The Instagram Algorithm: What You Need to Know

Well, it’s here.

There’s been talk in the air for months that it’s coming, but the Instagram Algorithm is officially here has been rolling out to everyone’s feeds, as of June 2. Read Instagram’s announcement here.

But first, let’s talk numbers for a sec. 6 months ago, I had around 1600 followers, but on certain posts, if I played my hashtags right, I could get 100+ likes on my posts. Today, at over 2100 followers, an average post (using exactly those same hashtags) nets only about 60-70 likes. So, more followers, you would think, would lead to more likes, but since Instagram has gone algorithmic, it appears to not be the case.

We’re also seeing more ads. It seems 1 out of every 10 posts in my feed is an ad.

Here’s how your feed works now

If you have specific people that you follow on Instagram and you like or comment on their stuff more than others, you will notice more of their photos in your feed. Some of my favorites–like say these wonderful folks–I no longer need to go hunting for if they don’t come up in my feed. All I have to do is like their stuff, and it will start to happen naturally.

This is good and bad, of course. I like specific photographers, and of course I always love to see their work, but it’s also nice to have variety and to see new things–or as new as the 1800+ people I’m following can supply.

Instagram moved the timestamp of each post to a more obscure location a few months back when it did one of its major updates. It’s now harder to find out when photos were posted. As I write this, and I scan through my feed, it looks like this: 5 minutes ago, 4 minutes ago, 8 minutes ago, 8 minutes ago, 8 minutes ago, 5 minutes ago. And then further down, it gets even more confusing: 7 hours ago, 2 hours ago, 9 hours ago, 5 hours ago, 9 hours ago, 10 hours ago.

If you are someone like me, and you’d scroll back until you found the last photo you liked and then go through all the new ones that had been posted since, you can’t do that any more.

Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, we can expect that the algorithm is going to be similar to Facebook’s. According to this blog post, the algorithm is built on 3 principles:

  1. Time: how recently your post was shared. Obviously, if you shared something 24 hrs+ ago, there’s less of a chance someone will see it than if you shared it more recently.
  2. Engagement: the more engaging your post (ie: how many likes and comments you get), the better it will do in the algorithm.
  3. Previous Interactions: this what I was talking about above–if you interact (like/comment) with specific people more often, you’ll see them more often in your feed.


Really simply: engage and be engaging. Instagram is built on engagement (and pretty pictures). The thing about Instagram is, if you like and comment on other people’s photos, they will like and comment on yours. It’s really how it works. So be sure to interact and be a part of the community.

You can also try doing things like asking questions of your audience. For example, a couple weeks back, I posted this photo of blueberries and crowdsourced my audience for ideas about what I should make with them.

What’s been your experience with the new Instagram algorithm? I’d love to hear in the comments below.





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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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