Everything you need to know about the Instagram Algorithm 2021.

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

The Instagram algorithm is forever changing and to be the top of your followers feed is important for your brand and social insights. 

What’s an algorithm you ask?

Well before we dive into the new 2021 features, let’s take a look at what the Instagram algorithm is in general.

Instagram bases your feed on the most relevant content for you, every time you check your feed. It’s not based on chronological order anymore. This is why when you have checked Instagram, a post from two days ago could pop up first.

Every like, comment and share are noted when it comes to tailor the algorithm to you and your feed. This is why the 2021 Instagram algorithm is so important to brands and businesses wanting to thrive and push their way to the top.

The 2021 Instagram Algorithm Explained

More so than ever, people are turning to shopping online and supporting smaller brands, so having your Instagram at the forefront of people’s feeds is super important.

The new algorithm ranks the order of the posts that users see when scrolling through their feed. It specifically prioritises the best posts and pushes them to the top. It, also, depends on these three most important ranking factors:


The new algorithm is all about community interaction and interaction history. Of course, customer relations within your brand is already important. However, those interactions must be genuine and meaningful for your content to stand out.  Feed ranking is powered by machine learning, meaning the algorithm recognises unauthentic engagement from your account.  So, interactions such as:

  • Frequent commenting on both your own posts and other accounts

  • Chatting to people through DMs; this could be if one of your followers has any questions or enquiries about your brand or if it’s a simple DM to say how good your account is!

  • Resharing other account’s content through your stories and giving them recognition

  • Using UGC (user generated content) on your stories to boost your brand recognition


In simple terms, engagement. The more people engage with your posts, the more likely it’ll show up on your follower’s feeds.

Audience loyalty is key, in many ways.

You want your audience to trust you as a brand and those trusted engagements help boost your rating on the gram.

This is why consistently appearing on your followers feed is so important. It sends positive signals to the algorithm, telling it that your followers are excited by your content and want to see more of it, boosting you to the top of their feeds. Not only gives you a boost but it also gives your audience more opportunities to interact with your content.


How frequent you post on Instagram is obviously important in every aspect of your social media strategy.

It’s the time of day and when your followers are most active, that really counts towards your feed ranking. That’s why checking your insights regularly is important to understand your audience and tailor your posts to them.

By finding the best time in the day to post on your Instagram, you can essentially ‘hack’ the algorithm to gain more likes, followers and increase the engagement on that specific post.

Check out the infographic below to get a visual explanation of how to use insights to your advantage:

Other engagement factors that contribute to your feed ranking:

These three factors aren’t as important as the top three and are aimed at how your audience consumes Instagram rather than you and your brands actions, however it is important to take them in consideration when posting content.


When your audience follows more people, they’re less likely to see all of the posts from their following list. It makes sense, right?

Hence why being smart about your posting schedule and following the steps above will push you to the top of their feed, even if they are following a lot of accounts.

Another factor to consider for your own account is, inactive or ghost followers. These are accounts that don’t engage in your content or don’t use Instagram at all.

As a brand, it’s much better to have a smaller following who are loyal, keep your content alive and are genuine lovers of your content than having thousands of ‘followers’ that don’t like, share or comment on your posts when you’ve worked hard to create it for them.


This is more to do with your audience’s social media habits, rather than your own. Nevertheless, it’s important to take into account.

How often do your audience open the Instagram app? How often are they scrolling on their feed?

If they’re more frequent scrollers, their feeds will look more chronological, since the algorithm aims to show the consumer the best posts since their last visit to the gram.

If they’re a less frequent scroller, their feed will be organised into what Instagram thinks they’ll enjoy seeing more.

This is all subject to your audience and how much they spend on social media, but it is insightful to know as a brand wanting to reach out to as many people as possible.


If your audience spends a lot of time on the gram, they’re going to see a wider variety of posts from accounts they may have forgotten they followed.

