April 26, 2017

In 2016, Instagram announced that they would be introducing an algorithm to their app's feed. It would sort content posted by people a user follows to ensure that each user got the best experience using Instagram. Yes, it was inevitable that an algorithm would appear on Instagram - every major platform does this to some extent, and being owned by Facebook, it was only a matter of time until Instagram joined the ranks.

Now that we've all adapted to the algorithm (yes, the world simultaneously freaked out when it first happened), Instagram has recently made a few tweaks and updated how content is sorted.

So, how does the Instagram algorithm work? Well, none of us laymen know for sure. But here's the best I can give you.

All Content is Still There

(For now) all content shared by those you follow shows up in your Instagram feed. You may have to dig back a while in the feed to see everything, but nothing is being hidden from. It's simply reorganized.

The Content is Sorted for You

The Instagram algorithm is very personal. If you consistently engage with a certain account on Instagram, that account's content will show up at or near the top of your feed every time they post something.

Unlike Facebook, just because a whole bunch of other people like something, does not necessarily mean that content will show any higher in your feed. It may, but it's not a dominant factor. Instead, it's more important how often you actively engage with an account as to where that content will appear in your feed.

The latest update to how the Instagram algorithm works to sort content has changed in terms of how far back content will go.

Until recently, the content in your feed was based on the last time you logged in and viewed your feed. If you viewed your feed 8 hours ago, only the content uploaded by any accounts you follow in the last 8 hours would appear (and be sorted algorithmically) at the top of your feed. If that was 15 posts, once you scrolled past those 15 posts, you'd be back to what you saw the last time. There would be no reorganization of the old content. And only that content since your last viewing would be sorted. It was very chronological.

As of April 2017, Instagram has updated this sorting to allow old posts you've missed to move up into higher positions in the feed, even if they were uploaded prior to your last viewing(s). So, now if you only logged in once a day, if you missed content from your favorite accounts 2 days ago, a week ago, or possibly even longer, that older content will now appear in your refreshed feed.

No Preference to Types of Accounts

There is currently no preference offered to any type of account as to where they appear in the feed.

If you are a business profile or a regular account, you'll have the level of preference in the algorithm. It's based on how each individual user interacts with your content.

Likewise, whether you are public or private account on Instagram has no impact on your rankings in the algorithm.


Of course, things are always changing and small things are tweaked behind the scenes all the time. I always try to stay on top of these things for you and I will keep this blog updated as much as possible. However, if there are any big changes, I always share them with my exclusive membership community first and over on Instagram.

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Hi Jenn,

    According to new algorithm, if i run more instagram contest, i will gain more engegament and be favorite account.
    Because most of followers will participate the contests and instagram will think my account as a favorite.

    Does it make sense?


    1. Hi Erdem. In theory, yes, running contests would achieve this. However, it’s not a practical application. Your audience wants more than just contests to engage with and if that’s all you run, they’ll stop participating, which defeats the whole purpose anyways. Running contests occasionally will definitely help with building your audience and boosting engagement but it should not be your only strategy to do these things.

  2. Thanks Jenn – I wondered why I was seeing older posts and why I was also seeing engagement on some of my older posts in my feed. That is great to see and with all this shadowbanning drama for many – this really does show that Instagram is very much committed to engagement and building and focussing on creating your community inside Instagram.

    1. I agree, Leanne! It was weird at first, but it is nice to be able to see older content that I would have otherwise missed.

  3. Do you have an opinion about whether Instagram will do to business accounts what Facebook did? i.e. give them less exposure to users?

    1. Hi Maisie! To be perfectly, honest, yes, at some point, we can assume that IG will end up with a similar constraint and limited views in the feed. However, by the time that happens, you won’t have an option to be personal vs. a business profile, just like FB restricts personal account use. I don’t see this happening in the very near future. I actually see IG doing a lot to help businesses market effectively on the platform, rather than punishing us right now.

  4. I’m wondering if anyone knows of a tool to look at who you follow and see when their last post date was in a list format. I can’t seem to find an easy way to know who is/isn’t active that I’m following to systematically unfollow people. If anyone is familiar with Tumblr when you look at who you follow it will say “last post 2 days ago” or “last post 1 month ago” something like that. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Emily. I’m honestly not aware of any tool that does this. Typically this information is only on their posts, but you, of course, have to go to their account to see this. It’s not detailed anywhere.

  5. Hi Jenn!
    Thanks for sharing these useful insights on Instagram Algorithm. I have found something equally interesting, and would just like to share with you this article Buffer Social wrote on Instagram Algorithm. (https://blog.bufferapp.com/instagram-algorithm)

    It seems like that they have a comprehensive list of factors that go into the Instagram Algorithm. Just thought the article would be an interest to you!

    1. Yes, that is a great post to highlight the factors within the Instagram algorithm. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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