How does Instagram’s Algorithm Actually Work?

Since its launch in 2010 Instagram has quickly become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Everything from catching up with old friends to keeping up with the latest news and football scores, it’s through its versatility and wide range of content that it has grown at an exponential rate appealing to consumers all over the world regardless of interests or hobbies. As a part of its recent ‘creator week’ Instagram has provided us with insight into how its internal processes dictate content reach.

Signals and Content Interaction

The content that is given to you by Instagram verges on multiple factors which they use to decide how interesting the post may be to the consumer and thereby how likely it is to appear in feeds.

An image showing the Interaction tab on Instagram
Image Showing Instagram Interaction Tab

Popularity of the post:

Larger amounts of people interacting with the post over a short duration of time signifies that the post most likely appeals to a wider audience and is therefore more likely to appear. This often happens with people who have large social media followings such as influencers.

Who posted it:

The general amount of interaction that the author has received on their recent posts shows their current relevance within Instagram, the world changes at a breath-taking pace and as certain authors become more relevant their content may gain greater reach, an example would be someone running a fan account for a TV show only in order for it to get a new season.

Interaction History:

Repeated interaction with either a certain author or a specific type of post will flag to the algorithm that the consumer has interest in the content and will therefore show them more posts that are similar to the ones being interacted with. This can be further swayed by liking or commenting on posts, in instances like this if for example you repeatedly click on posts about a certain video game, your chances of seeing posts about that same video game or one from the same developer or genre rise exponentially.


The use of Hashtags ensures that content is marked as being within a group of other similar posts that all share the same Hashtag making each more discoverable to those interacting with a post sharing the same hashtag. Hashtags are also clickable and when selecting a certain one it will take you to a full page showing all the posts for which that Hashtag has been mentioned, they can also be directly followed meaning that they may see the author’s post even if the author is not directly followed. Hashtags can be a great way to increase post reach and using more niche ones will lead to the post being in a more refined group showing up to those that are searching for something specific.

Banner showing Odyssey Instagram Post
Image of Odyssey New Media Instagram Post Using Hashtags

Why Is There a Need for the Algorithm?       

As of 2021 Instagram has a potential advertising reach of 1.16 billion users with over 50 billion photos having been posted since its inception, many of these photos will be of absolutely no interest to many users and by narrowing down their interests the Instagram algorithm can gain better insight into which of those 50 billion photos the user actually wants to see. On the business side, many businesses use Instagram to market their products, 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily and through the use of the Algorithm Instagram ensures that those are the audience members that have interests in line with the products that are being offered.

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