It’s 2020: How Does the IG Algorithm Work?



Do you ever wonder why you see the same handful of account’s content on your feed? This is because Instagram created an algorithm that calculates the content deemed most relevant to you. This algorithm is based on your activity when on Instagram. 

As a business account, it can be tricky to be deemed as relevant as their best friends and family that they are constantly engaging with. 

Although Instagram hasn’t shared the exact equation used, we have done the research and have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. So let’s break down the factors and use them to outsmart and beat the algorithm!

Post’s Popularity

When you make a post, Instagram is going to first show it to a sample audience. If the post performs well it will then be shown to more accounts. 

A post’s popularity is based on a handful of actions that user’s may make.  The post’s likes, comments, shares, saves, and live video/video/story views will all contribute. This is why it is so important that you are creating content your followers will want to engage in.

Although a post’s performance plays a role in where it falls on a follower’s feed, its relevance to the user has proven to be more important.


The algorithm’s goal is to show your followers what they want to see. This is why it calculates a post’s relevance to a specific user. 

Instagram gauges your audience’s interest through the type of content they tend to engage with. This can be pictures they like, accounts they follow, hashtags they follow, accounts they search, and the strength of their relationship with your account. 

If you have a follower that hasn’t been on Instagram in a couple of days, their timeline will be comprised of highlights since the last time they were on. If your followers have shown Instagram that your content is relevant to them, then you are more likely to make it in this pool. 

You can use this to your advantage by ensuring you tailor your content to your audience’s interests and make it relevant to them. 


Relationship plays a large role in the algorithm, so we are going to take a deeper dive to understand what this means and how we can build that relationship with our audience. 

As a business, it is your goal to build relationships with your audience. 

Let’s start with how Instagram determines a relationship.

Instagram wants users to see content from people in their ‘inner circle’ first. This tends to be their friends and family. Instagram deems accounts a part of an inner circle when they are engaging with them using more than a simple like. 

Here are some examples:

  • If you see a funny meme and send it to your best friend though DMs, Instagram has used this interaction to assume your friend is in your ‘inner circle.’ 
  • Your mom posts pictures of you and tags you frequently. This frequent tagging between the accounts also establishes that relationship Instagram is looking for. 

Now let’s talk about how you can build that relationship with followers you have never even met and get them in your ‘inner circle.’

Reply to their comments and DMs! If they swipe up and reply to your story, you need to engage with them! They are taking the time to look at it and react, and you need to be acknowledging this. Same goes for when people comment on your posts. 

Another way to engage with your followers is by posting their content! User-generated content. If you post their content or simply acknowledge them in your post with a tag, this will help establish the relationship you are wanting. 

Have you ever wondered why accounts run contests and tell their followers to tag ten people in individual comments? They are not only gaining exposure from new people that are being tagged, but they are also building a relationship with the user who commented ten times on their post. 


Although Instagram no longer sorts photos by the time they were posted, it still plays a role in where your content will land on the feed.

Instagram is aiming to satisfy users by showing them content that is timely and still relevant.

Of all the content Instagram deems relevant to a user, the most recent post is going to be shown first. This is why it is very important to be tracking what times and days your followers are most active. When your audience is getting on Instagram at that prime time and you just posted relevant content, they will be more likely to see yours than someone else’s post from earlier. 

Time Spent on Post

It has been proven that the amount of time a user spends on your post can also affect how often they see your content. Instagram correlates a user’s time spent on a post with that post’s relevance to them. 

With that being said, work to keep your followers engaged for longer! Write longer captions, post videos, and utilize the carousel by posting more than one picture. Even if they don’t engage at all (like, comment, share, etc), they have now spent more time on your post.  

There you have it! Some insight into the tricky Instagram Algorithm. 

Here are a few more tricks you can use to ensure your content is being seen. 

If you just made a super exciting post that you are really wanting your followers to see, post it on your story as well! They may not have seen your post on their feed, but adding it to your story will make it more likely for people to see it. 

Post more often! This will only help to get your brand seen more because you simply have more content out there. If you post on a regular schedule your devoted followers will thank you for it. They are looking forward to seeing it, and they want it consistently.

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