How the Instagram Algorithms Work in 2021?

July 30, 2021

A huge number of users are wondering: how do Instagram algorithms work? Firstly, knowledge of these algorithms would allow you to form your feed in a more relevant manner (feed and stories, explore page, reels, igtv). Secondly, it can help you properly process your content in order to promote the account faster and be noticed by your followers and other Instagram users more often. In this article, we will discuss Instagram ranking factors and the basic social network algorithms in 2021.

Note that in this article, we primarily rely on the explanation by Adam Mosseri, an American-Israeli businessman and the head of Instagram. Recently, in his profile, he talked about Instagram algorithms and the post ranking process. We will provide this information, as well as add our own observations and systematized conclusions. We will leave Adam’s video below.

Let’s start with a brief introduction.

Instagram Algorithm Meaning

Wikipedia defines an algorithm as a finite sequence of well-defined, computer-implementable instructions, typically to solve a class of specific problems or to perform a computation. Put simply, an algorithm is a process of solving a problem.

What problem do Instagram algorithms solve? In 2010, the Instagram feed was chronological. However, by 2016, it became clear that users receive so much information and updates that they simply do not have time to view about 70% of them. Therefore, the need occurred to create a new Instagram algorithm, which would determine the priority of displaying updates and allow the users to first see what interests them most and what is most valuable to them.

How Instagram Chooses Which Posts to Show to the Users

The truth is that Instagram actually processes numerous factors to form a feed. That is, it would be more correct to talk not about one algorithm, but about the whole system of algorithms Instagram uses. To determine which posts to show to the users, Instagram takes into account a huge number of factors that Adam calls “signals”. Those include:

  • Signals about the content;
  • Signals about the author;
  • Signals about you and your preferences;
  • Signals about your interaction with the author;
  • Signals about your activity and expression of your interest.

These signals are important for all structural parts of Instagram. Below we will analyze them in more detail and talk separately about the different parts of Instagram.

Feed and Stories Algorithm

First, let’s look at how the feed and stories display on Instagram is formed. Let’s combine them into one part, because they are similar in their purpose. Here, the social network shows you mostly the content of the people you follow (+ advertising and content with the selected hashtags). Therefore, the most important factor influencing the ranking of posts here will be your interaction with the author. Of course, this is not the only thing the algorithm considers. Instagram takes into account the following basic signals:

  • General information about the post: location, the device from which the content was published, geolocation, topic, duration of the post (if it is a video), etc.;
  • Signals about the author (page and post popularity, etc.);
  • Signals about your activity (what type of posts you like more often, whether you like more videos or photos, to what and to whom you respond best);
  • Signals about your interaction with the author (how many times you have communicated with the person in the past, how long you have been interacting, whether you react to the posts of this particular author and how often, etc.).

The social network collects these and other factors, or signals, and processes them to guess and predict the probability that this content will be interesting for you. At the same time, your “interest” is quantified and determined by your likes, comments, savings, reactions and shares. Therefore, the analysis of all signals is aimed at ensuring that you continue to respond to the proposed content.

Thus, users get a customized information space, as well as a stronger connection with their loved ones.

Explore Page Algorithm

Explore page is a page of recommended posts, which is used to search for new interesting content. Its purpose and formation are significantly different from Feed and Stories. While for Feed and Stories, the most important factor is your interaction with the people you follow, here Instagram is trying to determine what else might interest you.

To form this page, Instagram first of all conducts a kind of collaborative filtering. This algorithm presupposes that Instagram analyzes the posts you liked, as well as the subscriptions/likes/saves of users who liked the same posts as you. This way, you will receive recommendations formed with the help of people whose tastes are somewhat similar to yours.

In addition, Instagram analyzes numerous other signals.

  • Signals of popularity, which include the number of likes and the rate of their growth, as well as comments, shares, saves and reactions. These signals are more important for the formation of the Explore page than in the case of Instagram stories and feed (for which your relations and personal communication with the author matters the most).
  • Signals about the history of interaction with the person posting.
  • Signals about your activity, preferences, topics and content that you liked before (for example, cooking or video format).
  • Signals about the author. How often does the author publish content, what are the topics of posts and the page, how many followers does the page have, and so on.

As in the previous case, Instagram is trying to determine the likelihood that you will like, save or share the post.

Instagram Reels Algorithm

The main function of Reels video is entertaining. The ranking of these videos is similar to the Explore Page we talked about above. Thus, in order to choose which Reels videos to show you, Instagram analyzes the following signals:

  • Signals about your activity. This is the information about which videos in this section you liked before (dancing, funny, etc.).
  • Signals about your interaction with the author. If you’ve liked this author’s videos before, Instagram will consider it and will most likely offer you other videos of this user.
  • General signals about the content. These are the signals about the video itself, audio track, duration, topic, etc.
  • Signals about the author. Information about the topic of the page, posts, activity on the page, etc.

Based on these and other signals, Instagram forms your Reels video recommendations feed.

Instagram Algorithm Video

To review and consolidate the algorithms discussed, we suggest you watch Adam Mosseri’s video. Then, we’ll talk about the importance of understanding Instagram algorithms and draw important conclusions based on them.


Посмотреть эту публикацию в Instagram


Публикация от Adam Mosseri (@mosseri)

Understanding Instagram Algorithm

All these algorithms are aimed at creating a user-friendly and interesting information space where the users can

  1. Communicate with their friends, important people and opinion leaders and keep in touch with them;
  2. Get new content that suits their interests and hobbies.

Understanding Instagram algorithms allows you to be more deliberate about your own page and information environment. Perhaps you will analyze your page or recommended posts and realize that you need to be more selective when you like the posts or, on the contrary, be more generous in expressing your commitment.

In addition, it becomes clear what signals of your content you need to improve for promoting your page more effectively. Here are some of the conclusions that most clearly follow from Instagram algorithms:

  • Monitor the regularity and quality of your content, because Instagram includes the signals about the author to rank posts in various sections of the social network.
  • Communicate with your followers, show attention and interest (of course, if it is sincere, and not for the sake of improving Instagram algorithms). Interaction and communication form the basis of all algorithms and promotion on Instagram.
  • Encourage followers and other users to be active on your page.

We also suggest reading our article How to Get More Likes on Instagram in 2021

To succeed on Instagram, you need to be useful and interesting to other users. Develop your page and content. And understanding of Instagram algorithms will help you pay attention to the right things and move forward faster.


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