Updated March 2022
If you use Instagram to reach new people and engage your followers, then its algorithm is probably a major consideration when planning new content. There are several changes to the algorithm this year, thanks to an expanding interface and new feeds, and we’ve got details on all of them in this guide!
Instagram recently launched two chronological feeds, Favorites and Following, that allow users to browse content free of algorithms. The platform’s Home, Reels, and Explore feeds remain the same, prioritizing content by what the Instagram algorithm thinks users want to see first.
In this article, we show you how all the Instagram algorithms work and how you can use them to meet objectives such as engagement, reach, and conversions.
Below, we share the processes and indicators for each view, including the Home feed for posts and Stories, the Reels feed, and the new Following and Favorites feeds.
How This Year’s Instagram Algorithms Change The Game For Expert Marketers
Instagram’s new Following and Favorites feeds give marketers more ways to get their brand content in front of their current followers, thanks to their algorithm-free, strictly chronological presentations.
In January (2022), Instagram head Adam Mosseri announced that the company was testing new feeds that would launch in 2022, including one that would take “some version of a chronological feed”.
On March 23, 2022, Instagram launched the two new feeds, and it turns out they are both algorithm-free. Instead of using indicators to determine what content a user wants to see first, the new feeds list everything in chronological order.
In an announcement video on Twitter, Instagram head Adam Mosseri explains that both feeds list content in chronological order because there have been so many user requests for chronological listings. Marketers, note: With so many people requesting chronological listings, it’s a good bet these feeds will be very popular!
However, he also emphasizes the continuation of personalization in the Home feed.“I want to be clear that the main feed on Instagram is going to continue to be ranked. It’s going to continue to be personalized.”
Mosseri hints that the Home and other algorithm-based feeds may be better for brands.
“We believe in personalization. We find that when we help try and connect people with the content that they’re most interested in, not only do they say they’re happy with Instagram overall, we also see that the average account reaches 50% more followers than in a chronological feed world.” – Adam Mosseri, Instagram
It’s been about six years since we’ve seen a chronological algorithm on Instagram, so this is a significant change that brands and marketers can use to their advantage.
On the user end, the new feeds will appear as different views for Instagrammers. For example, a user might scroll their Home screen first, then switch to their Favorites or Following feed for a different view and fresh presentation of content.
What Instagram Algorithms Mean To Marketers
In 2022, existing Instagram feeds Home, Explore, and Reels remain personalized, so marketers need to understand how the latest version of these algorithms works if they hope to get their content near the top of user feeds.
The two brand new feeds, Favorites and Following, work differently.
#1 – Home, Explore, and Reels feeds use algorithms designed to serve up what users are most likely to enjoy. To find out how these feeds currently work, scroll down to their respective sections for complete information on the individual algorithms.
Note: The Home feed algorithm remains the same, which is good news for marketers. This lack of change will allow marketers to invest more time and energy into testing their success with the new feeds and algorithms.
#2 – New! Favorites feed (view) displays content from users’ favorited accounts, in chronological order. Each user can favorite up to 50 accounts.
#3 – New! Following view displays posts from accounts that users follow, in chronological order.
Understanding how all the Instagram feeds and algorithms (or non-algorithms) work can help you develop and publish content that boosts objectives such as reach, engagement, and conversions.
Keep reading to learn how the algorithms for each feed work and discover if the rumors about a chronological feed are true.
How The Instagram Algorithm Works Right Now
As marketers, we’re used to referring the “the” Instagram algorithm, but it’s time to start thinking differently, and here’s why:
“The” Instagram algorithm does not exist.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri says that the existence of “The algorithm” is a misconception because there is no “one” that oversees people’s activity on the app.
“We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”
Instagram attempts to personalize each user’s experience so that every person views content that’s most likely to appeal to them. How it ranks content is more complex than “an” algorithm. Instead, the platform uses a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes to personalize each users’ experience.
Instagram Algorithm for Home Feed Posts And Stories
Feed posts are ranked by how likely Instagram thinks a user will be to interact.
What content does it rank?
To start ranking content, the algorithm first decides what content it will consider.
For posts and stories that show up in the Home feed, it considers all that were published by the accounts a user follows.
What signals does it consider?
Once it decides what content to rank, the algorithm reviews details about each piece of content.
- When the content was published (recency).
- What type of device the user is browsing from.
- What type of content and formats the user tends to like.
- …plus thousands more indicators that hint at whether the user might enjoy the content.
The overall process uses thousands of “signals” in an attempt to personalize content for more than one billion people.
That’s over a billion mini “algorithms” at work, deciding which content to rank and how to rank it for every individual user on the platform.
Right now, the top factors used to rank your brand’s Feed posts and Stories include:
- Information about your post: how popular it is, how many people like it, how long it is, what format it’s in, what location it’s attached to.
- Information about your brand and its Instagram account: How interesting might your brand be to a user, and how many times have people interacted with it you in the past?
- User activity: What type of content does the user typically enjoy? What might they be interested in seeing more of?
- User history of interacting with your brand, to understand how interested they may be in viewing more of your content.
After digesting that information, the algorithm then uses it to try to predict how likely a person is to:
- Spend time on the post or Story
- Comment on it
- Like it
- Save it
- Tap its profile photo
Generally speaking, the more likely a user is to interact with your piece of content (in those specific ways), the higher it ranks in the user’s Home feed.
But the algorithm constantly evolves.
Instagram changes its algorithm signals and predictions constantly, to keep up with how people indicate interest and to avoid showing too many posts from the same person or brand.
For example, reshared Stories were less valued by the algorithm until recently.
