What Does The Instagram Algorithm Look Like In2023? 📆
In order to beat the Instagram algorithm and increase the reach of your content, we need to understand it. So, what does the Instagram algorithm look like in 2023? 🤔
Let’s look at the ranking signals the Instagram algorithm uses in 2023. Generally, these get broken into four categories: Relationship signals, preference signals, time and date signals, and audience signals.
The Instagram algorithm is extremely well-tuned to assessing relationships and incorporating relationship data into the ranking. The underlying assumption is that the “closer” two accounts are, the more interested they’ll be in each other’s content. While the algorithm can’t actually determine how close two accounts are, it can make an approximation.
Here are the criteria it uses:
Do you tag each other in your posts?
Do you follow each other?
Did you search for each other by name?
Do you message each other?
Do you comment on each other’s posts?
Each one of the points above represents a possible “link” between two accounts. Basically, the more “links” you have to another account, the more likely it is that your content will reach them (and visa versa). That means engaging with your followers is a crucial aspect of increasing your organic reach on Instagram.
Some ways to do this include asking your followers questions in the captions of your posts to encourage comments or posting polls or Q&As on your Instagram stories so your followers interact with you that way.
The Instagram algorithm’s primary function (at least from Instagram’s perspective) is delivering a steady supply of enjoyable content to users of the platform.
It does that by tracking user behaviors such as likes, comments, saves, and walk-throughs and using that data to construct an ever-evolving preference profile. This preference profile is linked to a user’s meta-data, so the algorithm can easily recommend content that matches the profile.
This is an incredibly complex process that Instagram hasn’t shed a ton of light on over the years. However, we can say that the process involves matching users with broad genres of content that have appealed to them in the past. For example, if a user frequently likes posts from a certain food blogger, they’ll likely be shown more food and restaurant content in the future.
If you’re looking to increase your organic reach on Instagram, the most effective method is still creating content that people want to engage with. Getting someone to leave a comment or save a post will drastically increase the likelihood that your content will reach them (and people like them) in the future. For example, posting tutorials or other informative content will increase the chances of a user saving the post for future reference.
A gym clothes brand may post its top workouts, while a cooking equipment brand could post recipes.
Time and Date Signals
The Instagram algorithm has taken a near-180° turn since the days of the reverse chronological order newsfeed. Today, it assumes that people are most interested in more recent posts and generally rank posts close to their chronological order. Though there are exceptions to this rule, it’s still important to keep in mind.
In terms of beating the Instagram algorithm, these signals mean that the timing of the post is crucial. If you want to maximize your reach, you need to be posting when your audience is active. That way, you can be sure that your posts are near the top of people’s newsfeeds.
To do this, start by heading to your Instagram Insights, which is home to your account’s analytics. You can then head to the “total followers” section, and (provided you have at least 100 followers), you’ll see at which times they’re most active.
You can then plan the best times to post your content around this. In theory, posting when the largest proportion of followers are online should mean you can get some engagement in the bag, boosting the chances of Instagram showing your posts to more people.
With Flick, you can access even more information about when your followers are active and automatically schedule your posts to go live at those times, alongside other insights about how well your posts are performing.
The ranking signals we’ve covered so far have all involved things that you (the poster) have control over. However, there are also ranking factors that are entirely in the hands of your followers. According to Instagram, there are three main factors that increase or decrease the reach of your posts.
Usage Frequency: How often users open up Instagram has a massive impact on the reach of your posts. Someone who opens Instagram twice a week will likely not be able to keep up with all the content being posted. This will result in a lot of unseen content (i.e., less reach for you). Someone who opens the app twice a day won’t have that problem.
Session Duration: This factor is similar to the one above. Users that spend a ton of time on Instagram daily will probably be able to keep up with the stream of fresh content being posted to their newsfeeds. Users that use Instagram for a few minutes here and there will probably end up missing the majority of the content that gets posted.
