Similar to your other social media feeds, Instagram has started to customise your newsfeed with what it thinks you want to see. There are six key factors which determine your position in the algorithms, backed by performance metrics and patterns of user behaviour from a wider audience and driven by machine learning.
The constantly evolving ranking algorithms provide a constant challenge for marketers looking to have the top content, as the goal posts keep moving, but by following the six key ranking factors you can optimise your content as best as possible:
This covers how much perceived interest your post will generate. Worked out through the number of engagements you’ve had previously; the Instagram algorithm will look at this historical engagement with the account and learn from that moving forwards. So, the more comments, likes, shares, views and saves that you’ve previously had, the higher your engagement rates and therefore perceived interest to new users.
A closer relationship with the author of a post will give it more prominence in your newsfeed – the ‘friends and family’ option for example will ensure that any posts within this group are prioritised. Instagram will often assume these relationships depending on the number of messages, shares, engagement and other behaviour suggesting a real-life connection. An account will not necessarily retain this assumed relationship however, with consistency of the engagements still a key factor to maintain this connection.
Simply, newer posts will usually rank higher because they are assumed to be more relevant. There is no hard cut-off time for when Instagram will rule out content based on recency, but if you can post at the time your users are the most likely to be active you are likely to get an engagement boost from this.
The algorithms will check all content since a user’s last visit to Instagram and will collate the best content in this time, using the other ranking factors discussed here. This is purely based on the user, as each session provides Instagram with more insight into someone’s browsing habits which it can then use to collate their feeds.
Depending on the number of accounts that each user follows, there will be a greater number of posts to rank and therefore more competition to be displayed. This, like the frequency factor above, is out of your direct control but if the post is as strong as it can be then you’re giving yourself the best chance of being displayed.
Depending on how long a user will be spending on Instagram will depend how many posts they are able to see, with a longer session link allowing a larger feed and therefore higher chance of your post appearing in their feed.
So how do I optimise for these factors?
If you know your audience you have a clear head start with getting your content in front of them with Instagram’s algorithm. Both knowing their interests and alliances as well as when they are most active will be of benefit to ensure your post tone and scheduling are optimised. If you can be posting on Instagram when they are browsing their feeds, your odds of being seen will improve, so maintaining a consistent schedule of posts is key here. Don’t forget to post to your stories as well, using a variety of different types of media if you can – a video is always a good way to increase your viewing period and increase your brand time with the user.
The most important thing to remember though is to keep it real – although Instagram uses machine learning, your posts should always be written for the user. If your post is likeable and produces genuine engagement from the users, Instagram will reward you for this.