How Instagram's Algorithm Works - A Step by Step Breakdown
instagram algorithm

Instagram recently held a town hall meeting with journalists at their headquarters in San Francisco where they explained how their algorithm works. Julian Gutman, product lead at Instagram, led the meeting and detailed the specifics. Multiple outlets reported what they learned, with the first being TechCrunch. We aggregated what we found and turned it into the infographic above. Keep reading for an in-depth breakdown of each section.

It’s important to understand how Instagram’s algorithm works, since the platform now has over 800 million active users. It’s also the go-to app for B2C brands to market their content and engage with their fans/ambassadors. B2B is growing fast on the platform as well.

Instagram’s Algorithmic Feed Ranking Criteria:

Instagram utilizes machine learning and A.I., combined with your past behavior, to create a unique feed for everyone. That means that even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you engage with the content of those accounts.

There are 3 primary factors that determine what you see in your feed:

1. Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.

2. Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.

3. Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.


In addition to those core factors, there are 3 additional signals that influence rankings:

4. Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.

5. Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors so you might see less of any specific person.

6. Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.

So there you have it. The six primary factors that make up the Instagram algorithm are: Interest, Recency, Relationship, Frequency, Following, and Usage.

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Brandon Doyle

CEO + Founder