Peek Inside The 2021 Instagram Algorithm (And 7 Clever Tips To Beat It!)

Published On August 02, 2021

It’s 2021 and visual content has gone beyond just static images and visuals. This means Instagram has become the primary source of traffic for many brands online. Resources are being invested into keeping tabs on 100% of a brand’s audience at all times. The only hiccup is that the algorithm perennially seems to evolve. From hiding likes to limiting organic reach, the platform is making it challenging for brands to establish a decent foothold. The evolution of Instagram content, with Reels, Stories, and IGTV, makes gathering insights more grueling.

That being said, it is not impossible for brands to reach their potential fan base. In this blog, we will look into the factors that the Instagram algorithm takes into account with branded content, as well as an exhaustive list of best practices that can be adapted to have the best shot at succeeding on the platform.


The Instagram Algorithm In 2021

1. The content you engage with

Instagram revolutionized the social media space by introducing audiences to the ‘Explore’ tab. While earlier platforms used to sneak in relevant content onto the feed based on the user’s activity, Instagram went ahead and dedicated an entire tab to this. This tab observes the type of content users engage with and predicts the content they would like to see. This works even on the ‘Feed.’ Actions like Likes and Comments on a post exponentially increase the odds of similar content popping up regularly.

2. Users you engage with

There’s a fine line between brands and individuals when it comes to accounts that an audience interacts with. The more the interactions, the more likely the content is to show up on the ‘Feed’ and ‘Explore’ tabs. This is either called the ‘important’ category or the ‘friends & family’ category. So when a brand interacts a lot with their followers, it helps increase engagement, thereby improving the chances of the brand’s content showing up! In 2021, it is crucial to reply and engage wherever possible.

 3. When you engage

Instagram has one ultimate goal – to show the users content that they are most likely to enjoy. Keeping this in mind, timing plays a huge role. Brands have the best chance of reaching their target audience when they are online. This might make it challenging for brands with users across time zones but easier with niche, localized audiences. This is why global brands have geography-specific accounts for different regions. There is also sufficient data and analytics to study user patterns and timings.

The art of posting at the right time is almost a science in itself. Learn more about it here: Marketers’ Pocket Book To Find The Best Time To Post On Instagram.

4. How much you engage

As a competitive business itself, Instagram is looking to retain the attention of its audience for the longest time possible. To serve this purpose, it only exposes users to content that audiences seem to engage with for longer. If no one is engaging with a brand’s content, Instagram doesn’t trust the brand and reduces its probability of showing up. Users who spend a lot of time on the app are shown content chronologically, whereas users who have been away for a while are shown a highlight reel of the best content they missed out on during their absence.

Instagram algortihm phone

Use The Algorithm To Your Advantage

Generate engagement

Engagement is the name of the game on Instagram in 2021. If audiences engage with your content, it serves your purpose dramatically. As discussed, Instagram needs your help to retain users on the platform. If your brand can generate engagement on posts, the audience will likely be shown multiple posts from you on the feed before a competitor’s post, irrespective of when the content was published.

Retention time

The time a user spends on the platform is directly proportional to the money Instagram makes through ads. The more eyeballs an ad gets, the higher the percentage that goes to the platform. The longer you can keep a user on Instagram through content and engagement, the more the platform trusts you to directly increase its revenue. This engagement could be likes, comments, views, or reposts.

Smart Tips To Beat The Algorithm

1. Post content regularly

For brands, it is imperative to have a solid content plan in place. They should post new content every day. The fresher the content, the more likely it is to keep users on the platform and drive engagement. This could be a mix of content formats, posted on a weekly schedule. When followers know when to expect the content they like, they will engage more! This is a huge win in the battle to overcome the complicated Instagram algorithm.

2. Explore Reels

Credit where it’s due: Instagram is constantly innovating when it comes to content formats to engage with users. Firstly, video content is more engaging and personal. Secondly, the shorter length of the format makes it ideal for users scrolling through their feed.  Reels don’t require exquisite editing, complicated effects, and high production costs. This makes video creation easier and also generates content that is more likely to be shared. Also being a new format, Instagram supports brands that use their latest features.

Once you’ve established a connection with the audience, shoppable posts are a great way to get them to your products. Master the art of it here: 10 Reasons Your Marketing Needs Instagram Shoppable Posts.

3. Respond to messages & comments

These strategies come with two benefits. Adhering to the algorithm promotes brands with a higher engagement rate. The second benefit is the deeper relationship formed with followers. Getting a brand to respond to their query makes the content feel more personally curated. Brands must treat followers like people and take the time out to interact with them. A thoughtful response goes a long way with the Instagram algorithm.

4. Quality of content – visual

The overall look of the feed matters! Instagram is a visual platform and as a brand resources should be allocated to better visuals. Factors like color grading, visual language, and brand aesthetic do play a key role in driving engagement. The best brands do such a good job at this that users can recognize them just from the visuals. Time should be allocated to the visual language being used to communicate the content on Instagram. Uniformity and high-definition visuals should be included in the brand strategy.

 5. Captions & hashtags

Instagram being a visual platform, caption is the only place where words can be used to communicate. Adhere to a uniform tone and use captions to induce engagement from the users. The hashtags are even more crucial as they drive discoverability and help catalog content on Instagram. These also serve as an indicator to measure content performance to further optimize communications made on the platform.

When it comes to hashtags, brands could learn a thing or two from influencers, who seem to have aced the hashtag game! Check out our blog on this: Hashtag You Way To Success As An Insta Influencer.

6. Notifications

Turning on post notifications to an account is a great way to never miss out on content. While posts could get lost in the vastness of the Feed, this feature ensures the user is notified whenever a new post is made. While brands can do this to know about their active followers, the real game-changer is convincing followers to turn on notifications. This ensures content gets a minimum amount of eyeballs every time, especially from the high engagement followers.

7. Insights & analytics

Of all the measures mentioned in this blog, this is arguably the most crucial. Analytics helps optimize content with data about engagement and interactions. The aim here is to give the target audience EXACTLY what they want. From visuals and hashtags to captions and contests, every minute aspect of the content can be measured over time, ultimately resulting in a content strategy that is ideal. It gives users a sense that the brand is flexible and actually listening. This makes the interest bi-directional and establishes a relationship that will last a long time.

How Does The Instagram Algorithm Actually Work Now?

This is a question that has caused a lot of confusion among brand marketers globally! While the answer to this might be a tad complicated, the steps mentioned in this blog should give brands a good chance to excel on the platform. The audience is looking for engaging content and is willing to invest time and resources into brands that establish a connection with them. Building a genuine relationship is way more effective than trying to game the system. Stay true to the steps mentioned above for long-term success.

Brands are finding it harder to establish a reach on Instagram organically. Here’s how you can overcome this: 10 Tactics To Tackle Instagram’s Falling Organic Reach.


If you’ve got any further Instagram-related questions, we are happy to help you. At atisfyreach, we provide services that help brands establish a strong presence across social media platforms, and connect them with influencers through tailored marketing campaigns. 

Contact us to get started, today!

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