Instagram Algorithm Updates
What is the Instagram algorithm?
The Instagram algorithm is a set of instructions for how and when to display certain content to any individual user. The algorithm considers hundreds of factors such as user history, location, profile, device, trends, relevance, popularity etc.
From SEO to social media, algorithms are often what determine who actually sees the content you publish and who doesn’t.
As these algorithms change, yesterday’s marketing tactics might become less effective tomorrow. That’s why your strategy on each platform needs to constantly evolve too.
On Instagram in particular, simply posting on a regular basis with the right hashtags won’t necessarily guarantee that your new content always reaches its intended audience.
Instead, you’ll need to consider how you can work with the new Instagram algorithm updates to shake up your approach to Instagram marketing.
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
The new Instagram algorithm dictates the order of the posts that users see when they’re scrolling through their feed.
Based on specific signals, it prioritizes the best posts, pushing the most relevant ones toward the top and giving them the most visibility, while other content ends up being placed further down.
While it’s important to note that the new algorithm is subject to change, these three main ranking factors can still help inform your Instagram strategy:
- Relationship with the user. If a certain user has interacted with a lot of your past Instagram content, they’ll be more likely to see your future content. This makes continual, repeat engagement on your posts important for building a loyal audience.
- Interest the user has conveyed. This signal is based on whether the user interacts with similar posts and accounts when they explore Instagram. Users who also engage with similar content are more likely to see your own posts.
- Relevancy of the post. When you publish a post on Instagram, the algorithm gives it a relevancy score, which impacts who it shows in the feed.
There were also other, more general considerations that Instagram shared, which you should make note of:
- If users follow a lot of accounts, you’ve got more competition for the top spot in their feed.
- If users either don’t spend a long time on Instagram or don’t open the app that often, you decrease the odds of having your content seen if you aren’t in one of the very top slots.
- On Instagram, business accounts and creator accounts are not immediately at a disadvantage in terms of organic reach compared to personal accounts.
- If users’ content doesn’t comply with Instagram’s community guidelines, Instagram will take that post down. If it happens repeatedly, Instagram will suspend that user’s account.
- If users post something that is labeled as misinformation, Instagram will put a label on the post and lower it in feed and Stories. If a user posts misinformation multiple times, Instagram may make that user’s content much harder to find.
Instagram Algorithm Updates
Posting for Engagement vs. Posting for Growth
One major thing has taken place recently that may want you to reconsider how you utilize the features on Instagram. In 2022, there is no longer a ‘one formula fits all’ mentality. You need to utilize Instagram differently based on your overall goals. These are broken down into two main categories:
Although it seems everyone is chatting about Instagram reels in 2022, if you are posting for engagement, the newest Instagram algorithm update favors posting static images to boost your numbers. If you already have a following but your engagement numbers are lower than they once were, focus first on images posts, then on reels, then on stories.
On the opposite side, if you are looking to increase followers and grow your account, you need to put a lot of effort behind reels. Reels have the strongest possibility of going ‘viral’ and one video can garner hundreds or thousands of new followers. And don’t be disappointed if your reel doesn’t take off right away – Instagram’s algorithm now works a lot like TikTok. Your post can start gaining traction and likes days, or even a week after you originally posted it.
Instagram Reels Updates
The Instagram algorithm updates have changed a lot about the way reels are published and produced.
In fall 2021, Instagram had a 30-second limit on reels.
In March 2022, that limit was increased to 60 seconds.
Now in July 2022, another update has rolled out that includes 90 second reels. Instagram has also started implementing template options for reels, making the production of trending reels and sounds much easier for creators.
Next time you scroll through Instagram reels, look for a button that says “use template” above the reel caption. By click the button, it actually pulls up the reel template, allowing you to easily swap the videos with your contact. No more cutting, cropping, and messing with sounds in order to get it to perfectly line up. A big win for the Instagram platform vs. its competitor, Tiktok.
Instagram’s limit is still shorter than YouTube’s or TikTok’s, but you have twice as much time to get your point across. Take advantage of this feature by filming short interviews, behind-the-scenes clips, previews, and other great content. Like shorter Reels, you still have access to effects, background music, and touch-ups.
