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How To Understand And Use The Instagram Algorithm To Create Engaging Posts

Create engaging posts on Instagram, it's hot. You’d be a fool not to strike. You’ll be much more successful with these efforts if you have a handle

You’re on Instagram to drive engagement for your brand.

And why not?

  1. Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly active users which is toe-to-toe with the most popular social media platforms.
  2. Unlike Pinterest, Linkedin and other sites that lean heavily towards one gender, here the gender mix is even. The majority of users are teenagers. The apps they use are available everywhere.
  3. Users spend an average of 28 minutes per day on the platform.

Instagram is hot. You’d be a fool not to strike. You’ll be much more successful with these efforts if you have a handle on how the algorithm works.

Turns out, AI is a big part of the Instagram algorithm. On Instagram, AI is the invisible puppet string that has the final say. AI controls what content goes to the Explore tab. It decides which post goes on to generate more and more views.

AI decides which among the hundreds of thousands of posts created every day gets to which users.

As aforementioned, there are over a billion users, many of who create tons of content every day. To map interesting and relevant content to segments of its billions of users is no mean feat. You also need to ensure that the content that finally gets to these people generates engagement.

Thanks to AI, users on the platform get recommendations tailored based on the content they liked or showed some engagement with in the past. The AI is able to judge which accounts and posts someone might like. And cater to precisely that.

So let’s see how it works:

How does Instagram’s algorithm work

So here’s how the Instagram algorithm works in broad strokes. The AI groups content that’s most likely to generate the highest levels of engagement (based on past engagement) into buckets of 500 items.

From this group, the AI filters posts to separate out spam, misinformation, and content that generally might be unappealing.

The posts that remain are ranked on user engagement into a list of top 25 posts.

AI learns what kind of engagement these posts get. Based on this, a post might make it to the Explore tab. So if one of the posts from the list of 25 doesn’t get a lot of engagement, it slowly recedes out of view giving an opportunity for other posts in this group to test the waters. The process goes on as long as necessary to find posts that gather a lot of engagement. Engagement is the driver of content marketing success on Instagram.

Think of it this way. You might ignore certain content. And like other content. Based on your engagement AI would put something on top and put the other videos/images/memes far below. If you watch videos of funny kids/cats or recipes or are a mom blogger you see more of that content.

The Explore tab populates itself based on content that users regularly consume or show a tendency to enjoy.

AI neatly sends the right content to the right people in a bid to increase user engagement.

As a brand, Instagram is an ideal spot to spread the word. Why?

Lots of users research brands on the platform. Brand related content has lots of scope on Instagram.

Instagram with its growing user base can generate more engagement with its existing base as it taps to AI-powered content recommendations.

Here are three ways to create engaging Instagram posts that suit the algorithm

1. Post when your audience is online

With Instagram Analytics it’s easy to see when most of your audience is online. Use that information to post content when most people can see it.

Every business account on Instagram has access to Instagram Analytics.

With this information, you get a better understanding of who your followers are. You understand how they’re engaging with your content online.

The insights tab on Instagram is a great way to understand your audience better. You get a granular view of audience demographics with it.

Along with this, you develop a deeper understanding of when your audience is most active. At the bottom of the follower’s section, you get graphs. They show you when your audience members are most engaged. You get to see boiled down to the day and hour when they’re most active.

Screenshot of Analytics Insights

Scroll down to discover which days your followers are most likely to be online.

As you spend time analyzing these graphs you see patterns emerging. This gives you your window of opportunity on when to post content. With this you will boost your lead generation efforts on Instagram. Remember that when you post content, use custom images so that you maximize engagement. Custom images boost presentation. Here are few Canva alternatives to consider.

This way you arrive at a posting schedule that maximizes engagement for you.

2. Find What Works

Finding what works is a definite way to build engagement on Instagram. This way your social media campaigns are going to be highly engaging.

How to do this?

You do it with third-party tools or even with Instagram’s built-in analytics.

In order to leverage the small group of people who see this content first and generate worthwhile engagement, the content has to be around what works. It should be meaningful.

And analytics is where you find those posts.

Here’s what you’re looking for on Instagram’s analytics.

The analytics tab gives you a number of insights like:

  • Interactions: It’s the satellite term for the set of actions on your post be it profile link clicks, CTA clicks or anything else. Each link click is tracked and gets attributed here.
  • Follows: shows you how successful your posts have been in getting new followers
  • Reach: it shows you the number of unique accounts that saw your post.
  • Impressions: It shows you the number of times the post was viewed. It takes into account each source like hashtags, profile and others.
  • Saves: The number of unique saves your posts got.
  • Comments: The number of comments on your post.
Insight Image

Together, all these metrics give you insights on what’s working and what’s not. You should use it to create more of what works.

3. Post consistently

Sporadic posting is the surest way to deflate your Instagram growth. A consistent posting schedule that finds its roots in terrific content is the way to go on Instagram.

For instance, let’s look at the account of New Balance—touted to be one of the fastest growing fitness brands online.

fitness brands

With over 5.2 million followers (and growing) you might imagine they post multiple times a day. Not true. Once per week? Again, not true.

They post just once a week and stick to that schedule. Consistency isn’t about volume. It’s about being there at the right time every time. Once you have a significant following you can turn your followers into your email list by adding a link to your lead generation forms on the bio.


So these are a few ways to boost engagement, drive up traffic and grow your Instagram presence. Ultimately with these tips and tricks you will be able to grow your business online.

Author Bio

George is a freelance writer and marketer who has worked with several topline brands like CrazyEgg creating copy for them. He blogs at now. You can follow him on Twitter.


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