Ready for the TRUTH about the Instagram algorithm?
I’ve been doing this Instagram thing for a long time in internet years and people can’t stop asking about the algorithm…
If you are wondering how that dang algorithm works, you’re in the right place because today I’m going to break down the Instagram algorithm in 2020.
And the good news: I’m not just speculating…
The information I’m going to share comes directly from the horse’s mouth: Instagram itself. 📱
So forget everything you’ve heard or you’ve believed about the algorithm…
Today, I am just talking about #truth.
AND I’m going to share my answer to a question I still get a lot:
“Elise, should I have a Business or Personal account?”
I’m going to share which type of account is most beneficial for you at the end.
What is the Instagram Algorithm?
First things first, what is the Instagram algorithm?
The algorithm, like most for social media, is powered by machine learning.
This means the algorithm is changing all the time and it’s not the same for two people.
This also means the more you use Instagram, the more the algorithm gets to know what you like.
This is all based on the videos you’re watching, the people you’re messaging, the Stories you’re replying to.
All of your actions inside the app are tracked and taken into account by the machine learning that is behind the algorithm. This is why the Explore page is different for every user.
Your Explore page is curated based on what the algorithm thinks you like the most.
Take my Explore page, for example…
Instagram knows my age and it knows my behavior, so it shows me a lot of baby announcements, pregnancy photos and memes from The Bachelor.
So when you think about it, the Instagram algorithm is on your side.
It’s here for you and it’s designed to give you the content that you’ve already liked – because the thing is, there is so much content on Instagram right now.
Chances are, you’re probably following hundreds – if not thousands – of accounts, so it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to see everyone’s content.
Because of the sheer volume of content on Instagram, the algorithm chooses what it thinks you’re going to like the most…
You’re going to see la crѐme de la crѐme.
How the Instagram Algorithm Works
Next, let’s talk about how to make the Instagram algorithm like you.
The golden rule here is to publish content that people will care about.
When you publish new content, Instagram decides how many people are going to see it based on the initial interactions that content gets.
I’m talking shares, saves, comments, replies, DMs…
These are high quality interactions, and if your content gets a lot of those in a short amount of time, you better believe the algorithm is going to show it to more people.
❗️Breaking news: Instagram has confirmed that it does not hide content, and shadow banning is not a thing.
Again, people are just following thousands of accounts and there’s a lot of content to show, so Instagram isn’t hiding your content, it just can’t show it to all of your followers, especially if the content is not resonating or hitting the mark right away.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’ve ever wondered, Why is my engagement so low?, it could be because the algorithm is not seeing it as valuable content based on the initial interaction that content got (Sorry. 😐)
On that note, here’s my PSA about leaving comment pods:
Comment pods were really hot in 2016 and 2017, but Instagram has officially come out and said that the algorithm knows when people are in comment pods. Interactions you receive from a comment pod are not considered high quality activity or high quality engagement.
So if you’re in a comment pod and the same people are commenting on your stuff over and over again to “boost your post in the algorithm”, Instagram has said: that’s not going to fly.
What to Post on Instagram
Now that we understand how the algorithm works, let’s talk about what kind of content you should be posting.
On average, videos outperform photo-based posts in the feed.
However, Instagram has confirmed that the algorithm itself doesn’t favor videos over photos. It’s just that videos are more engaging. They catch people’s attention and hold it longer.
Now, what counts as a video view? Three seconds, my friend. So if someone stops on your video and watches for three seconds or more, you got a new view.
One other thing to keep in mind is that videos take up four times the amount of space on the Explore page.
So if you want to stand out on the ‘gram, videos are a key way to boost visibility and engagement.
2. IGTVs and Instagram Lives
Between IGTV videos and Instagram Live videos, I prefer IGTV.
Why? Because IGTV videos let you put clickable links in the description.
If you’re not sure how to do this, go ahead and check out this video right here and I’ll walk you through it. 👇🏽
❗️Breaking news: Instagram is rolling out and testing a new feature where you can go live and you can instantly publish your Live as an IGTV video on your channel.
Check it out. ⬇️
This update is removing a step from the previous process where I would go live on Instagram, save the video to my camera roll and then post the video to IGTV.
But with this new feature that is being rolled out, you’re going to be able to go live and then publish it directly to your channel.
This is going to save us lots of time.
Instagram recommends that you use relevant and targeted hashtags.
Large hashtags with millions of posts associated with them just won’t give you the kind of visibility you’re looking for.
Rather, choose niched hashtags that are super relevant to your area of expertise and your target audience.
A smaller hashtag will give you a reasonable chance to stand out to a quality audience – something which is much harder to do with a saturated hashtag.
For example, if you’re in the fitness niche, instead of using the hashtag #fitness, try something like #tabatafitness, which is much more specific and targeted.
When is the Best Time to Post on Instagram?
The best place to find this kind of information is in your Insights. ⤵️
If you have a business profile, Instagram tells you when your audience is most active.
If you don’t have insights, you can also just think about your audience…
When are they likely to scroll Instagram?
Is it during their commute?
Is it during their lunch break?
You can put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think strategically that way.
Same with live videos. Whenever you’re about to go live, you’ll actually get a notification to see how many people are active in the app right now.
So to get that information, check your Insights.
How Often Should You Post on Instagram?
There is no magic number here.
The Instagram algorithm just likes to see you being consistent.
Consistency is queen when it comes to Instagram.
Right now I’m posting about three times a week to my feed.
If you can do three times per week, great. If you can do every day, great…
The algorithm just wants to see you being consistent so that it knows you’re not going to drop off.
(Click here to read about I stay consistent with content by scheduling posts AND Stories in advance.)
Personal vs. Business Account on Instagram
Back in the day, there was a rumor that if you switched to a Business account, Instagram would reduce your organic reach, just like what happened to Facebook Pages.
But Instagram has since come out and said whether you are a Personal account, a Business account, or a Creator account, you’re not penalized in the algorithm.
So, it’s really a personal choice.
Usually I recommend to stay a Personal account unless you’re going to use the insights that you get with a Business account.
If you’re not going to use Insights, you may as well stay a Personal account. Once you hit 10,000 followers, switch to a Business account so you can get the Swipe Up feature.
I did try the Creator profile for about a day, but none of the features really spoke to me and I thought the Business profile was more robust, so that’s the one I use today.
Ready to Grow Your Biz Using Instagram?
Now that we’ve covered the inner workings of the algorithm, I want to help you out…
Story Vault is my answer to your question, What should I post today?
It’s time to stop wondering how others are locking in clients, leads and sales from social media. 💰
Imagine dramatically reducing the time you’re spending on social media, but seeing a 2x or even 5x return on your effort…
Story Vault is a curated collection of 800 strategic Instagram Story prompts covering the four seasons of business growth:
- Get visible in your market… so you go from being invisible and unknown to “OMG I love watching your Stories!”
- Boost your engagement… so you never get a “crickets only” response to your Stories again
- Get qualified, ready-to-buy leads so you can build up your email list or book out your call calendar
- Lock in chart-topping sales to your programs, products and offers (so you can STOP aimlessly posting on social media and actually see a return from it!)