Inside Instagram’s Algorithms: The Truth Behind Our Feed

By: Emily Jean-Pierre, Account Executive 


Algorithms are a dynamic set of rules and calculations that digest and organize colossal amounts of data. Have you ever wondered which factors determine what posts you see in your Instagram feed? It turns out, every double-tap, direct message, and comment creates some serious ripples in the ocean of content and impacts what we view in our feeds.

Instagram has three primary and three secondary factors it evaluates when determining user-specific, relevant content.

Let’s peek at the first three:


Instagram analyzes your past engagements and makes recommendations based on frequent category interaction (e.g. fitness, hair, etc.). From this knowledge, Instagram curates similar content.


The most recent posts receive the highest placement priority vs. posts that are several days old. Simply put, newest posts appear higher in the feed.   


Instagram assumes accounts you frequently interact with are your closest friends. Relationships are determined when you direct message, like, or search users.

Now that we understand the primary factors, let’s examine the secondary factors the algorithm analyzes.


How often users open the app also plays a role in the content shown. If you open the app once a day, Instagram’s algorithm will curate posts they deem most relevant for the entire day at the top of your feed. More frequent users (say, once an hour), are shown the most relevant and new content for that hour. This feature ensures users have fresh content to view, no matter your usage frequency.


How many people you follow determines how many posts you will likely see from an individual account. For example, if you follow thousands of accounts, Instagram may show you a few posts from each individual account. However, if you follow only a handful of accounts you are more likely to see more from each account.


Time spent on each Instagram session plays a factor in what you may see. When you browse Instagram in short sessions, the algorithm arranges user’s feeds, showing the most relevant post first. In contrast, longer browsing sessions provides you with a larger catalog of “fresh” content.

Many factors are considered to ensure users have the most engaging experience on Instagram. If you keep scrolling, you’ll (eventually) see everything posted by the entirety of your following. Competition naturally reduces reach, so as more users and business join, it’s important to understand the algorithms to confirm posts have the best chance of reaching their intended audiences. 


Sources: 1, 2


Monica Hickey