How Instagram’s Algorithm Works (2018)

How Instagram’s Algorithm Works

Chloe Forbes-Kindlen | How Instagram's Algorithm Works.png


Since introducing the latest algorithm to Instagram, there’s been a lot of rumors that have left businesses hesitant to using the platform out of fear of being punished in the news feed. Most of these rumors are simply not true. Before we dive in, let’s set the record straight when it comes to the Instagram Algorithm.


Instagram Algorithm Myths

1 | Shadow-Banning

The belief that Instagram will block users (without being notified) ,based on their activities, from being shown in the news feed of their followers. The Instagram team have said this is not true in an interview with TechCrunch (June 2018).

“Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.” - Julian Gutman, Instagram Product Lead 

Chloe Forbes Kindlen | Edit Captions.gif

2 | Excessive Hashtags Gets You Banned

Not true. You have 30 hashtags you can use in your Instagram account. You can use all 30 hashtags on every post and it will not get you in trouble or banned. The only time that you could is if a huge number of people reported a specific post and marked it as spam. If this was to happen, it’s extremely unlikely to be because of your hashtag use and more an indication of the quality and relevancy of your Instagram post.

3 | You Can’t Edit Your Caption within 24 Hours

Let’s face it, we all make typos. It’s crazy to think your reach could be punished by editing your captions within 24 hours. Not true.

4 | Hashtag Placement Impacts Reach

Again, this is just a rumour. Many people believe that your post reach will vary depending on whether you choose to place the hashtag in the caption or in the comments of your post. It doesn’t matter where you place the hashtags as long as they are linked to the post.

5 | Personal Accounts Get More Reach

This is a rumor fuelled by Facebook’s decision to favor posts from family and friends rather than businesses. While Facebook own Instagram, this is not something they have implemented on the platform. Having a business page does not limit your reach. In fact, it helps because you gain access to additional resources such as having a contact button, address and analytics for measuring performance.


“Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.” - Julian Gutman, Instagram Product Lead 



How Instagram’s Algorithm REALLY Works

The most important thing to know is that Instagram is tailored to an individual. It’s personalised to each user based on a number of factors. Some of these are listed below.




1 | Interest

Instagram will look at the content you engage with most and use that to determine what to automatically show you more of through artificial intelligence gathering. It’s predicting your interest and likelihood of engaging in a certain piece of content.

Example: if you engage mostly with memes, it will show you similar accounts with memes. If you engage more with videos, it will show you more videos.


2 | Timeliness

They look at how recent a post is. They are trying to show you posts that have been published more recently to emphasis 'fresh' content. Even though they are focused on more recent posts, these will not be in chronological order. Instagram have said chronological order will not be returning.


3 | Relationships

Instagram will show you more from the people you engage with most. They are trying to bring you the content you want to see and engage with. That means the more people follow, like, comment and watch your content, the more they will see it. You often see this in the explore tab when you don’t follow but engage frequently with an account.


Other factors include:

5 | Frequency

The number of times you log into Instagram will determine how your feed is organised. The more often you log in, the less new content there is so it will tend to show you more in a more chronological order.

6 | Following

The more accounts you follow, the more content is being published so the less you will see from specific people. Obviously if you follow less people, there's less content and so you will see more if not all from each user.

7 | Usage

If you don't log into Instagram often, it will give you a summary of what you've missed whereas if you are constantly on the app, Instagram will search to find more, fresh content for you to engage with. This is to keep you on the platform!



By understanding how Instagram’s algorithm works, you can then tailor your content strategy to play to their factors. One aspect of this is creating really high quality visual content with compelling captions. The other comes down to engaging with your community ensuring you do everything you can to build relationships.

It’s important that we don’t get so caught up in playing to the algorithm that we forget what actually matters, our communities. Focus your efforts on them and naturally you’ll grow your account the right way regardless of the changes Instagram make to their algorithm now or in the future.

xo, Chloë.