Following List: The number of accounts that a user follows impacts the number of posts that will be fighting for a place on their newsfeed. If one of your followers only follows 10 accounts total, there is a good chance they’ll catch the majority of your posts. If they follow 1,000 accounts … not so much.
The bottom line is that the Instagram algorithm is a complex thing that is frequently out of your control. However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible to beat it! If you’re interested in growing your organic reach, keep reading.
How To Beat The Instagram Algorithm
The Instagram algorithm can seem elusive and mysterious at times, and one account’s advice for how it grew from 1k to 10k followers in six months won’t necessarily work for everyone.
However, the methods below are the chef’s kiss of beating the algorithm, so buckle up tight.
Create Video Content & Carousels
Think Beyond Likes
Get into Reels
Encourage Interactions & Conversations
Promote Your Content Through Multiple Channels
Measure Your Successes (And Failures)
Work on Your Visuals
Improve Your Captions
Don’t Delete and Repost
Geotag (When Relevant)
Engage with Other Accounts
Create Video Content & Carousels 📹
Instagram’s main goal is to keep users active, so the more time they spend consuming content on the platform, the better. Static images are easy to scroll past, but videos have a better chance of stopping followers in their tracks—and it’s not like Instagram doesn’t know this 😏 So, it’s likely that your video content will perform better on average. People spend more time watching longer videos, especially if they have a good hook, so make sure the first 5 seconds count. Draw in your existing (and potentially new) followers from the get-go, so they get to know you through your content and engage or visit your page.
Another great format that keeps users on your feed is Carousels. Again, your followers will devote more of their time to content that tells a story and packs a punch. Carousel slides are a great way to communicate your message, tell a story, or educate your followers on something only you know about. The more you offer something unique on Instagram, the more likely it is that you’ll receive a double tap or comment, which will push your content to more users. So, with Carousels, you can create that ‘hook’ in your first slide and then increase user-time spent on your posts through each slide after.
Think Beyond Likes ❤
It’s easy to get wrapped up in Likes. When conversations around the Instagram algorithm started, most of it was related to the ‘like: follower’ ratio changing, with people experiencing a decrease in Likes as compared to their previous engagement levels. But, Likes aren’t the be-all-end-all, and shouldn’t really be the focus of your strategy if you want to beat the Instagram algorithm in 2023. There are actually more important metrics that signify whether your content is appealing to people.
One metric that is often overlooked, but probably the best indicator of good content is ‘Saves.’ Think about it. When someone saves your content for later, it means they like it so much that they want to look at it again and again. It’s not just a post that appeared in their feed, but a piece of content that resonated with them and made them want to ‘keep it.’ Take a look at your past posts and see which ones are the most Saved. It’ll likely be pieces of content that give something, whether it’s a how-to or a unique makeup look that someone can recreate.
Another key metric is ‘shares’, or whether people are sharing your content. This goes beyond Saves because people are actually giving your post real estate in their DMs or Stories—they think it is engaging enough that they want other people to see it. And, naturally, if other people see it? That’s a potential increase in not just Likes but comments, followers, and Impressions.
The Flick Instagram Analytics Tool allows you to go beyond the usual 30-day limit for these states. Instead, you can view weekly, monthly, and yearly reports to really understand your posts’ performance.
Get into Reels 📹
One thing we can say for certain about Instagram’s algorithm is that it favors its new features. A rule of thumb for any Instagram strategy is to make sure you are taking advantage of the new content formats that the platform rolls out. If you’re one of the first people to use Reels, for example, you’re going to be one of the first Reels that people see.
Reels are shaping up to be one of the best ways to enhance and increase discoverability on Instagram. Why? Because people don’t need to be following you to find your content. Your posts are naturally served to them on the Explore page of Instagram when they are already watching Reels. Also, the Reels that get suggested to them are based on the videos they enjoy or frequently consume in the past, so it’s likely you will reach a more targeted audience—one example where the Instagram algorithm is on your side!
Get reels right and you could even end upgoing viraland giving your account a huge boost.
