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Breaking Down the Instagram Algorithm and New Feed Changes

Becca Booker
Becca Booker Owner @ Homemade Social
Breaking Down the Instagram Algorithm and New Feed Changes

6 min read
You will learn

Instagram recently announced that they’ve been rolling out three new Home feed options and many users are wondering how these changes will affect the Instagram algorithm as we know it today. Read on to discover our top tips for maximizing the reach of your content, regardless of the feed option your audience chooses!

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The Current Algorithm

Let’s first dive into how the Instagram algorithm works today. To understand the logic behind the algorithm, it is first important to note that Instagram makes money through ads. The longer they keep users in the app, the more ads they can show. Because of this, Instagram’s algorithm is designed to show users content that it thinks they will like to see, ensuring that users will continue to come back to the app for more.

The Instagram algorithm determines what content to show you based on the content that you have previously spent the most time consuming or engaging with. This is why we constantly see brands end their captions with a call-to-action like “comment down below,” “send this post to a friend who ___,” “save this post to refer back to later,” and “double tap if ___.” When a post receives a significant amount of engagement, this signals to the algorithm that users are enjoying the content and, as a result, the algorithm will push it to more users to enjoy.

Strategies To Work With The Algorithm Amidst New Feed Changes

Moving forward, users will be able to choose between three new home feed options: Home, Following, and Favorites.

Here’s a breakdown of how each feed operates:

  • The Home Feed preserves the Instagram feed and algorithm as we currently know it.
  • The Following Feed is a chronological list of posts from accounts you follow - aka the OG Instagram algorithm.
  • The Favorites Feed shows you content only from accounts that you’ve labeled as your favorite.
Preview of the New Instagram Feed Option Interface (Home, Following, Favorites)
Preview of the New Instagram Feed Option Interface

Instagram estimates that the feature will be rolled out to all users by mid-2022. Because users will have the opportunity to easily toggle between all three feed options, there are three strategies brands should implement in order to maximize the reach of their content, regardless of the feed option their audience chooses.

Strategy 1: Post at an optimal time

On the Following Feed, content is shown to users chronologically. This means that it is more important than ever to be aware of your account’s best time to post.

Keep in mind that there is no universal best time to post, contrary to what many infographics circulating the web may suggest. One brand’s best time to post to Instagram is likely different from another’s. Why? Because the best time to post to Instagram is directly dependent upon you and your audience only.

To discover the days and times that your audience is most active, we recommend pulling your stats directly from the Instagram app itself. If your Instagram is a business or creator account, you are free to access analytics through Instagram Insights.

Preview of the Instagram Insights Interface
Preview of the Instagram Insights Interface

Here’s how to find the days AND times when your audience is most active:

  1. Go to your Instagram profile.
  2. Click “Insights.”
  3. Under the “Your Audience” section, click “See All.”
  4. Scroll down to “Most Active Times” and feel free to alternate between “Hours” and Days” to discover your best Instagram posting schedule!

Like all things with marketing, it is important to meet your audience not only where they are at but also when they are there. Posting during the time slots with the most active users will increase the likelihood of your content being seen and engaged with!

Social media scheduling tools, like Buffer, make it easier than ever to have content automatically published at a specific time without having to be available to manually publish the post at that exact moment.

Strategy 2: Leverage your call to action

The Favorites Feed is curated for you by you. It shows users content only from accounts that they have added to their exclusive Favorites list. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, shared that he uses this feed to keep tabs on his family, best friends, and a few of his favorite creators - aka users he never wants to miss updates from!

This feed type vaguely reminds us of a few years ago when brands and influencers would urge their audience to turn on post notifications for their content. This nostalgia should serve as inspiration for users to leverage the power of their call-to-actions when it comes to “beating” the algorithm amidst these feed changes.

A call-to-action is a phrase that compels an audience to complete a specific action. A few examples include:

  • “Click the bell icon to turn on post notifications for my account!”
  • “Tap to shop!”
  • “Click the link in my bio for more information!”
  • “Save this post to refer back to later!”
  • “Send this post to someone who needs to hear this!”
  • “Double tap if you agree!”
  • “Comment down below _____.”

Our 2022 social media prediction is that brands and influencers will begin including a call-to-action that encourages followers to add them to their Favorites list. Doing so will ensure that their content shows up on the feed of users that prefer to browse through Instagram with this feed option.

Of all feed options, this feed variation is the most likely to guarantee your content is seen by users. With the Following Feed, it can be easy for your post to get buried by posts shared after yours, and if your post is seeing low engagement, it could easily be missed by those browsing the Home Feed. The Favorites Feed, however, is selective and users likely won’t add just anyone to their list, meaning content should be easily discovered on this feed option.

The tricky component of this will be getting users to add you to their Favorites list in the first place. Before you can make the ask in your call-to-action, you first have to provide value. Identify the needs of your target audience and make educational, timely, or relatable content that meets those needs.

As a general rule of thumb, stick to the 80/20 Rule. This states that 80% of your content should be useful and provide value to your audience and 20% of your content should promote your product or service. The 80/20 Rule helps foster an authentic community and trusting relationship with your audience.

Essentially, give your audience a reason to want to add you to their Favorites list so they don’t miss out on your content!

Strategy 3: Focus on engagement

Lastly, the Home Feed is the Instagram feed and algorithm as we currently know it. Meaning, the content shown to users is what Instagram thinks they will enjoy seeing the most from their following based on their in-platform activity.

This feed option requires a strategy centered around increasing your engagement, as a high engagement rate has two algorithm benefits:

  1. Your post is pushed to more users for viewing.
  2. Your future posts are more likely to be shown to the users that have already engaged with you in the past because their engagement signaled to the algorithm that they’re interested in your content.

Engagement is any form of interaction on your post. A user can engage with your content through:

  • LIKES: the number of users that double-tapped or tapped the heart icon on your post.
  • COMMENTS: the number of comments your post received.
  • SAVES: the number of users that saved your post to refer back to later.
  • SHARES: the number of users that shared the post to their story OR sent the post to another account for viewing.

These four metrics contribute to your engagement rate, which is a percentage revealing the level of engagement your post received from those who saw it. Therefore, the more likes, comments, saves, and shares a post has, the higher that post’s engagement rate.

To calculate the engagement rate of your post, use this formula:

Engagement rate = engagement / impressions OR followers

And remember:

Engagement = total number of likes + comments + saves + shares on your post

The best way to increase engagement on your social media posts is by providing value through content that is either educational, timely, relatable, or entertaining. From there, it is important to then review your analytics and optimize your social media strategy accordingly.

Doing so allows you to take note of what is performing well and what can be improved upon. By taking note of your best-performing posts, you can create more content like it, and thus continue to improve your engagement rate overtime.

We hope you found this blog post helpful in learning more about the Instagram algorithm in light of the recent feed changes rolling out. For more social media tips, follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. See ya on the ‘Gram!

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