Understanding Instagram’s New Feed Algorithm

[UPDATE 3/22: Instagram is now testing a way to load ‘New Posts’ on demand. Read about it from Instagram’s Press Page.]

We’ve all seen it by now… Instagram introduced a new feed algorithm that has had people scratching their heads as they see posts from five days ago. Marketers, brands, and businesses especially have been losing their minds as engagement numbers have dropped dramatically.

But these are just growing pains as the new algorithm settles into our feeds.

Instagram’s goal with the new algorithm is to show their users the most relevant and relatable content at all times. But when you’re following hundreds (and even thousands) of accounts posting once or twice a day…

Chronological order may not be the most efficient way to do this. People are GOING to miss your content.

And as marketers, brands, and businesses, you do NOT want your followers to miss your content! Especially if it could lead to a valuable conversion.

But what’s considered important to an Instagram user? Pictures of their friends and family? Videos of cute corgi puppies? Or maybe an overly-shared meme re-purposed for different niches/communities.

And Instagram posts one person likes, might not be the same for the person behind them at Starbucks…waiting for their Crystal Ball Frappuccino.

So how is Instagram using their new algorithm to show its users what’s important to them…and only them?

Well, it takes into account each person’s actions on the platform. Engagement actions, to be exact.

So what are these Engagement actions?

  • Liking a post
  • Commenting on a post
  • Sharing a post
  • Watching a video*
  • Watching Story updates

*Watch lengths of 3 or more seconds is considered a View.

So as your followers engage with your content, Instagram ranks you higher on their feeds.

For example:

Brian starts liking and commenting on a lot of posts from @thecorgiworld. The next time Brian opens his Instagram app, he’ll most likely see their newest (and un-seen)  post first.

HOWEVER… If Brian starts neglecting @thecorgiworld’s posts and instead starts engaging more with @corgithings, posts from @corgithings will be shown BEFORE @thecorgiworld’s posts.

(Of course, if Brian were a TRUE corgi lover, he would be liking, commenting, and sharing BOTH accounts’ posts and even following the #corgi and #corgipuppy hashtags! Just saying.)

So how do we get our followers to engage and interact with our content?

Like with all content strategies, you want to focus on providing a VALUE to our followers. And to do this we should be:

  • Posting visually appealing content that stands out
  • Asking open-ended/leading questions in our captions
  • Liking and/or responding to comments left our posts
  • And posting often on our Instagram Stories

In the end, it all comes down to creating a conversation with your followers, and in turn a relationship. Because if you aren’t talking WITH them, then you’re just talking AT them. And nobody wants to be talked AT…

As marketers, brands, and businesses, we WANT our followers’ feedbacks. We WANT to know what they’re thinking about. And above all, we WANT them to engage and talk about our products and services.

We can’t get any of this unless we communicate with them.

I hope this post has helped you understand Instagram’s new algorithm a little better! Perhaps this spurs you to look at your content strategy and how you engage with your followers. Now that the algorithm is finally setting in, we should finally start getting the results we want.

Bonus Question: Have you found more engagement success in your Instagram Stories or regular posts? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me at @iamshawnlu.