Hashtags are Instagram’s way of searching for and finding content, and this hasn’t changed. One surefire way to up your discoverability and new reach is by using hashtags strategically. This means, selecting hashtags for your posts that are not only suited to your content but also to your current following and engagement. You’re more likely to rank and perform on hashtags that are less competitive, and the best way to select these is with a solid strategy. Research shows that there’s a strong correlation between the number of hashtags you use and the amount of engagement you get on your posts.
Did you know that even using just one hashtag on a post boosts your interactions by 29%? If you want to learn more about upping your hashtag game, and finding out which hashtags work for you just click here. With Flick’s Instagram Hashtag Search, you can also see which hashtags you are ranking on, helping you to determine which ones are giving you the results you want.
Encourage Interactions & Conversations 🗣
Often, you can increase the reach of your posts just by simply changing the way that you speak to your audience and craft your captions. Encouraging people to engage with your posts is going to up the likelihood that they will respond. For example, ask your followers to tag a friend who might like the post, or ask them a direct question in the caption that they can respond to.
Another easy way to attract engagement is by hosting small giveaways on your feed. Sometimes users need that added incentive to drop a comment or share your post, so consider embedding a giveaway into one of your posts that requires a comment or a share to enter. This ensures that your followers will promote your giveaways for you (through comments and shares), and you can run the competition across other social media channels to maximize the number of entries.
Promote Your Content Through Multiple Channels 🔄
If you’re looking for easy ways to increase your organic reach on Instagram, it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of Instagram’s diverse set of methods for promoting content. You really do have tons of options.
Let’s start with the basics:
When you make a post, let people know about it through a few different channels. This will help make sure that there are a few different ways for people to stumble across your content without relying solely on your ranking in their newsfeeds.
For example, people generally have far fewer stories to look through than posts when they open up Instagram. That means if you feature your most recent post on your story, people are more likely to see it.
In addition, you can also look for symbiotic relationships with other brands and creators. Joint posting is a great way to connect two distinct groups of followers in a way that’s beneficial for everyone involved.
A joint post guarantees your account will be in front of people who might not usually see your content, and that opens up the possibility of forming new connections.
In addition, even if followers of the other account like and comment on the post without noticing your username, they’ve still created a link (remember that concept from earlier?) with your account in the eyes of the algorithm. That’s a powerful tool for getting your content in front of them on a regular basis.
Chances are that Instagram isn’t the only social media platform associated with your brand. So, why not share the same content on other apps too, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or even Pinterest? You may have some followers on different platforms that haven’t yet connected with your Instagram account, so this is a great way to convert them.
If you have an email newsletter, it’s also a good idea to provide a round-up of your recent Instagram posts to give them a final chance to be seen.
Be Consistent 🏃♂️
Instagram rewards you for posting on a consistent basis. So, make sure you are posting consistently with a steady stream of content. It can be tough to keep enough content on the back burner if you are posting every single day, so make sure you’re setting a schedule you can keep up with. If you’re struggling, take a look at this article on how to get out of a content rut.
You can look for inspiration by browsing relevant hashtags or looking at similar accounts to yours. Are they doing something you’re not?
You may also find it helpful to develop content themes so that you’re not starting from scratch every time you make a new post. For instance, you may decide to post a meme once a week (if it fits your brand) or to introduce a member of your team along with some personal facts once a month.
Measure Your Successes (And Failures) 🧑🔬
Whenever you’re attempting to grow your Instagram, it’s incredibly important that you a) set clear targets and b) measure KPIs that tell you whether you’ve met them.
That first requirement is fairly easy. To start, all you need to do is think about what your goals are for your Instagram account. Do you want to attract more people to your website?
Do you want to sell products directly through Instagram? Do you just want more followers? Once you’ve chosen your goal, you need to come up with a realistic target. This could be something as simple as, “I want to increase my follower count by 20% by the end of the month”.
After that, you’ll need to choose some metrics that will help you keep track of your progress in relation to your target. Instagram Analytics is a good place to start, but as you begin to get more serious and systematic about Instagram growth you may find yourself looking for additional metrics, features, and reports.
