Instagram Marketing

How The Instagram Algorithm Works For Stories, Feeds, Reels, And Explore

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  • 28 August 2023
  • 5 min read

The mystery behind how Instagram chooses to display content to its users is a topic that marketers and influencers have been exploring since the platform’s inception. As Instagram’s popularity has grown, so too have its features, including Stories, Feeds, Reels, and Explore. Each of these features has a distinct algorithm that works in specific ways, and understanding this algorithm is key to a successful Instagram marketing campaign. This article will provide you with a deeper understanding of each algorithm and how to leverage them to engage with your audience effectively and reach your social media marketing goals.

The Feed Algorithm

Instagram’s Feed is likely the first point of contact for users after logging in, so understanding how the algorithm decides which posts to show is vital to your Instagram marketing strategy. It’s important to understand that the algorithm is a complex system that learns and adapts to individual user behaviors. As such, the best way to work with it is to consistently engage with your audience, provide fresh, high-quality content, and stay active on the platform. Primarily, Instagram’s Feed algorithm prioritizes content based on several key factors:

User Interests: The algorithm factors in the type of content with which you interact. For example, if you often like or comment on travel-related posts, Instagram will more likely show you similar content.

Relationships: The Instagram algorithm keeps tabs on the people you interact with the most. So if you frequently comment on someone’s posts or are tagged in photos together, this person will rank higher in your Feed.

Timeliness: More recent posts are likely to appear in your Feed. This encourages users to regularly post content to remain relevant.

The Stories Algorithm

Instagram Stories, displayed at the top of the Instagram app, is another crucial feature in Instagram marketing. The order in which these Stories appear is primarily determined by your relationships and interactions. Instagram shows the Stories of people you interact with most first. Therefore, regular interaction with your followers can help ensure that your Stories get the visibility they deserve. Here are the major factors considered:

Interactions: Instagram Stories are ordered based on how often and how recently you’ve interacted with the person who posted the story. If you frequently engage with someone’s posts or stories, whether through likes, comments, DMs, or simply spending time viewing their content, Instagram will interpret that as a signal of interest and prioritize their Stories in your queue.

Predicted Interests: Instagram’s algorithm uses machine learning to predict what content will interest you the most based on your past behavior. This means if you’ve shown an interest in a certain type of story (like workout routines, for example) Instagram’s algorithm will prioritize similar stories from different users.

Timeliness: Instagram prioritizes recent Stories, as the format is meant for sharing real-time updates. Therefore, regularly updating your Stories can help you stay at the top of your followers’ Stories feeds.

Frequency of Use: How often you use Instagram can also affect the Stories you see. If you only check Instagram once or twice a day, the algorithm will show you the Stories it thinks you’ll like the most. But if you’re a frequent user, it will try to show you the most recent Stories.

Number of People You Follow: If you follow a large number of accounts, you might see a greater diversity of Stories, as Instagram attempts to show you a bit from all followed accounts.

The Reels Algorithm

Instagram Reels was introduced in 2020 as a competitor to TikTok with a streamlined feed of short video clips. Reels also uses its own unique algorithm that works similarly, but independently from the Stories and Feed content. Here are some of the major factors:

User Interests: Similar to the Feed algorithm, Instagram Reels shows you content similar to what you’ve interacted with or searched for.

Shareability & Engagement: Instagram prioritizes Reels that are likely to be shared, liked, or commented on. So, creating engaging content is key to appearing in more users’ Reels sections.

Video Performance: High-quality videos with good resolution, and are fully vertical (not blurred or with a border) have a better chance of being promoted by the algorithm.

The Explore Algorithm

Lastly, Instagram’s Explore feature helps users discover new content and suggests new accounts to follow. The Explore algorithm functions a bit differently from the others. It categorizes user interests and populates the Explore page with content similar to the combined captured data from all recently viewed content. Additionally, it considers the popularity of posts and their relevance to the user and does its best to compile a list of popular images and videos that are likely to encourage the user to engage with them. In other words, if a post is generating a lot of engagement and is related to the type of content a user interacts with, it’s more likely to show up on their Explore page. Having your content featured in the Explore section is the goal when it comes to reaching new users and growing your audience, so it is important that you actively optimize your content to make sure this goal is achieved.

Optimizing Content for the Instagram Algorithm

While it may seem to be repetitive advice, it is important to understand that performing well with each individual feature on Instagram is crucial to your overall visibility and success with Instagram marketing. This means that simply committing to Reels or regular Feed posting will not earn you any points with Stories, or vice versa. So make sure that you have all of your bases covered when creating and posting new content every week, and check off all the boxes. Optimizing your content for the Instagram algorithm is a strategic process and not one that can be done passively. Here are some important tips to optimize the Instagram algorithm:

Post Consistently: Instagram favors those who post regularly. So, ensure that you maintain a consistent posting schedule to keep your content in front of your followers. The optimal frequency can vary depending on your audience, but many brands aim for 1-2 posts per day.

Leverage All Instagram Features: Instagram encourages users to use all of its features. So, alongside regular posts, use Stories, Reels, IGTV, and Live. Each feature has a distinct algorithm, and using them all will maximize your reach and engagement.

Engage With Your Followers: As Instagram prioritizes content from accounts that users interact with regularly, it’s crucial to foster these interactions. Respond to comments, engage with your followers’ posts, and encourage engagement in your captions. Regular interaction with your followers signals to Instagram a closer relationship.

Use Relevant Hashtags: Hashtags help categorize your content and make it discoverable to non-followers. Use relevant and specific hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts. You can use up to 30 hashtags on a post, but research suggests 9-11 hashtags is the optimal number.

Analyze Your Performance: Regularly analyze your content’s performance to understand what resonates with your audience. Instagram provides in-depth analytics for business accounts, which can help you understand which types of content generate the most engagement. Use this information to guide your content strategy.

CloudMellow Social Media Marketing

In the digital age we’re living in, your presence on online media isn’t just nice to have, it’s a must. Social media isn’t a passing trend – it’s here for the long haul and it’s growing bigger every day. This presents a fantastic chance for your business to really make its mark. Here at CloudMellow, we’re not just offering Instagram marketing and social media services. We’re offering a unique solution that’s stood the test of time, a way for you to stand out in a crowded marketplace. If you’re looking for a little help to fine-tune your social media game plan, visit our website and contact one of our team members today.

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