Instagram Algorithm

Social media algorithms determine who sees your content and who doesn’t. As algorithms change, so should your strategy because what used to work may no longer be the case. When it comes to Instagram, consistently posting and using hashtags will not guarantee that your content will be seen by your audience. Rather than trying to debunk how to “break” the algorithm, we will show you how to work with the algorithm to increase your Instagram marketing efforts.

Module Outline and Objectives:

  • Understand the ranking signals of the Instagram Algorithm

  • How the Instagram algorithm works

  • Tips to increase your Instagram strategy

Unfortunately, at least for most people, the reverse-chronological order is long gone. But, you need to clearly understand why Instagram did this…

… the primary goal of Instagram is to maximize the time users spend on the platform.

If you can achieve that goal, you are rewarded.

In June 2018, Instagram stated that the algorithm uses “ranking signals” to decide what a user sees.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works

The top 3 ranking signals, according to Instagram are as follows:

1. Relationship

  • The algorithm prioritizes content from other accounts that users interact with a lot.

  • This makes continual, repeat engagement back and forth on your posts vital for growing your audience.

  • You are “close”, according to Instagram, if you are commenting with one another, sending DMs to each other and tagging each other in your posts.

According to Instagram, the change in algorithm now allows users to see 90% of posts from their “friends and family” opposed to 50% when the algorithm was based on the reverse-chronological order.

Tip: If you want to grow your audience, grow your current relationships. The more engagement with users, the more likely Instagram will rank your posts higher than others.

2. Interest

  • Past behavior determines the importance of future posts.

  • If a user engages with similar content, the are more likely to see your posts with that type of content as well.

  • People interested in cats are more likely to see cats on their feed.

Tip: Most people do not go on Instagram to “like” and “comment” on houses all day. Meaning, you MUST be posting other content to engage with your audience. If you do so, they will then see your listings as well. Post about your life, your community, events, interests and more. ATTRACT the people that like the same things you do.

3. Timeliness

  • No, this doesn’t automatically mean that post recent posts are shown. Those days are over. What it means is that you need to pay attention to your audience’s behavior and posting when THEY are online.

  • More recent posts are favored and pushed closer to the tops of feeds for people that have interest and a relationship with you. However, if they are not online to engage when the content is posted then Instagram slowly stops showing the posts to others.

Tip: View your insights tab to see when people are using Instagram and reshape your Instagram marketing strategy around those days and times.

Follow @TheHashtagAgent on Instagram

Top Tips to Increase your Instagram Strategy

  1. Focus on Relationships

    • Loyalty and continuous engagement with your followers in more important than ever.

      • How to grow your relationships on Instagram:

        • Use prompts encouraging people to share their thoughts and ideas. When they comment, your goal should be to add another comment to keep the conversation going

        • Post user-generated content. This will not only inspire more people to post about your brand, it will grow your presence on Instagram. Client-appreciation events, community events, etc. posted by others… use that!

  2. Post More

    • But don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. If you can’t keep up with comments, messages, hashtags, etc. then don’t just post to post.

    • In the past, you didn’t want to be “that person” that posted more than once on Instagram, but now, most people won’t see your posts unless you are “everywhere”.

      • Word of advice/Example: If you are spending the day with your family at Disneyland, DON’T POST while you are there. Why? Instagram wants you to engage with people fast. If you take out your phone, snap a picture and then post it… then you get comments and likes and your on It’s a Small World, it’s going to be hard to respond… WAIT to post until you can engage back with people.

  3. Use Video

    • Instagram states that the algorithm doesn’t necessarily prioritize video, but it does prioritize content that is consumed for longer. The general rule of thumb, a video can get a user to “watch” it longer than a photo.

    • According to Instagram, 80% of users consumed video on a consistent basis in 2018.

    • Whether you go Live, utilize IGTV, post a video on your feed, or you use Stories, get people to watch your content for longer and they will see more of your future content.

  4. Utilize Hashtags Correctly

    • The purpose of a hashtag is NOT to max out 30 hashtags that sound cool. They are meant to be used so people can find the content they are interested in.

      • Meaning, use RELEVANT hashtags… don’t use #Realtor #RealEstateLifestyle #ISellExpiredListingsLikeNoOnesBusiness and you’re still on It’s a Small World with your family…

  5. Encourage Post Notifications

    • Reminding people to turn on notifications is a great way to increase your brand.

    • You can encourage people to turn on Post and Story notifications

    • As much as you want people to turn on notifications for you, you should turn them on for accounts you want to connect with as well.

      • If you comment early on you increase the likelihood that account responds. In doing so, you are telling Instagram that your accounts are engaging


Challenge: Turn on Post Notifications for @JonathanHawkinsOfficial and @TheHashtagAgent and send a screenshot to and you will get a surprise in the mail!

In Conclusion

You hear it said all the time, it’s about the relationships not the leads. In this case, don’t just continually scroll over posts and don’t just post “random” content, actually build connections and relationships with other users. In order to get the Instagram algorithm to work in your favor, focus more on engaging with other people first so they will see your future posts.

Algorithms will always change. But if you're willing to change with them, you'll always be a step ahead of your competition.

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