How does Instagram algorithm work?

Content Marketer and Writer
Updated 10 January, 2024
Julia Moore
Content Marketer and Writer
They say, there is the right time for posting. They say, Instagram doesn’t count short comments in engagement. And they say, you should post a particular number of posts. Also, you should add few posts and a lot of Stories. But once you get used to the rules, Instagram algorithm changes. It starts working in a different way. Let's see what it's like in 2024.
Reading time — 8 minutes

How new Instagram algorithm ranks the content

Instagram says there is not just one, but several algorithms. (And all they change) One code is for ranking Stories, another one is for the feed. There is no direct relationship between them. Add to that, there are algorithms responsible for the Explore page and many others.

Instagram aims to give a user the most interesting content. This should make users spend more time in the app. What's more, this should make them leave likes and comments, which in its turn encourage creators to post more.

The current Instagram algorithms work to personalize what a user sees. Thus, everyone will see exactly what they like. 

Instagram predicts whether a user will like a photo or video according to various signals. Instagram algorithms estimate users' behavior, their accounts and the content. Some of these things you can control, and others — you can't. Let's look closer at both of them.

Instagram algorithm for post and Stories

Feed is the places where you see merely what people you follow post. But this may be a lot of users, and the platform has to decide who will be shown first in the Home tab. There are no significant differeces between Instagram Story algorithm and the one for posts. 

Priority of the people you follow

Instagram algorithm analyzes how people like the author and their posts and Stories. Both you and other people's opinions are important. It is important how many likes and comments users leave. But there are of course a whole lot of other signals. A person in favor will appear at the top of the Home tab.

There are exceptions, though. For example, Instagram avoids showing too many pics and videos of the same person to one user. Besides, originals are the priority for Instagram Story view algorithm. It means reposted from the feed content is shown less often. 

Type of content you watch and skip on Instagram

The type of content is another matter for Instagram algorithms. It may be photos or videos. It may be the image carousel or single photos. When it comes to videos, their length is the criterion. If you skip long videos, they are unlikely to appear in the Home tab. If you skip every posted video, you will barely see them in the future. 

Content that piques your interest

Instagram algorithm ranks posts and Stories according to your interests. If you like cats, you will see more cats on Instagram. How does Instagram algorithm know about your fondness for the animals?

Instagram algorithms work to figure out the patterns in what you search for and interact with. It analyzes your likes and comments, or what you open more on the Explore page. Hashtags you search for matter too. This is what you are interested in, or at least you succeed to deceive the platform into thinking so.

There are of course more signals telling Instagram algorithm about your interests. Unfortunately, the platform doesn't provide the full list of them or explain how it works.

Posting time may be important for the algorithm

There still may be best times for posting, although we have long since Instagram gave up the chronological feed. Generally, new posts appear above the old. But this is not the main criterion.

It means you should post when your audience is online, this may give a boost to your account.

Instagram Explore page algorithm

Instagram Explore tab, unlike Home, is for showing your posts and Reels to the people who don't follow you. But the similar thing is that the algorithm works to offer the most relevant to a user content. Instagram has been a popular visual platform for a very long time, and it has learned that users are not interested in current most popular trends the same way.

Photos, videos and their authors

Instagram algorithm analyzes the content and its author to decide whether to show them on the Explore tab.

Photos and videos of a high quality, with hashtags and engaging captions have bigger chances to appear on the Instagram Explore page. We want to emphasize it — you should pay more attention to the text you write under pics and videos if you hope to get to the tab. 

Users' engagement and interactions determine how likely the content and the authors appear on the page. Publications that gain likes, comments, views fast have higher chances to appear on the page. The same is about the interaction with the authors.

Your interests matter

Instagram algorithm works to find out what you will like. It works the same way as with the feed.

Instagram figures out the hashtags you usually interact with. For instance, these are the hashtags that you use. It also includes those under users' posts that you liked and commented.

The profiles you interact with affect what you see on the Explore tab. Instagram algorithm supposes people who are subscribed to the same profile like the same things.

The example will make it easier to understand. There is a profile A. You and person B are both subscribed to it. The B likes photos with dogs. Then, you are likely to see photos with dogs in your Explore tab.