To film a 90-second Reel, hit the “15” button on the left. Press the button three times to expand to 60 seconds, then film the Reel as you would normally. Since Instagram puts a heavier focus on videos, Reels might be the key to growing your business.
Saving posts is a valuable but under-utilized feature. Underneath each photo on your feed, you’ll see a bookmark icon. Hit that icon to save a post, then press “Save to Collection” to add it to a folder. If you don’t have an existing folder, press the plus-sign button to make one. This saves the post permanently so you can go back and review it without searching your feed.
Recently, Instagram has talked about getting rid of public likes. This could make it harder to promote your business because people are more likely to press the heart button if a post already has likes. Instead of focusing solely on likes, start asking your followers to save your posts. It’s similar to asking your followers to “like and subscribe” on your YouTube channel.
Getting a large number of “saves” has two benefits for you. The most obvious benefit is that your followers won’t just like your picture and forget about it–they’ll see it again when they check your saved photos. Instagram moves quickly, so this keeps your posts from getting lost in the feed. But many people don’t realize that Instagram also counts the number of saves. This number isn’t public, but posts with more saves are more likely to appear in your followers’ feeds.
To see how many saves you’ve earned, press “Insights” on your profile, then scroll down to “Content You Shared” and hit the arrow to the right. Choose “Saves” from the drop-down box at the top. You’ll see the posts with the most saves at the top. If you see posts with many saves, you’ll know that you need to start sharing similar content. You can also filter your search by “Likes,” “Impressions,” and other valuable stats.
Even if Instagram doesn’t hide the number of likes, a save is as valuable as a like–if not more so. Start encouraging your followers to save your posts to their collections.
Newly Added Banned Hashtags
Adding hashtags to your posts is one of the best ways to gain a following. Unfortunately, some accounts flood the most popular hashtags with spam. Bots, spam accounts, and scammers have taken over hashtags like “adulting,” “babe,” and “always.” Since there are too many posts for Instagram to remove, they’ve taken more drastic action by banning these hashtags.
If you search for a banned tag on your smartphone, it won’t appear in the search results. You could visit the tag page directly on your browser, but you’ll get a message telling you that the page isn’t available. Adding a banned tag to your post is pointless–it might still show up on your post, but people won’t see it on the tag page. Essentially, the tag doesn’t exist.
To make matters worse, Instagram might shadowban your account if you use a banned hashtag. A shadowban is a temporary ban that keeps your posts out of tag pages and the Explore section. Your followers can still see your posts on their feed, but you’ll have trouble gaining new followers. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t tell you when you’ve been shadowbanned, so you might not know what happened until your engagements start to drop.
Instagram doesn’t have a list of banned hashtags, so you’ll have to check the hashtags beforehand. Some tags are apparent, but others might surprise you. Here are a few tags that you might not know are banned:
Even holiday hashtags like “#happythanksgiving” often get banned. Check the hashtags before you make holiday-themed posts.
“Sensitive Content” Content Filter for Users Under 16
While Instagram doesn’t allow certain types of content–like pornography–some graphic, explicit or upsetting material might show up in your feed anyway. To give users more control over their feed, Instagram recently launched Sensitive Content Control. Users can choose from three settings: “Allow,” Limit,” and “Limit Even More.”
If a user allows sensitive content, they’ll see everything, even content that might be offensive. They could also limit some content or nearly eliminate it altogether. Some posts could still slip through, but Sensitive Content Control is part of Instagram’s efforts to protect users under 16. Adults can also use this feature if they’re sensitive to certain types of content.
Unfortunately, the feature doesn’t let you choose the type of content that you want to eliminate. This means that people might not see your posts if you share potentially sensitive content. You have two options: accept the risk, or stop posting content that some people might find upsetting. Most businesses don’t post offensive content anyway, but it’s not clear what types of content might be blocked. Some businesses have seen a massive drop in engagements since Instagram launched the feature.
You can’t control what your followers do, but you can control the content that you post. Keep an eye on your engagements to see if the new feature has affected your profile.