Exploring the Instagram Algorithm

Anyone who has been on Instagram for the last year knows the dark magic that is known as “The Algorithm”. And this is Dark Magic indeed. No one knows exactly what makes it tick, what works, what doesn’t. Though, like with any sorcery, there are many, many theories running amuck.

The argument for the algorithm is that Instagram is attempting to find the best audience for your posts. It can be argued that they are giving preference to large accounts. I can’t disagree with that, but neither can I prove it. Even if it is, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for smaller accounts. You just have to have a targeted approach to your account.

I don’t have the answers. But I have done a little bit of research, and in doing my good deed for the Internet world, I thought I would share my findings. Please remember, these are simply my own experiences and observations.

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First, in order to beat the algorithm you must calculate the hidden mass of your…… HA! Just kidding!

First, consistency. Instagram is a stickler for consistency. There are a lot of articles telling you that you have to post the same day and time or else you’ll get thrown into Internet jail or worse: LOW PERFORMANCE!!! There’s some truth to this, although it isn’t quite so dramatic as some lead you to believe. Yes, consistency matters. If you post at different times every day, you may struggle to get the performance your post deserves. But, if you post normally around 9am daily, and you don’t post until 10am one day, you probably won’t see too much of a difference.

I have learned that if you want to ‘reset’ your algorithm, not posting for a day or two will usually work. I’ve done that when I couldn’t get my posts over a certain threshold. I waited a day between posts, and the next time I posted, it immediately performed better. In the meantime, I posted on my stories (we’ll get to those later) and still liked, commented and interacted with people on Instagram. This all matters.

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If you really want to get nerdy about it, there are actual performance data on business accounts that tell you when your followers are most active. This is true, business accounts do provide more insight than personal accounts. These algorithm articles will urge you to change to a business account so that you get this data. But is this necessary?

I have one personal account where I post the majority of my content, along with two business accounts; one for my dogs (yes, I know, it’s ridiculous but also awesome and we love it) with 200 followers and one for my Etsy shop with around 250 followers. It’s difficult to say which performs better. My two business accounts get anywhere from 50-100 likes per photo. I don’t post consistently to them. But one is dogs with books, mostly in pajamas and costumes, so I feel like that’s a winner on it’s own. And one is mainly tagging Harry Potter hashtags and dragon lovers. Again, fairly popular tags.

My personal account has gone up and down with performance. Lately, I find that I do get around 100 likes per post. I post daily, fairly consistently. So it would seem that while my business accounts are smaller, they get nearly the same activity. Of course, if I posted on my personal account with the same tags, it could be that they would do better. Difficult to say.

One thing I can say, is that the insights are interesting if you enjoy interpreting data. But it is very basic data. Most followers are active between 9am – 7pm daily. It goes up and down according to the day on which hour, but if you follow the consistency rule, the variation between activity per hour shouldn’t impact your post too dramatically. The rest of the data such as gender and location are interesting, but unless you’re an actual business with targeted demographic needs for your product line, I don’t find them that useful to the overall realm of social media.

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Frankly, who knows?! I mean, if you are into data and analytics. By all means, upgrade to business and enjoy the analysis. But, if not, my advice is simply this: test posting at various times. Try the morning for a week and see how they do. Then post in the afternoon or evening. Whenever you change, do it for a week to allow Instagram to adjust to your new times. Find your happy place. The most important thing with posting, is that you reply to comments.

So here we get to the good stuff.

Posting times and business accounts aside. Account interaction is key. So, find a time to post, that performs well, where you can comment and reply to people on your post.

I’ve read that if your post get comments and likes of a certain amount (who knows the sorcery behind this? NO ONE!) Instagram will release your post or boost it to more followers. I have no idea if this is true. What I can tell you, is that since I joined not just one, but two algorithm groups, my performance per post is improving.

HOWEVER

If you join a group with the sole intention of just boosting your posts and your algorithm, I think you’ll end up frustrated, disgusted, and overall unhappy. These groups help, yes. But, they are also a commitment of time and energy. Make sure the group you are in jives with you. If you have to comment on sultry romance posts and you’re a solid dystopian girl, you may find yourself struggling to comment on every post, every day, sometimes multiple times a day. So make sure you find your people!

The one thing I have found, is that commenting and interacting with accounts, even outside my groups is helping. Because you form friendships with people. The more you message with people, comment, watch their stories, mystery of all magic their posts show up on my feed more, and vice versa.

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Okay, so this isn’t sorcery as much as common sense. But it’s important. Like life, social media is what you make it. And you get what you put into it.

If you want to grow your account, and you don’t want to buy followers or use bots, you need to form genuine connections. Yes, these take time. But they also make it worth the experience. You’ll find accounts and people behind them who are interested in you, and you in them. This will lead to others, and so momentum is built.

The more genuine you are with your account, your captions, your comments and replies, the more your account will grow. That much I have seen not just through my accounts, but others as well.

Post to your stories. I know, I know. When they first came out everyone complained. It’s too much! But your stories are a way to show a different side to you versus your beautifully themed feed. Let them see your sense of humor, your quirkiness. This is where you can be a bit messy. It disappears in a day! Find a way to let your personality shine through and you’ll find people respond.

I use ridiculous Snapchat filters. It makes me happy. And it makes me even happier when people message me that my dancing reindeer post made them laugh, or that my dancing pickle video brightened their day. It’s silly. But it’s fun. Sometimes I do unboxings. Sometimes I talk about serious stuff. Sometimes it’s dancing pickles.

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Beyond letting people get to know you through your stories, they carry, say it with me now: ALGORITHM INFLUENCE!!! I don’t know if they have their own algorithm, or they influence your feeds algorithm, or if it’s a combination. Seriously, who has time to track all this? But, the more people see your bright shiny username and profile pic at the top of their screens, the more they’re likely to watch and go to your feed.

Some thoughts on stories. Be aware of your audience. If you use Instagram for friends, that’s one thing. If you’re attempting to be an Influencer, or are using this platform to promote products, even while being yourself: be professional. There’s a balance there. Find it.

That’s a lot, and probably nothing you haven’t already read before. I don’t have any tricks other than simply being sincere, find your happy place, make genuine connections and be consistent. The rest will come.

I will talk more about shadow banning, hashtags and more in another post, so stay tuned!

6 thoughts on “Exploring the Instagram Algorithm

    1. It can be confusing and also overwhelming. The biggest key is to know your goals for your account and find the balance within those parameters 🖤 my user name is the same as the blog jenabrownwrites and I’m always around through DM to help 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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