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Decoding the Instagram Algorithm in 2024 (Deep Dive)

Picture of Steven Miller
Steven Miller
Decoding the Instagram Algorithm

Key Takeaways

  • Instagram has algorithms for Feed, Reels, Search, Explore and Stories
  • Algorithm changes can impact your account’s visibility online
  • Instagram tries to map out your actions and predict what you’ll do on all areas of the platform
  • Following experts and adapting to changes will help protect you from future algorithm changes

Mastering the Instagram algorithm in 2023 has challenged creators because it changes more often than the weather. If you’ve been trying to grow your following and everything stopped abruptly working, we’re going to share unique insights into how to make the new Instagram algorithm work for you.

What is the Meaning of the Instagram Algorithm?

Instagram has 1.35 billion monthly users, as researched by Statista. Some accounts are shown in your feed and Explore page, but you’ll never see 99.9% of accounts because the algorithm is always tailoring content to align with your likes and dislikes.

Behind the Photos and Reels is a business that revolves around ad purchases and keeping its audience engaged.

Algorithms are developed by the development team behind Instagram and are a series of instructions that determine whether a post is:

  • Displayed in your Explore page
  • Shown in your feed

Hundreds of signals are built into the algorithm to recommend the best content to you. Every time a Reel or account is recommended to you, an algorithm is behind the recommendation, which may include factors, such as:

  • Your history of likes, comments, saves
  • Posts that you make
  • Accounts you follow
  • Popularity of the account
  • Relevance to other posts or accounts you interact with
  • User or post location

For example, if you like a post from The Rock, post workout videos and engage with fitness accounts, you may start seeing more posts of The Rock from fan accounts, content from bodybuilding profiles and so on.


Instagram’s algorithm wants to keep you on the app for as long as possible. The inner-workings of the system will analyze every pattern possible as the algorithm evaluates the experience you have on the site.

Everything you see on Instagram comes from a set of rules developers have put in place to improve your user experience and keep you engaged.

What are the Different Types of Instagram Algorithms?

If you’re on the Explore page, there’s a specific algorithm for what content you see. You may notice a similar experience between your feed and Reels, but there are multiple algorithms at play:

  • Feed: Your feed is filled with activity-based content. If you like, comment, share or save posts, you’re far more likely to see more from the same creator or others with similar content. The algorithm will also compare the creator’s information and the post to other accounts that you follow.
  • Stories: Your Stories will be organized based on the people’s stories you view and interact with most often. Stories are in chronological order, and you’ll notice some accounts seem to hog all of the visibility, while others that you follow rarely pop up in your Stories.
  • Explore Page: The Explore page is fueled by a powerful engagement algorithm that does its best to show you content that it believes you’ll love. Insights from your activity are the main source of the algorithm’s ranking system, such as views, likes, comments, saves and accounts you follow.
  • Reels: The Reels shown to you are like every other algorithm on this list and are primarily based on your engagement on Instagram. However, the Reels’ popularity will also play a role in its position on your app. For example, a post going viral right now will be shown to more accounts because people are engaging with it at this moment in time.

All portions of the algorithm may not be different, thanks to modular design practices in modern coding, but small tweaks exist between all of the algorithms to serve you the best content possible.

User behavior differs from Stories to Reels, and a single algorithm cannot provide the best experience for users, which is why each algorithm works slightly differently.

How Does the Instagram Stories Algorithm Work?

Stories are a way for you to get noticed, talk directly to followers and get your message out to every viewer. Instagram’s algorithm, as explained by Instagram itself, uses the following to rank content:

  • Algorithms
  • Classifiers
  • Processes

Instagram doesn’t tell us all the rules and criteria that it monitors, but it does hint that the algorithm is based on:

  • User activity
  • Post information
  • Poster information
  • Interaction history

Stories use input signals to determine whose stories you’ll see, including:

  • Viewing history
  • Engagement history
  • Closeness (how you are connected to the person)

If you follow your brother and Meta knows it’s your brother, they’ll be sure to prioritize his Stories in your app because you’re likely to engage with him. 

Smart! Right?

Instagram Stories are designed to be shown for just 24 hours before they disappear. Signals, like those above, are used to determine the best stories to show you. From a creator’s perspective, Stories are extremely valuable because you have the opportunity to be at the top of the user’s feed and the first thing they see when firing up their app.

Anyone who is a consistent creator on Instagram knows that the Instagram algorithm in 2022 is drastically different than in 2023. Instagram uses big data to determine which stories you’ll be most likely to tap on and does exceptionally well to keep users engaged.

How Does the Instagram Feed Algorithm Work?

Feeds are designed for users to see content from friends, family, accounts they follow and about their interests. Your feed is like the daily newspaper that is tailored to your likes and is presented to give you the latest “scoop.”

If you have FOMO, your feed ensures that you never miss a thing.

The algorithm is broken down into steps to understand what you might be interested in based on:

  • Engagement
  • Following
  • Content format
  • Preferences
  • History of interactions

For example, if you like 100 videos and 10 photos in your feed, Instagram will show you more videos to keep you engaged. If you always ignore certain accounts you follow, Instagram’s algorithm will rank those accounts lower on your feed.