The conditions to be shown on the Explore page are much more stricter than for the posts and Stories in the feed. Instagram algorithms won't show any publication that may be considered as violating the Terms Of Use or Community Guidelines. While in the feed, you may see some controversial posts.

Insragram explains that when it comes to the feed, an offensive post is "between you and your friend". But in the Explore tab, it's "a different situation". You don't want to hear offensive things from someone you don't know. 

Instagram Reels algorithm

Reels algorithms work almost the same as those for the Explore tab. They estimate the same things to decide whether a video will be shown to a user. Both the user's activity, the authors and their content parameters are included in the calculations.

Besides, since Instagram Reels are videos from people you don't know, there are tight restrictions. Instagram won't allow a video that may violate the platform's rules in the Reels tab.

The main difference is that Reels are for entertainment. Instagram makes surveys asking whether a video was funny. The more engaging and funny the video is, according to the people's opinion, the more often it is shown.

There are two more things you should know about how Instagram Reels algorithm works. The watch time is important. If people watch the whole video, it gains priority. Users going to the audio page also positively affect the ranking of the reel they've just watched.

Tips to make Instagram algorithm work for you

What we've learned from the previous part is that Instagram algorithms work to choose photos and videos for each particular user, this allows showing the most interest content in each particular case. The content ranking is based on the users behavior. 

This means you should invite Instagram users to interact with you and the content. Then you will be the priority in all Instagram tabs. 

How to increase engagement in the feed

Let's start with the feed Instagram algorithms. The feed is a perfect place to chat with your audience because they know you. Some of them genuinely love you, others never miss a chance to support you with a like or comment. This is how you can encourage people to interact:

  • Ask users if they agree with you or not when you voice your opinion in a post. It’s a good way to start debates.
  • Suggest a discussion about what product they find the best if you have an online-shop. 
  • Post relevant to your profile games and quizzes are good for increasing users' loyalty.

Engaging Stories

There is such a term — person centered content. Keeping to it is a good way to make Instagram Story algorithm work for you. Why? Users are flattered to know you are interested in their opinion. Besides, everyone wants to express their own opinion. (Isn't it the point of the internet?) That's why this is a great way to encourage people to interact.

What you need to enhance engagement is to use built-in tools: questions, polls, emoji slider, quiz. Suggest users to participate in a poll or take some easy quiz.

Instagram likes quality photos and videos

Now you know that Instagram algorithms give priority to high-quality content. It's first and foremost about the resolution. But you should also remember about the idea of a post. Add to your profile only when you have something to say. If you've got nothing worthwhile for today, skip posting.

Slow your roll when adding to Stories

The Rival IQ research of 2021 gave a great insight for the question of how Instagram algorithm works. It told how often you should post on Instagram.

The thing is that people don't watch more than 12 Stories added by one account. 80% of people skip or close the next ones. This is a bad signal for Instagram algorithms, it thinks these stories are not engaging. 

Adding two stories an hour is a good pace for influencers. The storytelling should imply some logic. Mix usability and lifestyle: give advice and don’t forget to entertain. For example, one or two videos may be reviews of a good product, then something fun. 

If you promote a business, you need to add to your profile less often. The Rival IQ says 25% of the most active brands share Stories 16 times a month, sometimes more. It may be once every second day. It is enough for a good social media marketing strategy.

Make the profile topic clear to Instagram

Instagram algorithm must know your account topic to be able to decide who may be interested in it. Then it will show your photos and videos to them.

Here is how you can make your account topic clear to Instagram algorithms:

  • Post on only one topic in your account. 
  • Use specific hashtags.
  • Switch to a Professional account and set the category. 

The bottom line

Instagram algorithm works to show different content to each user. The platform chooses they will be most engaged with. Understanding them is vital for your social media marketing strategy.

If you want Instagram algorithms work for you, remember the main points:

  • Encourage users to engage with your posts, Stories, Reels. Then they will be shown more often.
  • Work on the quality of your photos and videos, write good captions and add hashtags. Then you are more likely to be shown to the users who are not subscribed to you yet.
  • Strictly adhere to the Terms Of Use and Community Guidelines to be shown in the Explore and Reels tabs.
  • Make fun Reels if you want more people to see them.