How Instagram Algorithm Works: A Social Media Marketing Guide

How Instagram Algorithm Works: A Social Media Marketing Guide

Table of Contents

Instagram updated its algorithm—again! And if you fail to adjust your current marketing strategy you will surely suffer a massive hit. We’re talking about the number of people your content will reach as well as the number of new Instagram followers you will be attracting. People are complaining left and right, wondering why their reach, engagement, and followers are going down. This is because they don’t have a solid understanding of the important steps we’re going to share in this post. We are going to learn how Instagram algorithm works to make sure your marketing strategy works. 

Two girls posing in front of a phone camera
Instagram Reel is the future

Changes need to be made in your Instagram posts right now. You need to understand what triggers Instagram algorithm if you wish to have any success at all. In this post, we’ll show you how to do just that. 

Reels and Carousels

Right now all you need to be posting on Instagram are Reels and Carousels. Here’s the hard truth about Instagram. It is after one very important goal, and that is to make money. Of course, it also wants to capture and share the world’s most precious moments. 

To understand how Instagram algorithm works, you have to know that the platform’s bottom line is more practical and capitalistic. This doesn’t come as a surprise, and this is a known fact for content creators. It is a business after all, and what business doesn’t want to make money? It does this through advertising. Therefore, Instagram needs two things to succeed. 

First, it needs advertisers. These are people who are willing to shell out, hundreds, even thousands of dollars to put their ads front and center to people. Next, it needs a target audience to watch these ads. This is paramount to making Instagram succeed. The longer periods you can keep people on the platform, the more ads to show, and the more money you can make. Precisely why Reels and Carousels should be your focus content right now. 

Reels and Carousels have, as of the moment, the highest engagement times, giving Instagram more time to show people more ads. On the contrary, this is the reason why single-image posts on feeds are having a difficult time succeeding. It’s because it doesn’t take long periods for viewers to consume. 

However, there is an exception to this, which we will get to in a bit. But if you’re to choose between Reels and Carousels, the former wins, hands down. Not only because it has higher engagement, but because they are in the form of video.  And as Instagram has said repeatedly, it is no longer a photo-sharing app. 

Video Is The Future

Why is my Instagram reach so low, you ask? Because Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app, according to Adam Mosseri himself, head of Instagram, we can now focus on ways of optimizing your Reels content to adapt to this updated algorithm

To do this you need to understand one of its most important metrics for Reels so you can ensure your content will go viral. We are talking about 100% watch time, as in your videos are being watched in their entirety. 

When analyzing video content, algorithms look at views, watch time, and AVD or average view duration. These sound similar, but they are not. It’s important to know their differences not only to have huge success in this platform but also to know how to position yourself to capitalize on whatever new metric you need to optimize for. 

Views

Simply put, these are the number of views your video gets. Sometimes they come in as auto-play, just like with Reels, or when you swipe through them. Other times you need to click them to play just like the majority of YouTube videos found on their homepage. 

Watch Time

This pertains to the total amount of time people spend watching your video. It could be measured in minutes or seconds. Therefore, a 10-second Reel will never have over 10 seconds of watch time. 

AVD (Average View Duration)

Finally, you have AVD or the average view duration. This is the total watch time of your video which will then be divided by the total number of times it was played, including replays. It’s trying to find out how much of your video a person watched before scrolling to the next one. What does 100% mean? It means they watched the whole thing, which is great. 10% means they skipped off almost immediately, which is a bad sign. 

Loop and Get Watched Over and Over Again

Knowing Instagram, this can change in the future. But for now, the platform is favoring shorter videos with AVDs being 100%. This is compared to longer videos that only have 20%-30% AVD. 

If you try and analyze it closely, this looks more like a hack instead of a long-term strategy, because again, based on experience, Instagram’s algorithm can change entirely very quickly. 

For now, test Reels are shorter in length (not over 10 seconds). Your goal is to have them in a loop so that people watch them over and over again. You do that using a hook. This is a big idea that captures your audience’s attention. Something that triggers a person’s curiosity. So for your reels, it needs to be interesting, educational, entertaining, inspiring, or relevant to your target audience. The trick is putting your hook in the first line of the caption. 

The primary goal of your caption is to get people to spend enough time reading it for your video to play and loop in the background automatically. It may sound sneaky, but it’s not, especially if you’re giving great value and helping people. Thus, the more time they spend with you, the better. 

Instagram will now be able to see that your audience is looping your videos. Watching them over and over again. This is an amazing power signal indicating its need to be shared and shown to more people. 

The Rate of Revelation

Here’s another trick you may also want to try. It’s called the Rate of Revelation. You can push your social content limits a little bit. Try for longer Reels running from 20 to 60 seconds. You see, one of the most effective ways of hooking people quickly while keeping them engaged while watching your content (regardless if it’s a podcast, video, or blog post), is by increasing the pace and overall speed by which you deliver insights. 