Instagram admits that they use thousands of signals to build your feed and put the feed in order of importance to you.

How Does the Instagram Reels Algorithm Work?

Reels are a way for Instagram to compete with TikTok, which Meta recently made longer to compete with the platform. Longer videos may be engaging to some users and not others, and this led to yet another Instagram algorithm being created.

Many of the same signals we’ve discussed are also used in the Reels algorithm, including activity, interaction history, Reel information and the person who posted it.

However, Instagram’s announcement shed some further light on mastering the Reels algorithm, including:

  • Reshare likelihood
  • Watch time
  • Likes
  • If you go to the audio page

Interestingly, if you go to the audio page, Instagram will show you more Reels with the same audio. The idea behind this signal being a factor in what’s shown in your Reels is that if you click on the audio, you may be creating a Reel, which the platform wants you to do.

How Does the Instagram Explore Page Algorithm Work?

Do you want to find more interesting content on Instagram? Go to the Explore page. You’ll find tons of accounts or posts that you’re very likely to engage with. If you like sports content frequently, chances are, your Explore page will be filled with similar content.

Instagram explains that the algorithm works behind the scenes to:

  • Find groups of videos and photos you may like
  • Rank the content to display what you want to see first on the list

Behind the scenes, Instagram ranks everything that you do to try and predict the action you’ll take next. Instagram predicts which content has the best chance of you liking it, sharing it or saving it based on:

  • How the post is already performing based on other people’s actions taken
  • Your past activity in Explore
  • Interaction history with the person whose post you’re viewing
  • Information on the person posting the content

Explore is – mostly – filled with content from people that you don’t follow already. Instagram’s algorithm also pinpoints and ranks content that may be offensive, so you won’t see it in your feed if it’s similar to another piece of content that causes you to:

  • Report it
  • Block, mute or unfollow a person

Instagram Algorithm for Search Bar (Instagram SEO)

Search also has its own algorithm that’s based on people’s usage patterns, but Instagram doesn’t divulge much on the algorithm or protocol followed for the search bar in recent announcements.

However, if you go back to a 2021 announcement from Adam Mosseri, you’ll find some information about the search:

  • Search is designed for inspiration and discovery
  • Search is based on your interests

Search is amazing, right? You can find accounts of people you know or of creators who love your content. One key difference with search is that you’re inputting data and receiving a response from Instagram.

The algorithm shows you your recent searches first, but let’s say that you type “dog.” Once you add a space at the end, you’ll be able to choose:

  • Accounts
  • Audio
  • Tags
  • Places

The platform matches your search to relevant captions, accounts and places, but it also takes into account your activity and search popularity signals. Type “rock” into the search, and you’ll come across Dwayne Johnson’s profile first because of the popularity of his account versus seeing actual rocks.


Developers use a variety of signals and know you’re probably looking for The Rock and not Sandstone.

How Account Recommendations for Follow Works

“People to follow” is a way for you to find accounts to follow on the platform. You’ll see this when you add a new follower and other account recommendations are made. Recommendations are also eerily accurate.

How does it work?

Instagram will look at the account:

  • Location
  • Activity
  • Posts
  • Your interests
  • History
  • Connections

For example, if you follow your old friend, Samantha, you’ll often have friend suggestions based on:

  • Friends of Samantha’s who are also friends with followers that you have
  • Accounts from the same location where you’re from
  • Profile information
  • Content that you may be interested in
  • Past follow history

Instagram will make “connections” of who you may know or like to follow based on everything, from posts you’ve been tagged in to your mutual followers with other accounts.

How Do Instagram Algorithm Changes Affect Your Account?

An Instagram algorithm change is always concerning for creators because it may mean that your:

  • Account is shown less on the Explore page
  • Posts or Reels don’t receive the same views or engagement
  • Velocity of new followers slows down

Any time there’s a change to the algorithm, it can cause you to lose engagement and new followers.

Does Buying Followers Affect the Instagram Algorithm?

Yes and no. Buying followers will increase the popularity of your account and may make your content more likely to show up in search. But having more followers doesn’t directly affect the algorithm.

Hacks To Beat the Instagram Algorithm and Grow Faster

Want to skyrocket your Instagram growth? Use these hacks:

  • Optimize your profile. Speak your audience’s language. Use keywords. Get your message across.
  • Choose 5-7 main topics (content pillars) for your content. Creating content pillars will make it easier to generate new topic ideas and stay consistent.
  • Take advantage of co-posting. You’ll instantly expand your reach.
  • Post more static photos and carousels. Instagram is favoring this kind of content again.
  • Be consistent. Post regularly. This isn’t a revolutionary idea, but still a fundamental one.
  • Use trending sounds to get your content found on Instagram search and the Explore page.

Pro Tip: Be Strategic About Commenting and Liking Comments

If you really want to skyrocket engagement, try using this strategy when you post content:

  • Reply to comments right away, but don’t like the comment.
  • Wait until you post similar content the next day to like the comment.

