Learn all the latest ranking factors here and find out how to increase your Instagram reach
Picture the scene, it’s 2024, a brand-new year, and you’re finally going to nail your Instagram content. You carve out time to create the perfect copy, graphic, and hashtags and press the post button with a sure sense of satisfaction – this one’s going viral. Two hours later and you have three likes (one of which is your mum), so, what are you doing wrong?
We’ve all heard the classic excuse, “It’s not you, it’s me” (although, the memory is now likely suppressed in the ‘Mortifying Teenage Years’ section of the brain). This line rings true for Instagram too because you’re going to have to appease the pernickety and high-maintenance BF/GF that is the “Instagram Algorithm” if you want your content seen by a wide audience.
Knowing how this algorithm works and optimising your content accordingly allows your posts to be seen by more users… and avoids any awkward breakups with the platform.
What is the Instagram algorithm?
In essence, the Instagram algorithm is a set of rules that ranks content (posts, Stories, Reels) on the platform. It cross-references content with users, delivering content in line with their interests and behaviour on Instagram. This determines which content shows up for that user, and in what order on their main feed, Explore page, Reels feed etc.
Why should this matter to us marketers? Knowing how the Instagram algorithm works and optimizing your content accordingly can lead to Instagram displaying your posts to a wider audience.
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
This varies according to content formats (Feed, Explore, Reels) but, ultimately, each time a user opens Instagram, its algorithm searches through available content and decides what to serve and in which order. It does this by assessing:
Relationship – between the content creator and user (whether you follow each other, interact with user etc.) Repeated interaction with a user means that they are more likely to see your content. This is an important tip for businesses as responding to DMs, comments and mentions can improve your visibility on Instagram.
Interest – of the user, i.e., if they typically interact with similar content. If Instagram identifies that the user enjoys a specific content type or format, it will continue to serve related posts.
Relevancy – where content fits in with trending topics and how recent the post is. Instagram favours “relevant” content.
Other factors which have a bearing on the Instagram algorithm ranking are how often the user opens the platform and how long they spend time in the app. If they sporadically browse the app and for short periods, they will only see the most relevant content from friends and family making it difficult for businesses to surface in their feed. Likewise, the more followers the user has, the more accounts are competing for space.
What is Instagram’s new algorithm for 2024?
Let’s take a deeper delve into the 2024 Instagram algorithm and how it is designed to work.
According to Instagram, each part of the platform – Feed, Explore, Reels – uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it. We have summarised this set of rules for each content format below:
Feed and Stories
Instagram tells us that Feed and Stories are simply ordered according to the recent posts shared by the people you follow.
Information is then taken about what was posted, who made the post, and user preferences. These “signals” as Instagram refers to them, include everything from how many likes a post has, what time it was shared, whether it was viewed on a phone or the web, how long it is if it’s video, and what location, if any, is attached to it.
The algorithm searches for information about the account that posted to gauge how interesting it may be to the audience, looking for signals such as how many people have interacted with the account over the past few weeks.
Instagram also tracks user activity to understand what they may be interested in, how many posts they’ve liked, and their history of interacting with certain accounts.
After collating this information, the algorithm makes a set of predictions on how likely the user is to interact with a post in different ways, such as commenting, liking and resharing. The more likely it is that a user will take an action, the higher up the post will appear on their feed.
Explore is designed to help the user discover new content. It features posts from accounts they do not follow, instead the grid is made up of photo and video recommendations that the algorithm selects. It does this by looking at posts the user has liked, saved, and commented on in the past and serving content in line with this.
For example, if they were to like a series of photos shared by master chocolatier @amauryguichon, the algorithm will look at who else likes Amuary’s photos and what other accounts those people are interested in. If people who like this account are also into the hyper-realistic cake chef @sideserfcakes, the user may then be shown a photo or video from @sideserfcakes the next time they open Explore. Or they may see posts about related topics such as sweet shops or cake factories.
Once the algorithm finds photos and videos it thinks the user will be interested in, it orders them much like the Feed and Stories. Ultimately by how likely it deems you are to do something with that post.
