Instagram Algorithm – the truth

Does anyone else think it is strange that the main players in social media ie the Instagrams, Facebooks, Twitters of this world appear to spend their time trying to make it as difficult as possible for you and me to understand how their products and services work? I’m not talking about how to publish a Reel I mean how to increase reach and engagement, how to work those Algorithms.

When actually, surely, they should be opening their doors and explaining the best way that you can get their platforms to work for you. This is something I have pondered on for quite a while. Why are we the ones flogging our guts out trying to understand how it works? When actually, they should be guiding us.

Well, it seems that I have telepathically tapped into the thinking of Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram) as he is starting to talk about the fundamentals behind Instagram.

It’s not just one but many

He recently went live to explain a number of aspects of the Instagram platform, and how it works, and most recently he has been talking about the algorithm, or should I say, the various algorithms that Instagram uses. So here is a summary of what he has to say.

First off, as I alluded to, the algorithm isn’t some black magic voodoo thing. It is actually the way that they rank all the content out there and then how they decide what to serve up to you. 

So what they’re actually doing is not necessarily looking at what you’re putting out there but ranking what they think others want to see based on set criteria relating to your content.

They do this in different ways for each of the different features. 

Feed and Stories

Aspects they look at:

  • Information about the post –  is it a photo or video, is it about social media, is it about content or is it about paddleboarding?
  • Information about the author – is it a friend of yours, how often do they post, what do they typically post about?
  • Your activity – do you prefer video, do you scroll past photos, what do you search for when on the platform?
  • Your interaction history – have commented a lot on their posts in the past, do you save or share their content? 

Then they assess how much each post connects you and what you look at. This is done by predicting your reaction, and they predict this in the following way.

  • How much time will you spend on the post?
  • Are you going to like it?
  • Are you going to comment on it?
  • Will you save it? 
  • Will you view the profile? 

This then generates a score that tells them how likely you are to be interested in that post. And then, depending upon the answer to that, and that score, they will then deliver it into your feed or not.


This has a slightly different way of ranking, they will look at who you like, and then they will look at who also likes that same account or individual and which other accounts they then like. Does that make sense?

In order to rank them they look at the following aspects – similar to before and in order of importance they are: 

  • Information about the post –  how many likes does it have?
  • Your interaction history – how much interaction have you previously had with them?
  • Your activity – what genres do you prefer
  • Information about the author – how often do they post 

Once they have this information then they try and predict how likely you are to 

  • Like it
  • Save it 
  • Share it

So it really is not what you know but who you know, it’s who you’re connected to, it’s who you’re engaging with. So when you go to your explore feed, and you see totally random posts, and think “why on earth does Instagram think I would be even remotely interested”, it’s because you’re not following the right people, it’s because you’re not connecting with the right accounts, so it may be worth you looking to see who you are following, and having a bit of a clean out and removing those people that really are of no interest to you anymore, are of no value to you, and keeping it a little bit more relevant, so that the posts that you’re being served via your Explore button are actually exactly that, relevant.


Again, this is a slightly different algorithm but similar criteria. It’s looking at

  • Your Activity – what types of reels do you typically watch, how to tips, bloopers etc
  • Your Interaction history – have you liked or watched their content in the past?
  • Information about the post itself – how long is it, when it was posted etc? 
  •  Information about the author – just like in the Feed and Explore

So in summary the algorithm looks at similar signals in order to rank content but what is very different is where and how they look for the content to rank in the first place. In the feed it’s the people that you follow and what they have posted and in explore it’s everyone that has ever posted content and for Reels it’s about what have you looked at before.

Now that you understand a little more about how each of the algorithms work, yes essentially they are the same process but the data they start with is different, then you can start to think about what it is that you’re putting out there and how it will be consumed by others. 

In a nutshell – if you ain’t engaging with others you’re content won’t be ranked or even looked at. 

For the full chat click here