When you like the comment the next day, the person will be notified and will probably head over to your profile and see your new content. This is a simple and quick way to maximize your reach and engagement.

Myths About the Instagram Algorithm

Because Instagram’s exact algorithm is a bit of a mystery, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths floating around about how all of it works.

These myths need to be put to rest:

  • There’s only one algorithm. There are at least five (feed, Stories, Reels, Explore and search).
  • Reels are the only form of content you should make. WRONG. Instagram said they pushed Reels too hard in 2022 and are balancing things with their algorithm changes.
  • Hashtags are more important than captions. Captions are more important than ever. Use hooks in your first few lines to get readers to read the entire caption. Use keywords and hashtags in your caption content to help with rankings.
  • Tags and brand partnerships hurt your rankings. They don’t – period.
  • Niching down is the best way to grow your account fast. Choosing too narrow of a niche will make it difficult to create fresh, new content. Instagram is now favoring creators with broader niches (think: “cooking” instead of “vegan recipes for dinner”).
  • If you have slow periods, your account is dead. All creators have slow periods. Growth happens in spurts – not in a straight line.

What Types of Content are Most Favored by the Instagram Algorithm?

Instagram has been making a lot of changes to its algorithm, but the biggest thing is personalization. The algorithm is now showing people more of the types of content they like to see. There’s no one specific type of content that’s necessarily favored by Instagram.

The trick is to know what your audience wants. If you know that your audience likes to watch Reels, then feed the algorithm what it wants – more Reels. If they prefer static photos, work on your photography.

When is the Best Time To Post on Instagram for the Algorithm?

The best time to post on Instagram depends on your audience and when they’re most active. But as a general rule of thumb, the absolute best times to post for the algorithm are:

  • 10 AM – 11:15 AM
  • 2 PM – 4:30 PM
  • 8 PM – 10 PM

Base your posting time on where your audience is located. If you’re sharing a post about a restaurant in New York, make sure you’re posting in New York time (EST). 

What is the Best Posting Frequency for the Instagram Algorithm?

If you want your content to appear on the Explore Page, you need to post regularly. How frequently? 

  • 1-3 times per day

Use a mix of carousels, Reels and static posts. 

Make sure that you’re also posting Stories at least once a day.

What is Shadowbanning and How Can I Avoid it?

Shadowbanning is when a creator’s content suddenly becomes hidden or loses all engagement without warning or notice. Essentially, you are banned without any formal notification from Instagram.

Here’s how to avoid getting shadowbanned:

  • Stay active. Sometimes, you can get shadowbanned out of the blue if you go inactive or the majority of your followers were gained a year or more ago.
  • Don’t violate Instagram’s policies.
  • Engage with your followers.
  • Don’t use spammy hashtags.
  • Create unique, high-quality content that your audience loves.

Does Going Live on Instagram Help with the Algorithm?

No. Going Live won’t affect how your content ranks in the feed, but you should still make live broadcasts part of your content plan. Why? Because creating different types of content will help your content get seen in more places on the app.

How To Use Hashtags for the Instagram Algorithm?

Hashtag strategies still matter on Instagram. Despite what you may have heard, hashtags aren’t dead. They still drive traffic.

They just work a little differently now. Think of them as “keywords” to let Instagram know what your content is all about when people search.

No one is searching for things on Instagram using hashtags anymore. They use the search feature like they would Google or Bing. 

So, the hashtags you use in your content let Instagram’s search know what your post, Reel or Story is about.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Use relevant hashtags on everything you post.
  • Tags should be based on each individual piece of content. If you create a Reel on how to grow your Instagram account, hashtags like #instagramgrowthtips can help your content get found in the search.
  • Think like your audience. What words or phrases would they use to find content like yours? Use these phrases and words as your tags.
  • Use tools like AnswerThePublic to find questions and keywords to use as hashtags.
  • Only use 3-5 hashtags.
  • Focus on using keywords in your caption (without the #).

Who are the Leading Experts on the Instagram Algorithm?

The only people who know the real truth behind the Instagram algorithm are the developers working behind the scenes to create it. 

Instagram keeps a tight lid on the details of its algorithm, but influencers and social media marketing experts can make assumptions based on their own personal experience and data.

What Triggers the Instagram Algorithm?

Any kind of content that you post on Instagram will trigger the algorithm. Reels, Stories and regular feed posts are all affected by the algorithm.

Does Instagram’s Algorithm Affect Business and Creator Accounts Differently?

No. Creator and Business accounts are special types of Instagram accounts designed for influencers and brands. They give you more insights into your reach and audience, but that’s the only thing that really makes them different from other accounts.

The algorithm affects everyone in the same way. 


Instagram’s algorithm wants you to stay engaged and is based on hundreds of signals, such as your engagement history, location, accounts you follow and more. Creators should continue monitoring for official algorithm changes, following experts and adapting to changes to stay ahead of the competition and future updates.

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