Start Conversations with Engaging Captions and Comments

According to Instagram itself, comments are extremely important when it comes to feed ranking. You can garner comments by encouraging as many as possible on your posts. How do you do so? By writing captions that drive engagement. For example, include a great call-to-action in your caption. You can ask your followers a question, ask them to double-tap if they agree, or ask them to tag a friend in the comments. 

Optimize Your Hashtags

You probably already know all about how to optimize your online content. But do you know how to optimize your hashtags? One of the most effective ways to reach more people on Instagram is by adding hashtags to your posts. And if you use the correct hashtags, you will reach your target audience, who will love and engage with your posts. 

insta algorithm

Cross-Promote Your Instagram Content

If you want to be sure your followers see all of your content despite Instagram’s sneaky new algorithm, try cross-promoting your posts on different channels. For instance, promote your new post in your Instagram story, on your IGTV. Or, promote your latest Reel in a post. It’s up to you! Utilize all of Instagram’s features to drive your audience to your latest content. 

Stay Current in Your DMs 

Direct messages are an underrated way to drive up your Instagram algorithm. You might notice that if you DM with someone on a regular basis, their Stories will show up earlier and earlier in your Stories feed. If you want to encourage your followers to DM you, invite them to respond to your content in your DMs, or encourage them to click the quick emoji reactions to your stories. 

Use Instagram’s Analytics to See What Works

Finally, utilize analytics to see what is working for your account and what isn’t. You can use an Instagram Analytics tool, or use the services of a social media management agency like SEO Design Chicago to help you. 

Hack the Instagram Algorithm in 2021 with SEO Design Chicago

If you want to get more Instagram followers, or need more Instagram marketing tips, contact SEO Design Chicago today. Our expert social media managers will help you. 

FAQs about the Instagram Algorithm: 

  • What is the Instagram algorithm?
  • How do I hack the Instagram algorithm?
  • How do I get on the Instagram Explore page?
  • What factors affect the Instagram algorithm?
  • Which engagements do I need to get more followers on Instagram?

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