Much like Explore, most of what the user sees is from accounts they do not follow. Instagram, therefore, orders content in a similar process to Explore, i.e., according to how interesting it thinks it will be to the user.
Instagram notes, however, it is specifically focused on entertainment when it comes to Reels. Surveys are conducted to test whether audiences find a particular Reel entertaining or funny to ensure Instagram is delivering appropriate content to its users, considering smaller creators in the process.
The algorithm is looking for Reels that the audience will watch all the way through, like, comment on, and ideally then click through to the audio page to make their own Reel.
Why is my Instagram reach so low?
If we had a pound for every time we were asked this question we’d be on a beach in Santorini, sipping on mojitos, listening to the gentle waves of the ocean, and sunning our… ahem back to business.
Bottom line is, you’re not alone. Almost everyone is struggling with reach right now, and a lot of that is down to the shifts in the algorithm.
You can and WILL get seen, however (us Bright Sprouts believe in you!). You just need to strategize to get your content ranking higher and create posts that people are going to like, comment on, and share. The more they do, the more the algorithm will think that other people will too, thus delivering your content to a wider audience.
How can I increase my Instagram reach?
Here are a few “hacks” from your friendly Sprouts to fix your Instagram algorithm and increase your reach:
Be trendy: keep up with trends to create relevant content.
We recommend scrolling through the Instagram Reels/Explore tabs and browsing similar creators’ profiles to see what they’re posting and what gets the best response from their audience. Is there a theme that consistently pops up, for example, a song/audio clip/dance trend? Use this as a basis to craft your own popular content but be quick – these trends come and go fast so grab it while it’s hot!
Stay ahead of the game: explore new content formats and features as soon as they go live.
Again, it’s about staying ahead of the game and using the newest formats that Instagram is promoting. Reels are still one of the hottest features on the platform and creating short, simple, and fun videos can get you noticed. However, be sure to avoid low-resolution video, watermarks, borders, muted audio, Reels that contain majority text or focus on political issues.
Time it right: post your content when your target audience is online.
This of course varies according to what you’re marketing and your target audience, but as a rule of thumb, early mornings, lunch breaks, and evenings (when people are more likely to browsing Instagram) are good times to post. Posting before 8 A.M. gives you a better chance of appearing on a user’s feed when they first open their app.
#Usehashtags: use accurate and descriptive hashtags that describe what your post is about.
Instagram can’t appreciate the beauty of a piglet wearing welly boots like we can *wipes away tears of joy*, but it can understand the #pigsofinstagram hashtag. The Instagram algorithm uses hashtags to understand content and deliver it to the right audiences. Posting accurate and descriptive tags is a great way to maximise your reach – and it’s totally free! Be sure to research your niche to find the best descriptive hashtags rather than using generic tags that won’t help the algorithm categorise your content.
Go long: write long captions and craft copy that encourages engagement.
Lengthy captions which include valuable information and questions to encourage engagement can be a great way to increase the likes, comments, and saves a post gets. It also gives more opportunity to show authenticity.
Swipe left: post carousels to your feed.
Using carousels can help you get on the algorithm’s good side by inviting your audience to interact with your post. As typically the user spends a greater amount of time swiping across each slide of the carousel (as opposed to a single image or video), this tells the algorithm that your target audience finds your content interesting and valuable. This means the algorithm is more likely to deliver your content to a wider audience.
Don’t lose momentum: post consistently and frequently upload Reels to keep your content seen.
Finally, keep up the good work! Posting consistently will ensure your content continues to be seen and sends the message to your audience that you are passionate about what you do. Posting to your feed daily is ideal, however, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri noted during Instagram’s Creators Week in 2021 that “A couple of feeds a week, a couple of Stories per day” is sufficient to build a following.
And that friends, is the long and short of it (mainly long)! We hope that you’ve made it this far and that you’ve picked up some valuable information along the way. Be sure to follow Bright Sprout for more tips and tricks on how to succeed with your Instagram content.
If you need us to unlock your full potential on the platform, get in touch! We can craft high-quality, engaging graphics and copy for your Instagram account tailored to your business.
Give us a call on 07518 716890 or fill in our contact form to have a friendly chat about how we can help.