The Instagram Algorithm Explained

It’s October 1st, which (witch?!), in my book means it's officially Halloween Season! So, in the spirit of all things spooky, I thought I'd tackle a subject that can feel SUPER SCARY...


I feel like the word “algorithm” is whispered in the small business world like “Voldemort” is whispered in the Harry Potter series…like it’s this mysterious, evil force that we know exists but feel like we can’t define because it’s too scary to think about it being real.

Prepare to be de-mystified and learn small, manageable ways that you can USE Instagram’s algorithm so that more people see and engage with your content…


Instagram used to show users a reverse chronological feed of what the folks they followed were posting. Meaning, you always saw the most recent posts first; it didn’t matter if it was your favorite brand or your post-happy Great Aunt from Omaha. So, what you saw depended entirely on what time of day you went on the app. It was like that for 6 years.

Then, the Instagram Wizards decided that there was a better way to customize the user experience so that they would only see the posts they were most likely to enjoy.

In short, the IG Algorithm collects data from every user- what kinds of pictures they “like”, accounts they follow, whose stories they watch, what hashtags they engage with, what kinds of posts they save in their archive, etc - to continuously curate that user’s feed so that they see posts they are most likely to engage with.

For example, if you follow a lot of fashion bloggers, you’re going to see those posts pop up in your feed more often and get targeted ads to buy new outfits. If you follow a lot of musicians, you’ll see ads for concert tickets or apps like Spotify. If you follow health bloggers, you’re gonna see a lot of flatlay pictures of salads and cakes and get ads for grocery delivery services. See where I’m going with this?
The most important thing to know about the algorithm is that it’s designed for ONE PURPOSE:


The longer they’re on the app, the more ads they’ll engage with, the more $$ IG makes from companies buying targeted ads.

I know, that sounds kinda depressing. BUT HERE’S HOW IT’S ACTUALLY GREAT NEWS FOR YOUR BUSINESS…

Once you know how the algorithm works, YOU CAN MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU!

With the algorithm you can be sure that if you are consistently creating engaging content that is strategically targeted at a certain audience, your posts WILL get seen.

How? Glad you asked…

Stay tuned for my next Magic Words blog post where I will tell you the 3 most important factors in making the Instagram algorithm work for you!

Kelsey Formost