The Instagram algorithm in 2023 is like the seasons: it changes, you love it, you hate it, but in the end you just have to embrace it. Here’s our handy guide on the Instagram algorithm, any new features, and how to beat it.
What is the Instagram algorithm?
The Instagram algorithm is essentially a rulebook. Based on many criteria, it uses viewers’ personal data to deliver content they’ll enjoy. That’s it. If your browsing history suggests that you like dogs, you’ll see a heck of a lot of hounds in your Feed.
There is one massive misconception about the Instagram algorithm, though: it’s not ‘the’ algorithm. Instagram uses various algorithms, processes, and classifiers to deliver that sweet, sweet content to Feed, Stories, Explore, and Reels. Each part of the app uses its own unique algorithm, but for this article, we’ll jam all those things under ‘the algorithm’ as an umbrella term.
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
The algorithms rank three broad things: a creator’s relationship with their followers, the relevance of the content, and how new the content is.
As mentioned earlier, each part of the Instagram platform uses a different algorithm. This is because someone using Reels usually has a completely different search intent than someone using the regular Feed. Here’s how the algorithm works for each section of Instagram in 2023.
Instagram algorithm for Feed and Stories
Aside from ads and sponsored posts, a user’s Feed and Stories will usually comprise content from their nearest, dearest, and favorite accounts. It’s based on accounts a user already follows. From there, thousands of factors are analyzed from both the creator and viewer’s side. The four most important categories, in descending order, are:
- Information about the post. This covers everything from how many likes it’s racked up to when it was posted, location, length (if it’s a video,) and more.
- Information about the posting account. Instagram’s algorithm balances how interesting an account is to other people vs. how interesting it is to a specific person. Interaction with the account and its posts over the past few weeks is a significant factor here.
- User activity. The algorithm considers what other posts users have liked, to match them with appropriate content.
- A user’s interaction history. Does the user just like, or do they share, comment, and so on?
These factors are taken into account, and Instagram’s algorithm uses them to make predictions.
In Feed, the algorithm sorts through five user actions: how likely they are to spend a few seconds on a post, comment on it, like it, save it, or click the profile photo.
Posts from the Feed shared to Stories used to rank lower, as they were duplicated content. However, Instagram’s algorithm has changed to accommodate this, as the platform appreciates the power of sharing on Stories during important world events, for example.
If an account is flagged for misinformation or ‘fake news,’ it will be deprioritized by the algorithm. So don’t do that. It sucks!
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Instagram algorithm for Explore
The Explore algorithm is geared to help users find new things. For that reason, it’s much more recommendation-based than Feed and Stories. Instagram digs into posts people have liked, saved, and commented on in the past. It also looks at accounts and posts the user hasn’t yet interacted with.
From there, the algorithm ranks the posts by how likely it thinks a user will interact with them. Saves, likes, and shares are crucial factors here. The category splits for the Instagram algorithm 2023 for Explore are below, in descending order of importance:
- Information about the post. The sticking point here is how popular the post is, and how quickly it’s getting likes, shares, comments, and saves.
- A user’s interaction history with the posting account. Most posts on Explore will be from accounts users have never heard of. However, if a user has already interacted with an account before, that increases the chances of an algorithm match.
- User activity. Their likes, shares, and comments on other Explore posts help match them to new content.
- Information about the posting account. This relies on how many people have interacted with the posting account in the past few weeks.
The Instagram Explore algorithm means you’re less likely to stumble upon offensive or upsetting content. Feed and Stories work off who you follow, but Explore throws out brand new recommendations. For that reason, unless you’re into distressing and offensive things, you shouldn’t see them on Explore.
Instagram algorithm for Reels
Reels’ algorithm works similarly to Explore: it finds videos you should like, then ranks them based on interest levels. The most significant factor for the Reels algorithm, though, simply comes down to if it’s entertaining or not.
The Instagram Reels algorithm puts focus on smaller creators in 2023, which is great news for anyone trying to go viral for the first time. Key predictions are made based on how likely someone is to watch the entire Reel, like it, comment on how entertaining it was, or head to the audio page – that last one is super notable, too, as it suggests that users will make their own Reel.
