Uncovering the mystery of Instagram’s algorithm

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Uncovering the mystery of Instagram’s algorithm

Part 1 of a 2 part Instagram series

Are you baffled by Instagram’s algorithm and how it works? If so, you’re not alone.

Despite the fact that Instagram has operated with an algorithm-based feed for over 2 years now, many people are still clueless as to how it works and why it was introduced.

Essentially, the platform has gone from showing posts in reverse chronological order to a more complex, machine-learning driven approach.

Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) received many complaints following their announcement of the new algorithm, as it appeared that the platform was prioritizing one account’s content over another. People were demanding to understand why and how Instagram ranked the posts in the users feeds. There was even a “Keep Instagram chronological” petition, which gained over 70,000 signatures in just 24 hours!

The new order reportedly made it particularly challenging for those trying to build brands or strengthen marketing on the platform.

In spite of the uproar, Instagram has reported that since the implementation of the algorithm, there has been a dramatic increase in engagement. People are actively liking and commenting on photos more than ever before. According to TechCrunch, before the change, users were missing 70 percent of all posts and 50 percent of their friends’ posts. Instagram have stated that users are now able to see 90 percent of the posts from their friends and family.

So how exactly does the algorithm work?

To clear things up, the social media platform essentially uses machine learning based on a user’s past behaviour and usage so that each user is presented with a unique feed. This means that even if you follow identical accounts to another user, your feed will be entirely tailored to you based on the unique way in which you interact with content.

It’s a bit creepy to think we’re being tracked by a machine, but hey, if the desired content is appearing in our feeds, who are we to complain?!

So what are the main indicators Instagram utilises to rank the posts in your feed?


Firstly, the algorithm predicts the kind of content you’re most likely to be interested in, which is based on the type of content you’ve interacted with in the past. By engaging with content on a particular account, Instagram will make sure that posts of a similar nature from similar brands/users will feature heavily in your feed.

If you’re a brand or business wanting to grow your following it is crucial to post engaging images with captivating captions that will draw people in and encourage people to interact. Once users start interacting with your account, it will signal to the algorithm that they want to see more of what you post.


Whilst the posts may no longer be ordered reverse chronologically, the platform still ensures that user’s feeds feature timely posts. Earlier on this year, Instagram announced that they were altering the algorithm to ensure that newer posts were more likely to appear first in the feed.


The algorithm will also track your relationship with other users you follow. By analyzing your engagement with another account (commenting or liking posts, being tagged in photos together and sending direct messages), Instagram will ensure that this particular user’s content features heavily in your feed.

Again, if you’re hoping to grow your following, it’s important to provide followers with the type of content that they want to see. By analysing the type of content that receives the highest interaction and posting more of it, there’s a good chance that they’ll stick around for more.

Want to know more about how to use Instagram (or other social media platforms) to achieve your goals, get in touch today, the team here at MAXX would love to help you. Give us a call on 01635 521224 or drop us a line: [email protected]