What's Up with the New Instagram Algorithm?

Instagram Growth Strategies

If you haven't already noticed, our friends at Instagram (i.e. Facebook, their parent company) wanted to clean house a little bit. Enter: updated algorithm.

Now, Instagram's new equation determines what content is engaging based on how a small sample of your followers respond to it.

As soon as you make a new post, your post is displayed on a selected number of your followers feeds (also known as "reach"), and depending on how the sample responds to it, Instagram exposes it to more or less of your followers. 

Many blogger, business, and even personal accounts were up in arms at the change, wanting to go back to the chronological feed and real-time account of the accounts they follow. Personally, I was really surprised to hear that people were against it. Why not have the best content come first?

Yeah, maybe it's not "fair" but it's kind of like survival of the fittest, and for that reason, I'm a fan.


So what exactly is happening?

Here's what goes into the algorithm equation, supposedly (source):


In order for your post to rank higher, it has to have a higher engagement rate. High engagement = lots of comments, likes, shares, saves, and views/reach.

Engagement rate (according to macro and micro influencers who charge brands for sponsored ads) is determined by the number of comments + the number of likes divided by your total followers. The higher the engagement, the more Instagram thinks other people will like it, too. Hence, it "ranks" higher and is shown to more people.


Speed of engagement is also taken into consideration - how well does your post do in the first few minutes?


The amount of time people spend viewing your posts also play a role! So, write a caption that captures attention, and even better if it causes people to leave a comment. (Have you noticed how a lot of influencers or brands say things like "yes or no?" or "what's YOUR favorite candy?" Great ways to boost their rank!


To make a long story short, Instagram expelled a handful of overused or inappropriate hashtags. For small accounts trying to grow, this proves difficult as hashtags were a pretty surefire ticket to exposure. Now, with hashtags pools being more selective, small accounts are afraid (I've seen them express these fears firsthand) that they have no chance at growth. I completely disagree, and I'll explain why later. Here are some hashtags that have interestingly been banned:


Layout changes

When some people notice their IG profiles had 4 thumbnails per row instead of the expected 3, brand accounts that post in strategic patterns were not thrilled.

Will Instagram introduce a new 4-photo per row grid along with its new algorithm?

Will Instagram introduce a new 4-photo per row grid along with its new algorithm?

This is definitely a bummer for accounts like the one pictured above. It would be cool if they could re-order photos or at least choose between 3 or 4-thumbnail rows. At the end of the day, it's out of our control. We would just have to adjust to the new layout and keep posting until the 3-photo rows are a thing of the distant past.

Instagram Changes the Way We Use Hashtags

Ability to follow hashtags:

As of now, IG users must rely on individual accounts to see content they like and want to engage with. The added ability to follow hashtags could make it much easier for users to find the content they're interested in. 

So again, right now you can only follow people, or brands. Following hashtags means you get a feed that's completely about a certain topic, as determined by the hashtag you chose to follow. While before you were following a single entity, you're now placing yourself in a room full of those single entities, all with a common interest.

Market Saturation

It was bound to happen eventually. Turns out, with everyone having access to quality cameras through their smartphones and Instagram husbands (bless them), influencers are everywhere. Like Facebook, Instagram got rid of the chronological order and instead featured posts that - as they determined through complicated algorithms - are more relevant to and generate more engagement with their users. 

But due to that change, 70% of Instagram posts don’t get seen anymore (source).

That's another reason why this algorithm change is so important. It is adapting to the changing makeup of the social media influencer environment. Which, is not only smart, but necessary! It isn’t enough to post pretty photos anymore, because everyone is posting pretty photos. And those pretty photos won’t be seen by followers if there isn’t any engagement


What does it all mean?

It means if you want to grow your account, you need to step up your content game. 

But, it also means solid you'll see content that you're more likely to enjoy first.


How do I create and share better content?

use Quality Photos and Videos

This doesn't mean you need a nice camera. It means you need to pay attention to lighting, consistent editing, and for goodness' sake post vertical photos! It tokes up so much real estate on phone screens!

create Intentional Messaging

Make sure there's meaning behind the post. It can be light-hearted, informative, whatever! Just have a strategy in place so you're not just posting for the heck of it.

find Strategic Hashtags

I recommend searching for hashtags that have about 10,000 to 40,000 posts when you're starting out. Using hashtags that have millions of posts means your photos is way less likely to be seen, or worse, you could be using a hashtag that was banned altogether.

write Engaging Captions

Remember, the goal is engagement. Using an inside joke as a caption will likely confuse those who see it, so you're better approaching caption writing with relatabily in mind. 

Focus on your Target

Your goal is to give them what they want, need, or what they didn't even know they wanted or needed. If you keep that at the forefront instead of quantitative likes, and you'll be better off in the long run.

Post on Your Story

I haven't found any research on this, but I have a theory that people who post on their story more often get a boost in ranking.

use a Call to Action

Ask them to comment, tag friends, etc. but try not to be spammy. My favorite accounts are ones that obviously create amazing content but also use their own growth techniques in a somewhat humorous way. Them being transparent instead of sleezy is a huge reason I believe followers stick around through all the sponsored ads and loop giveaways that go on these days.

Remember your "Raison d’être" or "Reason for Being"

At the end of that day, it's not that serious. Truly, these changes sort of take of the pressure of having growth be your number one priority and shift it back to connection, inspiration, and authenticity.

Final Thoughts

My advice would be to find a niche market and serve it authentically. Period. Create success that is long-lasting, true-to-self, and rewarding.