The category splits for Instagram Reels’ algorithm in 2023, from most to least important, are:
- User activity. This covers factors like which reels they’ve recently liked, commented on, and engaged with.
- A user’s interaction history with the posting account. Like Explore, most Reel suggestions come from unknown accounts. However, if a Reel is popping off and both user and poster have interacted previously, there’s more chance of it being favored by the algorithm.
- Information about the Reel. Technical things like the music, pixels, and whole frames are all considered here, as well as the Reel’s popularity.
- Information about the poster. It’s not just based on popularity and volume – the algorithm tries to give everyone a fair crack of the whip on Reels in 2023.
Low-resolution, watermarked, and political Reels don’t perform well in the Instagram algorithm. Just like Explore, you should be less likely to find distasteful content on Reels than you would on Stories or Feed, purely based on the recommendation-led nature of the Instagram Reels algorithm in 2023.
Did Instagram get a new algorithm?
Instagram’s algorithm hasn’t changed noticeably between 2021 and 2023. However, two things have been updated.
One thing that has been introduced – well, reintroduced – is chronological browsing. If you used Instagram in the early days, you’ll remember that it operated without an algorithm. It was just the newest photos first, stretching down your Feed.
Another change is the focus on original content. The Instagram algorithm in 2023 focuses more on original, rather than reposted, content. This means that reposting Reels, sharing viral memes, or using someone else's content in your posts won't have the same reach, and will be de-prioritized by Instagram.
How do I reset the Instagram algorithm?
You can’t ‘reset the algorithm,’ as you might have heard. However, if you want to explore Instagram without the algorithm butting in, then here’s how you can do that!
If you only want to look at the accounts you follow, in chronological order, then it’s super easy to make the switch. All you need to do is:
- Open the Instagram app on your phone.
- Tap the ‘Instagram’ font in the top-left corner.
- Click ‘Following’ in the dropdown menu.
- That’s it! Scroll chronologically until the dawn of time (or whenever you run out of posts.)
Browsing chronologically is perfect if you want a Feed curated only by you, but you can’t currently search the rest of Instagram like this. It’s purely for browsing accounts you follow.
How do I beat the Instagram algorithm?
People ask about ‘beating’ the Instagram algorithm in 2023. That’s not really a thing, unfortunately. There aren’t any cheat codes or ways around it. However, as a content creator, there are simple things you can start doing that will increase your chances of being boosted in Instagram’s various algorithms.
Stick to the Community Guidelines
If you’re going against what Instagram deems acceptable, you’re not going to receive a push on the algorithm. Brush up on the Community Guidelines here.
Reels are a newer feature than Stories, Feed, and Explore, and are given a push by Instagram’s algorithm. In 2023, you can optimize your Reels by:
- Avoiding recycling watermarked content from TikTok.
- Shooting your content in the preferred vertical format.
- Using lots of different effects.
Not just any old hashtag, though. A good hashtag that’s related to your content and others’ helps the algorithm understand the context, intent, and target audience. Do your research and nail those hashtags. Read more about hashtags, and how they play into Instagram SEO, here.
You’ve seen how much emphasis Instagram’s numerous algorithms put on interaction between creator and viewer in 2023. Include polls, stickers, emoji sliders, and more to give people the chance to connect. Actively ask people to comment during your content – or in the captions – and make sure you reply to them.
Use enhanced tags
Enhanced tagging was introduced in 2023. It means that people resharing your content can properly tag your profile and credit you with your role, rather than just your username. You can use enhanced tagging to avoid content strikes and ensure other creators are visible in your posts – for example, if you're cleared to use a certain track, you can tag the artist and assign them the role of 'songwriter, 'performer,' and so on. Hopefully, people will return the favor, and you'll be judged less harshly when ranking with the Instagram algorithm!
We’re all busy, and nobody expects you to post 24/7. But, if you want to build a following, having set publish days can help create excitement and reliability. People will know when to hop onto Instagram to view your new content, giving you a steady flow of traffic and letting the algorithm know you’re trustworthy.
The Instagram algorithm isn’t cut and dry, but by understanding how it ranks content and why, you stand a better chance of reaching a larger audience in 2023.
If you want to learn about key Instagram features like Reels and enhanced tagging in a more visual format, check out our video with Epidemic Sound ambassador Jade Beason below.
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