Social Network Analytics

The Instagram Algorithm

We delve into the operation of the Instagram algorithm around the user experience. Each section uses specific algorithms to display relevant content. Learn the strategies to increase engagement, since understanding this algorithm is crucial to increasing visibility and success on Instagram.

How Instagram's Algorithm Works in 2023


The information used to create this summary was largely obtained from Instagram itself, but to provide a more comprehensive analysis, insights from other information sources were also utilized.

Instagram's algorithm is not uniform throughout the app; it employs a series of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with a specific purpose.

Each section of the app (feed, stories, explore, search, or reels) utilizes its own algorithm that adapts to individual usage.

Feed classification

Feed Ranking In the feed, users receive diverse content from accounts they follow, as well as recommended content and ads. The operation of any ranking algorithm can be divided into two steps.

  1. Defining the set of elements to be ranked: In the case of the feed, this includes the most recent posts from users the individual follows and interesting content from accounts the user doesn't follow.

  2. Gathering information about what the user published and their preferences: This includes factors such as the post's time of sharing, the format (e.g., if the algorithm detects that the user interacts more with photos, it will prioritize showing them photos over videos), and the user's interaction frequency with videos.

The most important signals within the feed include:

  • User activity: Posts that the user liked, shared, or commented on.

  • Post information: Popularity and reach of the post (likes, shares, comments, and saves).

  • Information about the user who made the post: How many times users interacted with the post (reach) and geolocation.

  • Interaction history with other users: Comments and likes.

In the feed, the five interactions that receive the most attention are the likelihood of the user spending a few seconds on a post, commenting on it, liking it, sharing it, and tapping the profile picture.

Stories Ranking

The algorithm used in predicting stories operates under the following conditions:

  • View history: It analyzes how often the user views a particular account's stories to prioritize those of accounts the user doesn't want to miss.

  • Interaction history: It considers interactions such as likes and direct messages.

  • Relationship: It assesses the general relationship with the author and the likelihood of a familial or friendly connection between users.

Explore Section Ranking

Again, as in the feed, the algorithm compiles a set of posts for ranking. It is based on the user's previous activity, such as which posts the user spent the most time viewing, and interactions such as likes, comments, and saves.

Once a personalized set of content is created for each user, it is ranked based on the user's potential interest, using the same parameters as in the feed and stories.

The most important "signals" in approximate order of importance include:

  • Post information: Focuses on the post's popularity, quantity, and speed of interactions from other users. These signals are much more important compared to the previously mentioned sections.

  • Activity in the explore section: The most important signals are how the user interacts with likes, shares, saves, or comments on posts.

  • Interaction history with the user who made the post.

  • Information about the user who made the post: like interactions the user had with their posts within a week. This helps find attractive content from a wide range of users.

“Most of the content you'll see in the Explore section is from people you don't follow, so the dynamic changes when you run into something problematic. If a friend you follow shares something offensive and you see it in your feed, it's between you and your friend (and you have the option to unfollow, block, mute, hide, or report that person). However, we want to reduce the chance that you will see something offensive in the “Explore” section, as this is content that we recommend to you from people you have not yet decided to follow.”

Reels Section Ranking

Reels aim to provide users with new content and focus on entertainment. A similar process to the previous sections is applied: first, content that the user may like is selected, and then it is ranked based on the user's demonstrated interest.

To find entertaining reels, users are surveyed to determine if a specific reel is fun or worth watching. The most important predictions focus on whether the user watched the reel to the end, shared it, or liked it. The algorithm also checks if the user goes to the page of the audio used to see if they were inspired to create their own reel.

The most important signals, in approximate order, include:

  • User activity: Focusing on the reels that the user liked, shared, commented on, or interacted with recently.

  • Interaction history with the user who made the post.

  • Information about the reel: These signals pertain to the content of the video, such as the audio track and visual elements, and its popularity.

  • Information about the user who made the post: Popularity, number of followers, and interaction level.

Techniques to Increase Engagement

  1. Respond to comments: You don't need elaborate responses, but they help. Many pages use simple responses like "❤" which is often enough.

  2. Leverage trending topics: Make use of events and use trending hashtags.

  3. Use popular filters and music.

  4. Music: Use trending music as much as possible.

  5. Caption: In your caption, include as many relevant hashtags as possible to increase reach.

  6. Use phrases like "Tag the person you'd go with in the comments!" as it generates engagement, boosts the algorithm, gets more comments, and increases shares. Mention people if they are relevant to the video.

  7. Collaborate with other creators.

  8. Adapt to the vertical format.


Content ranking on platforms like Instagram is a complex and sophisticated process. From the feed to stories, Instagram's algorithm relies on a variety of signals and data to provide users with a personalized experience. Understanding how this algorithm works is essential for content creators and brands seeking to increase their visibility and engagement on the platform.

In the feed, user interactions, post information, and interaction history with other users are key factors influencing what appears on a user's screen. The "Explore" section offers content from accounts the user doesn't follow, posing additional challenges in ranking. Moreover, in the "Reels" section, entertainment takes priority, and direct user feedback plays a crucial role in content selection.

To increase engagement on Instagram, it's important to use effective strategies such as responding to comments, capitalizing on trending topics, and collaborating with other creators. The timing of post publication can also significantly impact post visibility.

In summary, Instagram's algorithm is an integral part of the user experience on the platform. Understanding how it works and how to maximize engagement is essential for standing out in the digital world. Use these strategies and tips to connect with your audience more effectively and ensure your content reaches the people who are most interested. As Instagram continues to evolve, staying up to date with best practices and adapting to trends is crucial for success on this ever-changing social network. So go ahead, create amazing content, and keep growing on Instagram!

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