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What Matters Most for the Instagram Algorithm?

What Matters Most for the Instagram Algorithm

If you’re on Instagram in 2021, odds are you’ve heard a lot of discussion about the algorithm. One of the biggest questions is related to what matters “most” to the algorithm. The more you understand this, the better likelihood you have of gaining views and impressions on Instagram. With over 117 million users on Instagram in 2021, it’s no wonder so many creators are jumping on this platform if they haven’t already.

In reality, it’s a bit difficult to understand the Instagram algorithm. A lot of social media influencers and gurus claim to have cracked the code, but do they really know what’s happening behind the scenes? In reality, there are a lot of misunderstandings around what it means to engage with content on Instagram.

So what really does matter most for the Instagram algorithm in 2021? The answer might be simpler than you think. Let’s take a dive behind the scenes of this algorithm to see what really makes it work. When you understand it fully, you can focus on creating content that suits your goals.


What Is an Algorithm?

First and foremost, let’s talk about what a social media algorithm is. A lot of people think they understand this idea, but it’s a bit trickier than it seems. Luckily, you don’t need to have a Computer Science degree to understand the basics.

In simple words, an algorithm is a set of rules in a calculation. It’s typically used by computers to create logic jumps. In the case of social media, an algorithm is used to determine how users see specific things. When you log in to Instagram, you don’t see your timeline like a chronological feed. Instead, you see what the algorithm determines you should see first based on your following list, interactions, and previous engagement.

Many on Instagram and other platforms believe you can “game” the system, using engagement to your advantage to get your content shown more in the algorithm. This has led to endless misunderstandings.


Instagram Algorithm Misunderstandings

Every few months on Instagram, there’s another viral post about the algorithm “updates.” In reality, these updates are nothing but vague opinions. Recently, many influencers have argued that these things are key to boosting your impressions and engagement:

  • Saves: This is when a user saves a photo from their timeline to a private board to view later.
  • Share: Sharing content from the Instagram feed to another user or an Instagram Story is a powerful form of engagement.
  • Likes: Of course, likes are always a valuable way to engage with content in your timeline, though some accounts no longer reveal likes to the public or creators.
  • Comment: Lastly, users can comment on photos as another form of engagement.

Which of these matters most? According to gurus, Instagram now favors “saves” and “shares” in 2021. While this might sound like a natural progression, it doesn’t actually have much basis in reality.

Where did this rumor come from? The Instagram scheduling tool Later included the importance of sharing on their blog in 2020 and 2021, and this has been misinterpreted by numerous bloggers, influencers, and social media experts.

What Really Works on Instagram in 2021

If you want the real-life facts, you have to go to the source. Instagram occasionally speaks out about what affects their algorithm, though this information is few and far between. It only makes sense for them to be secretive about how to “game” the system on their platform, especially when their goal is to encourage users to pay for ads.

While the Instagram guru above claims that saves and sends are the most important, with comments and likes being least important, this isn’t actually based on fact. It might seem like these things are important (because they are), but they’re in no way more important. Instagram explained that these things are what determines how posts display in someone’s feed:

  • Relationship: The relationship with each individual user matters most. For example, is this an account you regularly engage with?
  • Interest: Have you interacted with similar accounts and posts? Instagram will likely share things that are similar to what you’ve enjoyed before.
  • Relevancy: Lastly, the algorithm gives each post a relevancy score based on trendiness, interests, and so on.

With this in mind, you can focus on creating content that provides value to your audience. As long as you’re creating things that are meaningful within your niche, you don’t need to spend too much time thinking about the Instagram algorithm.

Spark Media post

Instagram Post via @SparkMediaMB


Making a New Instagram Strategy

Your Instagram strategy doesn’t need much updating in 2021. The algorithm is relatively steady, but this isn’t worth worrying too much about. It’s always a better idea to focus on creating quality content rather than worrying about an arbitrary number.

How are you improving your Instagram growth strategy this year? There has never been a better time to reflect on what works best for you and your audience.

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