This is advantage to your brand because if your followers are high consumers of Instagram, they’re definitely going to see your posts whether it’s as soon as you’ve posted or a couple of days after.

Let’s talk about Instagram stories and the explore page!

How do they work within the Instagram Algorithm?

Let’s face it, more than likely everyone checks their Instagram stories before their actual feed.

As a brand wanting to reach out to as many people as you can, Instagram stories are an engaging, fun way to create new content that’s shareable. One of the main focuses of the Instagram stories algorithm is timeliness, meaning it wants to show the latest stories from consumers favourite accounts. A great way to make your Instagram stories fun and exciting for your audience, is to add polls and questions. These helpful stickers have a number of positive benefits to them:

1. It shows how many of your followers are actively engaging in your content.

2. It gives your followers chance to engage with your brand directly.

3. It allows you to gain understanding from what your followers want from your content going forward.

So, play around and have fun with them! Even if it’s a simple Yes or No poll, it’s almost like you’re collecting data in a survey to use for your future posts.

The Explore page and people’s feeds are similar when it comes to the algorithm.

For example, if a person follows a lot of cooking accounts, food videos and culinary images are going to pop up on their Explore page.

Both of the feeds deliver the content the user wants to see, what they’ll be most interested in, all based off their prior interactions, the only difference? The Explore page is filled with entirely new accounts that you don’t follow, allowing you to find more likeminded content.

Another great feature about the Explore page is that it’s constantly being evolved. Users are welcomed to advanced search features, allowing you to search by keywords not just hashtags.

It suggests that the Explore page takes not only hashtags into account now, but also the overall visuals and caption too. So, putting effort in your content has never been more crucial as a brand or creator.

When searching a hashtag on the Explore page, the top performing posts are at the top of the feed, naturally. So, adding a few different hashtags to your content will spread the posts across them all, giving you more exposure and hopefully, more engagement.

Start ‘reeling’ off content for your audience!

Reels are a slightly new feature to the Instagram community and many people weren’t on board at the start. We have TikTok so why do we need Reels?

Well, for starters, you don’t need to switch apps to watch these short, snappy videos.

Reels are another great way to engage with your audience and get people buzzing about your content.

We’re in an age where a 5-minute video is too long to watch so using Reels to get your point across will draw in your audience.

Brands and creators don’t need fancy video equipment to make these either, your phone is your best friend when it comes to creating, shooting, and editing content.

Reels that get the most engagement and shares are ones that are informative but in an interesting way. Visuals are everything when it comes to creating reels, so give your audience the best-looking reel they’ve ever seen whilst still trying to get your point across. Seems tricky right? The good thing about this creative platform is that there’s so much room to experiment and try new trends. See what works for your brand and then use it to your advantage.

Many creators have mentioned that when posting reels to their feed, and it gets shared between people, they gain a huge influx of followers and engagement. So, even if you try and post a couple a week, you’ll see your stats grow and grow.

So, with all this in mind, how can you use the 2021 Instagram Algorithm to your advantage?

  • Post quality content consistently and use hashtags – The more you post, the more likely you’ll see your feed rankings grow. Quality content doesn’t go unnoticed on the gram, so even if you take a few days out to create something spectacular, once it’s posted, you’ll reap the rewards.

  • Use UGC (user generated content) – Encourage your followers to share and repost your content to their followers. This is a quick, easy, and free way to gain more attention to your brand and also, earn some small reviews from those who are sharing.

  • Focus on making connections – Again, the new Instagram algorithm is based on meaningful interactions with your followers and anyone who interacts with your account. Be interested in other accounts you follow, ask questions, or leave thoughtful comments and they’ll do the same for you. Also, try to reply to all comments on your gram within one hour, the more recent the engagements, the higher it’ll be on people’s feeds.

The 2021 Instagram algorithm can be tricky to get your head round but once you understand the features and how it can benefit your brand, you’ll see the difference in your insights in no time. The Instagram algorithm may change over time but building relationships with your audience and followers doesn’t.

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