However, Instagram noticed new resharing trends that indicated users enjoy viewing reshared Stories, so it stopped the algorithm from devaluing them. That’s a typical example of how an algorithm change can directly affect the success of your content.
Now imagine how many algorithm adjustments take place on a regular basis with thousands of indicators and more than a billion people who pick up on new trends and abandon older ones.
While the algorithm may help you understand how to get your content ranked higher, its constant evolvement means that you can’t place too much weight on how it works at one point in time. Following all its changes is physically impossible, not just because of the sheer volume but also because Instagram doesn’t reveal them all.
Understanding the Instagram algorithm can help steer your content strategy in the right direction, however, analytics (insights) should be the driving force behind what works or doesn’t work for your brands on Instagram.
Instagram Algorithm For Explore Feed
Instagram’s Explore feed is a brand’s way of meeting new people. Users head to the feed to discover new brands, products, and content — and brands use it to expand their reach and add more followers.
The feed is filled with photo and video recommendations that its algorithm tailors to each user.
The Explore feed is not ranked the same way as the Home Feed.
Explore’s algorithm looks at signals such as likes, saves, and comments throughout the past year. In this feed, your content gets ranked according to how interesting it might be to a user and whether they are likely to interact with it.
Explore’s algorithm uses many points of information to rank content, including:
- Post Info such as its popularity and typical speed of engagement. These indicators carry far more weight for Explore feed than they do for the Home feed.
- Whether the user has interacted with a brand in the past. Most of the time, this isn’t present, since Explore is for new things. But when a user has engaged previously, it’s a positive indicator.
- User activity: What type of posts the Instagrammer has liked, saved, or shared in the past.
- Who posted the content and how often other people have interacted with that brand in the past.
If you hope to get your content noticed in the Explore feed, you’ll also want to understand Instagram Community Guidelinesbetter than the average person. Since Explore is a public feed, people are more likely to be offended by content that walks a fine line, especially when it comes to potentially violent images and messaging, or any hint of misinformation (fake news).
IG provides specific recommendations for Explore feed to help you understand what type of imagery and language to avoid in content created for the Explore feed.
Instagram Algorithm For Reels
Instagram Reels feed is like the Explore feed, but for short-form Reels videos. It shows content from accounts the user does not already follow. The Reels feed algorithm begins with the same indicators as Explore feed, but also adds an extra layer of screening that attempts to rank its entertainment value.
To determine a Reels’ entertainment value, its algorithm looks at how users react to it with specific actions.
Do users typically:
- Watch it until the end?
- Like it?
- Say it was entertaining or funny?
- Go to the audio page because they were inspired to make their own Reel?
The top-ranking signals for Reels, in order of priority, are:
- Users’ previous activity.
- Users’ interaction history with the brand.
- Information about and popularity of the video.
- The brand’s history of creating entertaining, engaging content.
You can use Reels in many ways, including how-to content, breaking news, listicles, and step-by-step formats — just like people do on TikTok.
However, if you’re looking to get your Reels content in front of new people in the Reels feed, keep in mind that Instagram values the entertainment value of Reels above all other qualities.
The Importance Of Instagram Community Guidelines
Regardless of a content’s signals or ranking, Instagram “steps in” when content appears to violate its rules by jeopardizing a person’s safety or publishing misleading or fake news.
For example, if your content should get labeled as “misinformation, it will appear lower in the feed and, if it happens again, the algorithm will make all your content harder to find.
Eventually, your account can be suspended, however, we imagine the worst result would be investing hundreds of hours and teamwork into content that you don’t realize is getting intentionally buried at the bottom of feeds — and will never be seen by anyone.
If you’re not familiar with Instagram’s community guidelines, this is a great time to review them!
The Instagram Algorithm For Following And Favorites Feeds
After a couple of months of anticipation after its December announcement about new feeds, Instagram finally launched the new views on March 23, 2022.
What Are The Brand New Instagram Feeds?
Two new viewing options, Following and Favorites feeds, launched in March 2022.
The Favorites feed serves up content from family, friends, and brands that users favorite on Instagram. Each user can follow up to 50 accounts.
The Following feed shows content from family, friends, and brands that users follow on Instagram.
Both new feeds can help brands boost engagement with their current followers, but will not help to increase brand reach or gain new followers.
For marketers aiming to boost their engagement rates on the platform, the new chronological feeds present an excellent opportunity.
What Is the Instagram Algorithm For The New Favorites And Following Feeds
The new feeds are designed to help users see more of what matters to them; family, friends, and brands they like.
- The Favorites feed (view) has no algorithm. Instead, it presents content in chronological order. This feed shows content from users’ favorited accounts (up to 50).
- The Following feed (view) also has no algorithm and instead presents content in chronological order. This feed shows content from accounts that users follow.
Marketers, by posting at ideal times you can use the new feeds to generate more engagement from your current audience.
Since the new feeds only include users’ followed and favorited accounts, they won’t help to expand brand reach or build your following. That’s why understanding how the Home, Explore, and Reels algorithms work (outlined in the sections above) is still critical to Instagram content strategy.
Instagram Algorithms And Feeds In 2022
With the upcoming expansion of views, plus its complex algorithms, signals, and processes, Instagram continues to improve on its experience for users and marketers alike.
Understanding the algorithm process for its Home, Reels, Explore, and upcoming Following and Favorites feeds can help marketers tailor content to both it audience and its objectives.
However, since its algorithms constantly change without warning or announcement, understanding your Instagram followers and target audience through analytics should always be the first point of consideration in your Instagram content strategy.