Posted by

Colloquially known as the responsible party for deciding who gets the spotlight on Instagram and who gets swept under the rug, the Instagram algorithm is often misconceived by app users. While Instagram rolls out a new ranking strategy every few months, equal is the number of protestors in this ever-changing landscape. There’s also a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about this topic, so here’s our take on it (to the best of our understanding).

The million follower question- What is the Instagram algorithm?

Think of it as a complex machine running millions of pieces of information from all Instagram profiles at the same time to handpick the content visible to you based on its relevance. It does sound like an insurmountable feat, though not so much when you have countless algorithms, classifiers, and processes running simultaneously for these five features- feeds, stories, explore, reels, and search.

Now for the detailed version of this, get to know how ranking works and how to crack it to optimize your page. Let’s dive into the ranking criteria for the features mentioned above-


Feed is the page you land on as soon as the app is opened, where all the content shared by people you follow (and do not follow) is visible. The order in which it appears is nearly based on the following- 

  1. Your activity- The posts and reels you have engaged with (liked, commented, shared, saved). This is considered a “signal” for your affinity for that same type of content.
  2. Information about the post-  This includes information about the engagement of content (how quickly it is getting traction) and the content itself (time of posting, attached location, partnership labels, tags)
  3. Information about the person who posted- The frequency of interaction from you to the person who posted “signals” that you are interested in their content and is hence more visible.
  4. Your history of interacting with someone- while the above applies solely to the kind of content by the said creator, this streamlines the interest quotient to the creator. Think of it as a mutual engagement relationship quality.


these 24-hour updates appear on the top of the app’s feed page, and include stories from the accounts you follow and ads.

  1. Viewing history- This means pushing the stories of accounts you frequent, “signaling” that you don’t want to miss out on their updates.
  2. Engagement history- this is self-explanatory, the frequency of replies to stories, DMs, reactions, emojis, or simply “liking” the story, and the accounts you engage with show up more.
  3. Closeness- this relates to the general relationship you carry with the publisher, whether you two interact on DMs, like each other’s posts, the amount of time you have been following each other, etc.


The exclusive video format content available on the app on the feed page, explore and its very own tab, this feature released in 2020 still has us all in a chokehold, though a bit controversial due to an overpowering presence over the photo content, it has still taken over the app. The way reels are ranked is as follows-

  1. Your activity- the reels you have engaged with recently provide a roadmap to customizing a personal and inviting reel sequence for you.
  2. Your history of interacting with the person who posted- even if you do not follow the creator, you may have engaged with their content through shares, others’ stories, or simply on the explore page. This provides a “signal” for your liking of their videos.
  3. Information about the reel- this includes details about the video, the kind of music, visuals, editing style, content type, popularity, or even niche.
  4. Information about the person who posted- Popularity signals like reach and follower count are used to curate all content in a way that it reaches its desired audience.


Some other factors used to decide the relevancy of content are-

  1. Relationship between creator and viewer
  2. Frequency of use of the app
  3. Number of following
  4. Time of each session of app use
  5. Added to “following” or “favorites” feed

So what SHOULD you do? Here are our top picks for some things to keep in mind while posting on Instagram

  1. Metadata world- use easily identifiable keywords relating to your niche in captions, alt text, hashtags, and on-screen text in reels
  2. Ratio of format- keep a healthy balance between reels and photos, as Instagram plans to push photo content equally in 2023, though the strategy is yet to be seen in effect by users. Optimize the length of your reels; both very short and longer-form content can resonate differently with viewers.
  3. Storytelling- keep it real. Gone are the days of heavy editing, pre-planned formal scripts, and boring speeches. Viewers are now seen to be gravitating toward relatable, original, creative, and honest content. Tell your story and be authentic when you do, even Adam Mosseri regaled viewers with the original vision for Instagram- to promote genuine connections and creativity. Pay attention to the first few seconds to make them as engaging as possible to prevent viewers from scrolling away quickly.
  4. Engage- engage with accounts similar to yours, build a community, and do it every way you can! Likes, comments, shares, saves, DMs, reactions- the sky’s the limit with this one. Create content that encourages viewers to watch the entire reel or multiple times to signal the Al that your content is engaging
  5. Consistency- the tale is as old as time with this app, pretty sure this doesn’t need much explanation, though we should mention the optimum number of posts per day- one! Pretty simple right?
  6. Trends- be aware of the trends catching on in your preferred niche and trust me when we say, first-mover advantage goes a long way here! Design reels that can be easily remixed by others to boost sharing and creative interaction.
  7. Analytics- do not underestimate the power of numbers! Experiment with your content and see what your audience responds well to, this can do wonders for your visibility on the app.

And what should you NOT do?-

  1. Low Resolution – make sure your content is of the best possible quality, not too grainy or blurry.
  2. Community guidelines- Instagram frowns upon political, religious, offensive, discriminatory, illegal, or graphic content.
  3. Borrowed content- plagiarized or watermarked content is being played down.

We understand it may be overwhelming for creators to manage so much, especially ones just starting, so some free tools for analytics and scheduling are- Meta business suite, Combin and Tailwind.

The Grey Dots is dedicated to blending engineering precision with marketing creativity to deliver outstanding results in the digital marketing landscape. If you’re interested in working with us or have any marketing queries, we’d love to hear from you. Visit our website at www.thegreydots.com or write to us at hello@thegreydots.com. Let’s collaborate to create innovative and impactful marketing solutions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *