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Instagram algorithm in 2022: how does the platform rank content?

In 2022, like most social networks, Instagram's algorithm has the reputation of being a mysterious and difficult to understand entity. Due to constant updates, it is very difficult to spot its mechanisms in terms of taking advantage of it to increase visibility on the application. Faced with this fact, the social network has decided to be more vocal about the way it ranks its content in recent years. Today, we're going to dissect the 2022 version of the Instagram algorithm to better understand how it works and help you grow on the platform.

iPhone seen from the top left corner with the Instagram app logo
iPhone seen from the top left corner with the Instagram app logo

How does the Instagram algorithm work in 2022?

Unlike what one might think, Instagram does not use a single algorithm to decide which publications the platform will feature. The social network uses as many algorithms as there are features on the application. Instagram therefore has a different algorithm to determine which posts you will see on your Timeline and in your Explore tab, but also in the Reels and Shopping sections.

To better understand how it works, it is necessary to understand Instagram’s purpose: that the user spends a maximum amount of time on the application. Thus, in addition to an interface specifically designed to attract the user, Instagram must offer each user the content that will interest them and make them want to see more.

To do this, the algorithm will rank the content by taking into account thousands of factors. It will store information on the user’s activity in order to best guess the content that will appeal to them by offering it in a specific order.

How will Instagram's algorithm rank content in 2022?

First of all, it is necessary to understand that not all user interactions have the same impact on a post. As a general rule, here is the order of importance of interactions for the Instagram algorithm:

  1. Check-ins
  4. Views/Impressions

Since its latest updates, Instagram’s algorithm tends to emphasize content that generates a lot of saves. When you think about it, it makes sense: a user who saves a publication will come back to see it later or show it to their friends. The content of the publication is therefore considered to be of high added value by the platform.

However, Instagram does not use the same metrics to rank all publications. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, revealed this himself in an article on the platform’s blog.

How does Instagram's algorithm classify Stories and the News Feed?

Instagram assumes that users want to see the posts and Stories of the people they are closest to. Therefore, the first posts and Stories that will be shown to a person will always be those from the accounts they follow. To rank them, Instagram’s algorithm will rely on tons of data – called “signals” by the platform. There are thousands of them, but here are the four main types of signals that predominate, ranked in order of importance:

1. Information about the publication: these signals are based on metrics related to the post (number of likes, comments, recordings, average view rate, engagement rate…) but also on other statistics related to the publication environment (date and time of the publication, video duration, geolocation…).
2. Information about the author of the post: these signals are directly linked to the relationship the user has with the account that published the content (frequency and number of interactions, message history, etc.).
3. User activity: these signals help Instagram to determine whether or not the user will like a piece of content based on their interaction history with similar content.
4. User interaction history with the author of the post: these signals allow the algorithm to better understand the user’s interest in the content posted by a specific account (comment history, likes, check-ins).

Based on these signals, the Instagram algorithm for News Feed and Stories will try to guess which posts are most likely to provoke user interaction. It prioritises the likelihood of the user doing one of the following 5 interactions:

1. Watch the publication for several seconds
2. Save the publication as a favourite
3. Comment on the publication
4. Put a “like” on it
5. Click on the profile

How does Instagram's algorithm sort Reels?

Unlike Stories and News Feed posts, Reels are there to entertain the user. The majority of the content that will be offered does not come from accounts that the user will follow. To rank them, the algorithm focuses specifically on signals related to an individual’s appreciation of the video. The main signals used by the Reels algorithm are

  1. User activity: these signals analyse the user’s behaviour towards Reels that they have recently liked, commented or saved.
  2. The user’s interaction history with the author of the Reel: although most of the content offered is not from accounts the user follows, if they have interacted with that account in the past, the Reel will be particularly highlighted.
  3. Information about the Reel: this data comes strictly from the Reel itself (music chosen, type of content, viewing time, average engagement, popularity…)
  4. Information about the author of the Reel: these signals will be used to highlight a creator who produces content that is pleasing to his or her audience, by judging the popularity and overall engagement that he or she achieves.

Using these signals, Instagram’s algorithm will make predictions based on factors measuring the likelihood of the user doing one of the following 4 actions:

  1. The user views the Reel in its entirety
  2. The user likes the Reel
  3. User comments on the Reel
  4. User goes to the page of the music used

How does Instagram's algorithm rank posts in the Explore tab?

As with the Reels, the Explore tab is intended to introduce the user to new content. On this page, Instagram compiles photos and videos that a person should like based on their past behaviour on the app (views, likes, comments, check-ins). Once the app has found a number of photos to suggest to the user, it ranks them mainly according to 4 types of signals:

  1. Information about the post: these signals are based on how often and how quickly users like, comment, save and share the post.
  2. The history of the user’s interactions with the author of the publication: again, it is highly likely that the user has never interacted with the author. If this is the case, the publication will be highlighted even more.
  3. User activity: these signals use metrics of user interaction with certain types of content (likes, saves, comments) and with the Explore tab in general.
  4. Information about the publisher: this data is based on how often other users with similar interests have interacted with the publisher of the publication in the past weeks.

How to make the most of Instagram's algorithm in 2022?

1. Publish fun and interactive content

When creating content, always put the user at the centre of your strategy to create content that resonates with them and makes them interact. Ideally, your posts should be visually pleasing and evoke a strong reaction from the user. When someone sees your post, it should give them a strong emotion (laughter, sadness, surprise…) or teach them something useful that they will want to save and share.

2. Use the trending format: Reels

In order to encourage users to use its new features, Instagram has a tradition of boosting the accounts that use them. So, since their introduction in 2020, it’s Reels that have been popular on the app. So if you’re in the habit of producing video content on Instagram, choose Reels over traditional videos. It is by far the type of content that brings the most organic reach on the platform at the moment.

3. Post at the most appropriate time for your audience

If you post at times when your followers are on Instagram, you are more likely to have your content featured at the top of their news feed. In order to give yourself the best chance, you can use tools like ContentCal, Loomly or Agorapulse to identify the best days and times to post based on your followers’ habits.

4. Promote your latest posts on Stories

To encourage accounts to use advertising and to avoid overloading users’ news feeds, Instagram’s algorithm does not display your content to all your followers. On average, a post is only shown to a maximum of 60% of followers. With the recent 2021 update, some accounts have even seen their reach decrease to as little as 10%. To overcome this problem, it is essential to inform your subscribers of the release of your latest video by promoting it as a Story.

5. Get your subscribers to interact with your content

The instagram algorithm evaluates the quality of your posts through user feedback on your content. Therefore, the more interactions (shares, saves, comments, likes) you have on your posts, the more Instagram will highlight them so that they are discovered by other users. To do this, it is necessary to create content that encourages interaction. In your Stories, use the “poll” or “comment” features to generate interaction and let the algorithm know that your content is appreciated by your audience. In your posts and Reels, include questions in the description to drive more comments, as well as calls-to-action to get them to save and like your post.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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