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What the Heck is the Instagram Algorithm and How Does It Work in 2020?

What the Heck is the Instagram Algorithm and How Does It Work in 2020?

The Instagram algorithm, A.K.A. this seemingly mythical being that’s confusing the heck out of tons of people. You may see it talked about a lot either by Instagram gurus or in Facebook groups, but one piece of information that seems to get left out is what it is and how it even works.

We’re all aware that a few years ago, Instagram stopped showing posts in users’ home feed by chronological order, so now it almost feels more like a popularity contest. (We miss those simpler times!)

Everyone is scrambling around searching for information on how to beat this beast, so we pulled together a list of our top tips for making Instagram’s algorithm your very best friend.

First, Let’s Clear The Air

There are tons of rumors regarding the algorithm and how it works, as well as some tips that people have been following that, turns out, don’t even really make a difference in your posts’ performance.


Where you choose to put your hashtags, whether in the caption or the first comment, is entirely based on your personal preference. The truth is, the algorithm doesn’t really care, and it’s been shown to have no real effect on the performance of your posts. Either place will still put your post on those hashtags’ discover pages.


There’s been this long-standing rumor that the first 30 minutes after a post is published is the key period for engaging back with your audience, and that by doing so, your post is more likely to get boosted in your followers’ feed. We hate to break it to you, but that isn’t true either. As long as you’re engaging with your followers period, however soon you choose to do so after posting doesn’t matter.


There’s no discrimination from the algorithm on whether you have a personal, creator, or business account. They’re all treated equally. Because Instagram pushes posts from accounts you seem to like most, if there’s a certain type of account you tend to engage more with, they’re the ones that will show up more often on your feed.


Neither one will perform better than the other because the algorithm views these as the same, as well. The same with account types, if you spend more time engaging with videos, those are what you’ll see more often on your feed.

Pro tip: An important thing to note, though, is that videos will attract a longer viewing period automatically, plus they take up more virtual real estate on homepages, using 4x more space than images. We’ll let you use that information as you please!


It seems to be a trend to buy more followers, but they never lead to interaction on your posts, which is what the algorithm cares most about. So, save your money the next time you consider investing in follower bots.


Whether someone comments a paragraph or a few emojis, the algorithm doesn’t hold any bias, so they’re still counted as equal engagement. This is super important when it comes to CTAs on your posts. You don’t always have to ask a thought-provoking question on your posts (though we recommend you don’t resort to “Drop emojis…” all the time if you want to build genuine relationships with your followers).


Many people think Instagram updates its algorithm periodically, but it’s actually constantly changing. Instagram uses machine learning based on user trends, so the algorithm is always updating according to the behavioral patterns of its users. So, how are you supposed to work with it if it changes so often? Luckily, there are a few key things that will still allow you to get in the algorithm’s good graces.

Always, Always, Always Reply to Your Followers

Even if someone’s comment doesn’t necessarily warrant a reply, at least heart their comment. This shows the algorithm that you have actual relationships with those that comment on your posts, and they’ll want to push your content more on your followers’ feeds.

Pro-tip: Make sure to turn on notifications from Instagram whenever someone comments on your posts or DMs you. Responsiveness is important too, not only for the algorithm but also for building know, like, and trust with your audience.

Post Consistently

This isn’t just a way to build better relationships with your audience, you’ll also build a better relationship with the algorithm as this shows Instagram that you’re a quality account whose content should be pushed. How often you post is up to you, but be sure to choose a posting schedule that you can maintain for, basically, the rest of your Instagram life. It will also need to be a schedule that will never make you need to rush a post out and will allow you to focus on providing great content in each post.

Be Mindful of When You Post

What times you post is just as important as when you post. Using Instagram’s audience insights feature, you’ll be able to see which times on which days your followers are most active. Posting at one of these highly-active times gives your post the best chances of showing up someone’s feed.

Shares Seem to Count Equally, If Not More, Than Comments and Likes

A huge way to show the algorithm that your post is worth pushing on home pages is by posting content that will generate more shares and saves. Many people have tested this themselves and discovered that even though a post didn’t receive its usual amount of likes or comments, Instagram still gave them the “This post is doing better than 95% of your other posts” notification just because they had more shares.

The easiest way to attract sharing of your posts is by shareable graphics. You’ve probably seen countless illustrations, iPhone reminder notifications, tweet mockups, pie charts, etc. on your homepage, and that’s because these are the kinds of posts that warrant shares and saves.

Our own top-performing posts have been shareable graphics. Because we believe everyone should have the chance to fall in the algorithm’s good graces, we released highly shareable social media templates in The Shop that you can easily customize in Canva!

Highly Shareable Social Media Templates.png

We use these ourselves, and the results have been outstanding. We’ve found we receive the most engagement on these posts, and it’s directly related to the amount of shares they get.

Some Things You Have No Control Over

It’s important to remember that even though you may be doing everything right, there are just some things that you can’t control. Even though the algorithm does base what posts show up for a user on the engagement that posts receives, they also use other factors to determine this that are outside our control, like:

  • How often a user opens the app
  • How much time they usually spend on the app
  • How many people they follow

So, as long as you’re doing your best to use the tips above, posting on Instagram will become less of a game of chance for you and more like a strategic plan. via Blog – Boss Project

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