The number one thing Instagram uses to rank content 

This is the number one thing Instagram uses to rank content. 

On Wednesday (May 31, 2023), Head of Instagram—Adam Mosseri—shared a 10-minute video explaining how ranking  on Instagram works. There is also an article on the Instagram website that covers the same topic. 

You can watch the video here or read the article here.

One of the most common complaints I hear about Instagram is “I miss the 2014 Instagram”. People blame the algorithm for their followers not seeing their content or their reach or engagement decreasing.

I get it. It’s always nice to have a “bad guy” to blame. And why not a mysterious, faceless thing like the algorithm. It’s much easier than taking a hard look at your content , or your behavior on the app.

Let’s talk about the algorithm and then get into the number one thing you need to understand based on this latest explanation.

Here’s the definition of algorithm:

A set of finite rules or instructions to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations.

In social media algorithms help maintain order and assist with ranking. And Instagram actually has a different algorithm (or set of ranking rules) for each of its surfaces (feed, stories, reels, explore). That’s because the purpose of each surface is different, so the rules should be different, too.

The reason the old (aka chronological) feed will never come back is because there are too many people and too much content being created. The algorithms are necessary and useful because of how many people and how much content is on Instagram.

We think algorithms are this evil thing out to get us, but they have also probably helped you find an account, product, service, recipe or new Netflix show that you couldn’t live without.

Without the algorithm you’d never see that cute dog video your friend found on their explore page and shared to their story. You’d know so much less about Scandoval (maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing).

As with most things, it’s often as simple as changing your mindset. Algorithms help us discover new things. Does it always get it right? No. But it does a pretty damn good job. And the best way you can make Instagram what you want it to customize your preferences. Train the algorithm to show you things you want. And when it gets it wrong, let it know instead of getting frustrated and scrolling on. There are so many ways your can personalize your experience on Instagram to mold it to best serve you.

While we’re never going to fully understand the algorithms, and there is no way to “beat” the algorithm, if you listen (or read) carefully, you can decipher what Instagram prioritizes, and mirror your efforts off of that as well.

Let’s get back to the video and article shared at the end of May.

I listened and one word kept coming up…SIGNALS.

Signals are all of the information Instagram has about what was posted, the people who made those posts, and your preferences. There are thousands of signals Instagram takes into account, but these are the one they say are most important (in order of importance):

▶️ Your activity. Posts you’ve liked, shared, saved or commented on.

▶️ Information about the post. How popular a post is, when it was posted, and what location, if any, was attached to it.

▶️ Information about the person who posted. Indicates how interesting the person might be to you, and includes signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks.

▶️ Your history of interacting with someone. This gives a sense of how interested you are generally in seeing posts from a particular person. An example is whether or not you comment on each other’s posts.

I actually went a step further and analyzed the blog post for how many times different words around ranking were used. Here’s what I found:

This shows you how important signals are to ranking content. It was said more than twice as many times as the other keywords. 

Bottomline here – create content that will encourage people to send the right signals to Instagram. Create engaging calls to action, content people want to share with others, have conversations in the DMs. 

Let me know what other ranking or algorithm questions you have in the comments.

10 Quotes All Entrepreneurs Should Read

Looking for inspiration as an entrepreneur? It can be a long, bumpy and lonely road to navigate the journey of entrepreneurship. Turning to people who have been there before can help make the journey a little easier.

Below are 10 quotes from seasoned entrepreneurs that all entrepreneurs should read. Tuck these away somewhere safe for the inevitable tough days.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

“Every time you state what you want or believe, you’re the first to hear it. It’s a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don’t put a ceiling on yourself.”

– Oprah Winfrey

“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took an excuse.”

-Florence Nightingale

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

– Vince Lombardi

“Every yes must be defending by a thousand no’s.”

-Jeff Walker

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

– Mark Twain

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

– Warren Buffett

“Our fear of the unknown and our fear of making mistakes trick us into focusing on what we don’t know or can’t do. When we give ourselves the freedom to be uncertain and less than perfect, then we can start thinking, ‘What do I know? What can I do?’ That’s when the adventure starts — learning, thriving, conquering, failing, recouping, and having a ton of fun.”

– Kristin Smith

“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”

-Caterina Fake

“Water never complains, but always pushes back. Always.

Drop a boulder in front of a stream and the water will simply flow around it, taking whatever opening the landscape will give or—when nothing is offered—patiently building up its resources until it rises to a height where a new gap is found.

Flow like water. Never complain, but always push back.”

– James Clear

What you should be posting on Instagram Stories & how to choose Stories highlights

A lot of people treat stories like an afterthought. If that’s you, you need to change that. Stories are the best place to connect with your audience, build your brand, and ultimately convert your audience.

So before we talk about what to share in your highlights, let’s talk abut what to post in the first place because you need to have stories content in order to create highlights.

In order to use stories strategically, you have to have a plan and be consistent. When I say consistent, I don’t just mean a consistent schedule. I mean consistent topics.

We talk a lot about content pillars for feed. What people forget is that you need them for Stories, too. And, spoiler….they should be different than your feed pillars. Here’s how to choose Stories pillars

NOTE: Just because you CAN post anything to stories, doesn’t mean you should.

What are things about you and your life that people can relate to and get to know you for? People know I live in Montana, like to report when the sun is out, wear leopard sneakers, I’m a mom, etc.

Next, what are areas of your business you can talk abut consistently? BTS/your process, your products or services, tips and tricks, how to work with or buy from you, social proof, and FAQs.

Once you determine those pillars for stories, guess what? Those become your highlights.

It doesn’t mean you can’t share anything outside of those pillars, it just means those are exactly what they say….the pillars and foundation of your content for stories.

Highlights are a highlight reel. A place for people to catch up on what they missed and quickly get to know you. Highlights are a great way to fast track new followers’ connection with you and build a relationship with them quickly.

Hope that was helpful.

I’m Amanda. I’ve spent 18 years in digital marketing—12 of those as an entrepreneur. I believe marketing should serve a purpose & solve a problem. I want to see you succeed and grow your business in a way that feels right for you.

If you’re looking for a bestie for your biz, you’re in the right place.