What is meant by algorithm

6 facts about the Instagram algorithm: This is how you gain relevance

The Instagram algorithm has been around for over a year. Nothing on the timeline has been the same since then. The images and videos are displayed according to relevance and no longer in chronological order. In view of the fact that users are following more and more accounts, an algorithm gradually had to be found in order not to lose track of things. But even today, many Instagrammers are still quite unhappy with the reorganization of the content. But somehow you have to get along with each other, because one thing is certain: the algorithm came to stay. But how does it even work? How does it affect the performance of my posts and how can I use it for myself?

The most important signals for relevance

The algorithm is a challenge for the visibility of your posts. Various factors determine whether these are relevant enough to be shown to your followers far up in the timeline. Benjamin Chacon explained in detail on Later how the algorithm works and how you can use it for yourself. We have highlighted the most important aspects for you.

# 1 commitment

First and foremost, the engagement that a post generates is decisive for its relevance. If a photo or video receives umpteen likes, views or comments, this signals to the algorithm that your post is relevant for many of your followers. It is then placed in front of their feed accordingly.

In addition to the number of likes, it is also decisive how quickly the post generates engagement. If the engagement increases massively within seconds, the signal for the algorithm is even stronger than that of the number.

# 2 interaction time

In the meantime, we often only use Instagram scrolling until a post appears in the feed that we classify as interesting. Then we stop scrolling and look at the post. Instagram measures this interaction time and interprets the length of time spent on the post as a further sign of relevance.

In order to get users to linger, you need content that clearly stands out from the average in terms of quality. This does not only mean high image quality, but also special images that you don't see every day. Even a catchy caption can lead users to look at your post longer and even click on the “View more” CTA - another positive signal that is sent to the algorithm.

# 3 type of content

The more you interact with one type of content, the more of it the algorithm will show you in the future. In other words: if you like football content or the content of a certain account more often, you will see more of it. Here the Facebook subsidiary does not differ very much from its larger relative, who is struggling with the ever-growing "filter bubble" as a result. Instagram is not necessarily the place for political or worldview debates, so sorting your timeline by interest may not be that bad. However, it is important to keep this in mind when interacting.

Post optimization is mandatory for the algorithm

Everything was easier without an algorithm. As long as you've posted regularly, you could assume that your content will generate interactions almost on its own. Today the social media manager faces various challenges:

  • Are the caption and CTA compelling?
  • Is he using the right hashtags?
  • Is he posting at the best time?
  • Is the entire profile consistent?

The usage of Instagram has changed recently. Not long ago we mainly used the network to look at beautiful pictures by talented photographers, food porn, fashion trends or to get closer to our favorite stars, today we use Instagram much more in the purchase decision process. Similar to Pinterest, we get inspiration and find companies where we can shop directly. It is therefore becoming more and more important to generate not only reach, but also sales and leads.

Defy the algorithm, reach followers

The most important buzzword for Instagram reach is relevance. With the decrease in organic reach, you still have to reach your followers. What is it about?

# 1 Post at the right time

While this factor is old hat for any semi-experienced Instagram marketer, it can't be mentioned enough: Your posts generate the most engagement when your audience is online. And, as is well known, high engagement signals to the algorithm that your post is relevant. The easiest way to find out the best original times is to switch your account to a business profile.

# 2 Don't forget the CTA

Now that you know that dwell time and interactions are among the most important signals, it should be pointed out again at this point that a strong call-to-action should not be missing. In the best-case scenario, the users open the text completely, like and comment on your post.

# 3 hashtag strategy

Opinions are still divided when it comes to hashtags. While there are advocates of the maximum number that can be used, others advise against using too many tags. In the end, you have to find out for yourself what you use to generate the best performance. Basically, however, it can be said that you should find your community's most popular hashtags and interact with their posts. In this way you make your community aware of you and become part of it as well.

If you want to dive deeper into the hashtag material, we recommend our popular article "For the perfect reach: These are the current top hashtags on Instagram" as required reading. There you will find everything from how the tags work to a large selection of current favorite hashtags. You should also know that Instagram is now blocking hashtags as a measure against spam. You can find a large selection of the tags on the blacklist in the article "From Hardcore to Elevator: The Whimsical Hashtag Censorship on Instagram".

Not all interactions are equal signals

The different ways of interacting are weighted differently by the algorithm. Because while the time required for a like is limited, it is much more difficult to get comments. A user sharing your post with other users via private message is also less common than a simple double-click on a photo or video. Accordingly, you should tailor your content so that users comment on or share it.


As you can see, with a little basic knowledge, it is not difficult to use the algorithm for yourself and to generate relevance. Ultimately, you want to reach your followers with your posts and offer them added value. With the algorithm, your reach is less dependent on the sheer number of your followers than on relevance. And that's actually not that bad, it's about building a loyal community and, at best, generating customers and boosting sales.

Studied social science with a penchant for online and marketing. Was editor and content manager at OnlineMarketing.de from 2014 to 2019.