Content having a slow rate of revelation takes an eternity to get into. They seem to be dragging for hours on end without really presenting anything fresh, which makes the audience feel stuck. Consequently, a fast rate of revelation consists of nonstop value with a steady stream of fresh and exciting information. This is delivered at a rate too quick to keep up with, which entails the person to watch it repeatedly, to ensure they did not miss out on anything. 

The Only Exception

phone camera
The single-image post “exception”

Earlier we mentioned, “the exception” that’s going to be announced about single-image posts. Instagram announced it will test a different way to display images on this platform, meaning they’re going for tall images, as in 9×16 or vertical. Just like a reel, but this time, in the form of an image and not video. It’s still in its early stages so we don’t know whether or not this will stick around for long. 

The point is, that anytime a social platform like Instagram rolls out a new feature, they make sure to give it one big go. This is done to encourage new users to try them out and make sure enough people can see them for them to get significant and valid feedback. 

This is a great opportunity that you have to take advantage of. It’s your chance to grab some market share from those who are still trying to figure things out or adapt to their strategy. But of course, another way to make sure you’re taking advantage of this great opportunity is to make sure you have a solid Instagram marketing strategy set up. Here are some of them. 

Instagram Marketing Strategies to Go with the Algorithm

It’s not enough knowing how Instagram algorithm works. You need to come up with the right strategy to take full advantage of the platform. The following are some strategies to help you get started.

Optimize Your Bio

Sounds basic, don’t you think? The thing is, common knowledge isn’t necessarily common practice. That’s why you must take a look at your Instagram bio to ensure it clearly shows what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. Prioritize clarity over creativity because first impressions are crucial. Make it crystal clear what you do for whom and why they should follow you. What do you have to offer? Remember to put your CTA or call to action, which is your link in your bio, guiding people on what you want them to do next. 

Create A Plan for Your Brand

browsing pictures on a smartphone
Create a crystal clear plan for the image of your brand on Instagram

Develop a plan for your brand by using consistency, clarity, and congruence. Consistency with your content and engagement. This means posting regularly and responding to DMs. Then there’s clarity, which is making it very clear what you do and who you do it for. Tell them what kind of content you are into and what you provide. Also, make sure your brand guidelines and overall style have a consistent aesthetic or theme. 

Finally, is there congruence? This means what you say and do, and the posts you put out there work together and make sense. You can do this by having some simple yet established guidelines for your brand. This can be the colors you are going to use, the fonts, or the type of content. Your posting schedule, and frequency, among others. 

Use Hashtags Properly

Do your research to find out what hashtags are both relevant and applicable to your brand, business, or industry, and most especially, your target market. What are the terms they are searching for? Test out various hashtags for you to tap into different trends, sentiments, and market segments. 

Micro-Influencer Marketing

You can leverage this as people realize the impact of influencers. How they help drive revenue for the brands and businesses they promote. However, there is a smaller segment of the market you need to tap into and these are the micro-influencers. They are essentially those influencers with an audience you wish to tap into but on a smaller scale. 

These people are very niched and very specific in terms of the type of audience they have. And most probably, they have not been approached by big brands, meaning, you can get them at a lower price. Or you can strike a deal, an exchange deal. They may be willing to give you and your brand a shout-out in exchange for the products or services that you provide, and not necessarily monetary compensation

Utilizing User-Generated Content

Instagram polling
Keep your Instagram followers engaged, e.g., with interactive polls and surveys

For example, if you own a clothing company you can leverage images, stories, and videos of people wearing your clothes in various situations or scenic locations. Like if I create a swimwear deal for a specific person of a specific market, like people who love going to the beach, or island hopping. I will make sure people take photos or videos of them swimming or frolicking in the sand and send their content to me so I can showcase it on my Instagram. 

Network Properly—Never Spam People!

Man working on a laptop
Network properly and never spam people on Instagram or any social media platform

Please introduce yourself without spamming people when you’re sending them DMs. Comment on someone’s post and send them a congratulatory message without appearing like someone who wants something in return in an instant. People can smell spammers a mile away. 

Leverage On The Latest Instagram Algorithm Today

How do I use the Instagram algorithm for my advantage? Hopefully, this post has already addressed your question. Take all these tips and knowledge as a guide to start. But also, don’t forget to utilize your analytics. This is how you will figure out what works best for your brand or business, depending on the market or industry you are in. You will know what are the best times to post to resonate well with your target audience. You must put out content while they are active and present online. So you have the highest chance of posting content while engaging with them.

Now, if you want to learn more about Instagram, read our post, “100 Instagram Marketing Statistics 2021: Users, Market Share, Strategies and More.”

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