If that sounds like your experience, Flick’s suite of tools and reports might be a perfect fit. Flick offers real-time updates and historic data that stretches back a full year for metrics that capture everything from follower change to account conversion rate. To learn more about these metrics (and tons of others), check out Flick’s guide to Instagram analytics.
Work on Your Visuals
You might think that algorithms aren’t yet sophisticated enough to have “good taste” and figure out which feed is the epitome of artistic excellence and which is a series of uncurated photo dumps.
Firstly, technology is getting scarily good, so this isn’t always the case. But even if the algorithm isn’t judging you, your audience will — and the algorithm will then pick up on that.
You might not be ready to go full Kim Kardashian by committing to one specific color or aesthetic for every single post, but having a broad theme or using similar filters can go a long way toward improving your visuals and your brand. Apps like Adobe Lightroom or Tezza App will do the bulk of the work for you and help streamline your brand aesthetics.
Other accounts choose to alternate between different post types in a certain order. For instance, you could post an infographic or a picture of natural landscapes every third post. This helps to keep your grid clean and consistent.
Improve Your Captions 🖊
You don’t have to be a world-class writer capable of reducing your audience to tears in order to pen a top-tier Instagram post. Ultimately, doing this right comes down to one critical point: Understanding what your audience wants from you and delivering on that. Is it humor? Tutorials about how to use your products? Relevant statistics and insider info from your industry?
Part of that information will come from devouring your analytics and acting on it. But there are also some basic best practices to follow.
Captions of under 10 words perform the best
Captions with more than 20 emojis perform the best
Including 23 emojis in video posts optimizes performance
The heart-eyes emoji is the most popular
However, depending on your audience, this may not hold true for your account. So, go ahead and experiment!
Don’t Delete and Repost 🚫
We’ve mostly focused on what you should do, but now let’s take a moment to outline one thing you shouldn’t do: Delete and repost your content.
If you’ve made a post and it didn’t perform the way you hoped, deleting it and reposting it on another day might sound like the logical thing to do so that your efforts don’t go to waste. But while it’s unlikely to harm your account directly, it probably won’t do it much good either.
Instead, consider repurposing: Taking the basic concept from your original post and breathing new life into it by either revisiting it with a fresh angle or posting it as a different form of content. For instance, you might take an infographics carousel that didn’t get much traction last year and turn it into a short, snappy Instagram reel.
This allows you to use the content you’ve already created, rather than starting from scratch. It can save you time and resources that you can use elsewhere. It’s also an ingenious way to help you post more often, even if you have limited resources or ideas.
Geotag (When Relevant) 🌍
With everything else held equal, which Instagram post would you expect to achieve the best performance: A photo tagged with the location of the Eiffel Tower, or the same image tagged at some obscure Midwestern town nobody has heard of? The first one is a trending location that tends to get better engagement.
This isn’t to say that you should post your latest range of trainers with the location of the Tower of Pisa for no apparent reason. But if there’s a link or you happen to be traveling through the area, you should absolutely capitalize on it.
For example, if you just so happen to be passing through Paris, why not make a themed post around it? Or, you could theme a post around “lessons from Greek philosophers about marketing” and tag the location as Athens. Get creative!
Engage With Other Accounts 🤝
We’ve already seen that a huge component of the algorithm comes down to your relationships with other accounts and how much they interact with your content. So, it’s only natural that engaging with other accounts is a great way to give yourself a boost in the algorithm.
Don’t think of yourself as a “celebrity” — look for accounts you can informally partner with so that you’ll both get a boost, and show appreciation for posts you find genuinely interesting or entertaining.
At the very least, reply to your comments and messages to encourage your audience to continue interacting with you.
But a word of warning: Go too far here and it may start to look like you’re spamming. If you’re leaving single-word or emoji-only comments on dozens of posts a day, you’re not going to fool anyone. Keep it classy. 💁♀