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Understanding the Instagram Algorithm

The Instagram Algorithm is always changing. That’s why it’s important that you work with the algorithm. This way your followers see your posts and stories regularly, plus you can attract new followers. Here are the five things you need to know to work with (not against) the algorithm.

What is the Instagram Algorithm?

Simply put, the Instagram algorithm determines the order of posts that users see as they’re scrolling through their feed or watching Instagram Stories. The algorithm prioritizes content, pushing the most “important” ones to the top of the feed or Stories to increase their visibility. 

While the algorithm is always evolving, Instagram has said that the main ranking factors for content are: 

  • Relationship between the follower and the account 
  • Interests of the follower 
  • Recency of the posts 

No matter how the Instagram algorithm changes, engagement is always important. That’s why you should inspire people to stop, take action, or engage with all of your Instagram content. Never let an Instagram post or Story go to waste. Every piece of content you share is an opportunity to connect with your current followers, grab the attention of potential clients, or stand out in your niche. 

How to Work with the Instagram Algorithm

As I mentioned before, understanding the Instagram algorithm is a great way to strengthen your marketing strategy. Your content might be amazing, but if you’re not sharing with the algorithm in mind … you might as well yell into a void. 

So then how do you work with (not against) the algorithm? Here are my top three tips: 

#1 Remind People How to Engage with Your Instagram Content 

People should never have to second guess what you want them to do. Plus, you would be amazed at how many people don’t know how to “engage” with their favorite Instagram content. Give them a gentle push by reminding them to like, comment, or share. 

#2 Use Your Instagram Stories to Nudge People to the Feed 

How many times have you caught yourself sharing a Story just for the sake of sharing? It happens to the best of us. But if you’re sharing engaging Instagram Stories, make sure you’re taking the opportunity to remind people to engage in your feed. Then your followers will be more likely to see all of your content in the future. 

#3 Stay Active in All of the Instagram Neighborhoods 

How do you make sure your Instagram content shows up wherever your followers might explore? Stay active in all of the Instagram neighborhoods: 

Everybody has a neighborhood they prefer. If you remain consistent wherever people might be, they are more likely to engage with your content. 

Remind People to Save your Instagram Posts

If you’re trying to build your reputation as an expert in your field, reminding people to save your posts can go a long way. Sharing great tips, resources, step-by-step instructions, or whatever you believe might be valuable to your followers shouldn’t be a one-and-done strategy.

Great content should keep people coming back to learn more. Here’s how to save an Instagram post:

  • Tap on the bookmark icon at the bottom of the Instagram post 

 

An Instagram post with a white arrow pointing to the bookmark icon.

  • Pick the category you want to save your Instagram post under 

 

Sue B Zimmerman points to the different categories for her saved Instagram posts.

 

That’s it. It’s that easy to save an Instagram post. 

Don’t underestimate how much value a saved Instagram post can give you in the algorithm. Take a look at this Instagram post I recently shared on my account, @TheInstagramExpert

 

Sue B Zimmerman’s Instagram saved posts analytics.

 

Not only did the Instagram post lead to a lot of comments, but over 200 people saved the post. Keeping an eye on that “saved” stat is a great way to make sure my content is actually delivering value to my followers. People are going to keep coming back to learn more when they trust and rely on the Instagram content you share. 

The More Time People Spend on Your Instagram Content the Better

Here’s the good news: people are spending a lot of time on Instagram. But that means it’s even more important that you give them a reason to linger and engage with your content. Inspire them to read your posts, like, engage, or whatever else you’re asking them to do with your call-to-action. 

First and foremost, you need to share good content. I’m not talking about three posts devoted to your recent family vacation. All of your Instagram content, from the feed to Instagram Stories, need to bolster your brand. 

For example, I got really positive feedback when I shared a multi-day series on how to use Instagram on a desktop. Not only did people “like” my posts, but they actually took the time to ask me questions, thank me for my tips, or just leave some love. 

 

Sue B Zimmerman’s Instagram post featuring her sitting on a chair with a yellow backdrop.

 

Another good way to encourage people to linger with your content is to share a carousel post. While you don’t want to share carousel posts all the time, they can be helpful when you have multiple bits of advice or content to share. People will know it’s a carousel post because of the number in the top right corner. Even though people are becoming more familiar with carousel posts, you might want to remind them to swipe right just in case. 

 

Sue B Zimmerman’s Instagram carousel post with the number of images in the top right corner.

 

What You Need in Every Instagram Post

Bottom line: Sometimes the Instagram algorithm can feel more like an art than a science. There’s no magical formula that will ensure you show up at the top of the Instagram feed. But if you’re sharing intentional, high-quality content you’re greatly improving your odds. 

If you want to ensure that the majority of your posts get engagement, there’s also one more trick you need to use: have a strong call-to-action on every single post. Often called a CTA, a call-to-action tells people exactly what you want them to do. So whether you want them to tap the link in your bio, comment on your post, read your blog post, make sure it’s clear. 

After you’ve written your Instagram caption, double check that your call-to-action stands out. Take a look at my weekly posts about my YouTube videos for example. 

 

Sue B Zimmerman’s video still show highlighting her latest YouTube blog release.

 

These Instagram posts always tell my followers: 

  • What the YouTube video is about 
  • What they can expect if they watch the YouTube video 
  • Where they can watch the YouTube video 

You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention, make sure you’re not wasting it by having them guess what they should do. 

The Instagram Algorithm Isn’t the Only Key to Success

Now that you’ve unlocked the secrets to the Instagram algorithm, it’s time to talk about content creation. I know it can seem complex. But that’s why I developed this FREE Instagram training. It breaks down the three visual secrets that will transform your Instagram profile into a buyer magnet.  

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