September 1, 2018 Abby Opersteny

Master the Instagram Algorithm: Part 1

Are you fed up with the all elusive Instagram algorithm? Yeah, us too. It has become a sort of mythical creature we’re all trying to slay. Although we’re madly taking piñata swings at it, the thing seems to constantly evolve to favor “them.” Well team, it’s time we pull the sword out of the stone and actually make this a fight— It’s time to get strategic.

First a little Algorithm 101. 

What we need to understand is that the algorithm was created to help us… if we harness its power correctly. It is a tool that feeds our posts to an audience that actually wants to see and engage with your content. In theory, this means the algorithm is targeting paying customers for your brand. Does it always work that way? Not if you aren’t working with it… Which is exactly what we’re going to teach you to do. 

Quality Time:

The algorithm is a little needy… Meaning you’re going to need to spend some quality time with the platform in order to win its affections. What does this look like?

Engage with other accounts through likes / comments.

This is one of those things that pop up on every “Instagram-Hack-Guide,” and I hate to break it to you, but it’s because it works. If you aren’t engaging with your followers and other accounts, the algorithm isn’t going to offer your content to others to engage with. Meaning… You must be liking/commenting throughout the day (if you can). If your brand can’t keep up the frequency of engagement, then I’d challenge you to carve out 30 min/day and do as much as you can in that time period. As you become more consistent in this practice, you’ll on average see a 10% increase in your own engagement, which is better news than you think because…

How the algorithm works is based off of a core engagement group. Basically this means Instagram feeds your post to only 10% of your overall audience (your following). If your post does well with that sample audience within the first 3 hours of posting (I.E: You get a bunch of likes and comments), Instagram will release that post to the rest of your followers’ feeds.  

Do you see the connection now? If you can grow your engagement audience by liking and commenting on other’s posts, you can get the algorithm to give you the green light more often and more consistently.

You need to be active on stories.

Posting a story every now and then isn’t going to cut it in this relationship. The algorithm favors those who are providing every type of content for their followers, which includes stories. So you’ll need to post at least once a day, bonus points if it’s video of you!

Get Strategic to Get Seen:

Sadly, great content isn’t enough to grow your brand on Instagram anymore. With the algorithms preferences, it’s time to get strategic to get seen.

Use hashtags.

Hashtags are the easiest way to get your content into the hands of users who are interested in your subject matter, so maximize them.

This means using around 30 hashtags per post (The maximum amount of hashtags Instagram will allow per post). This isn’t as hard as it seems when you utilize “hashtag paragraphs.” This refers to a collection of hashtags that you can copy and paste for every time you post.

Developing a good hashtag paragraph is key. Most users do not do enough research when choosing what hashtags to use and end up using hashtags that are too generic to ever be useful. For example if you were choosing a hashtag to go with a post about your dog, you might be tempted to use: #dog. If you do a quick search for this tag though, you’ll see that it comes up with over 173M results. This is no good! Get more specific. What about #doggypool, #DogsKnow #meandmypup? These all pull up less than 10k results, aka: The sweet spot.

Gauge when your audience is online.

Remember when I told you the algorithm uses a sample audience to determine whether or not the rest of your following ever sees it? Well, to maximize your chances of your post breaking past this sample audience, you need to know when your general audience is online.

No, we’re not asking you to be a fortune teller here, just that you explore your “Insights”. Insights are provided for every Instagram Business Account— Don’t have a business account yet? STOP what you’re doing now and make the change.

In the Insights tab you can gauge when your audience is most active. This is when you should be posting to get the most return on your hard work.

First Impressions Count:

Remember when your Mom fussed over your hair and outfit just before you met new friends, insisting that first impressions count? Well, call her and tell her she was right (When isn’t she, really?) because on Instagram, they really do.

So pull it together… Clean up your profile with a few tricks that will wow your new friends with your online presence.

The bulleted profile.

Okay let’s say you’ve courted the algorithm enough that you are popping up in the Explore Feed, Hashtag Searches, etc… Now it’s on you to win follows.

On average a potential new follower will give your profile a first look over in 2 seconds. 2 SECONDS? You better be pitching who you are pretty quickly, meaning you need to utilize bullet points.

Instead of spilling your guts in your profile in the traditional sentence format, ditch the longford and get straight to the point. What makes you uniquely you? What do your followers need to know and love about you? An easily digestible profile will get you a second look.


If you’re like most brands, a single link doesn’t fully sum up everything you are trying to convey through social media. Lucky you, a single link does not need to define you any longer.

Use a tool like to maximize linking options. allows you to use a single link to bring your followers to a screen that gives them multiple clicking options. You can even use this screen’s buttons to address common questions, and give your following easy answers. Tell your story through these options. Let your following know you have a blog, online store, an event coming up, a guest article somewhere, etc…

Don’t waste your “one” link. Make the link work for you.

Are you cool?

It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves since middle school: Am I cool? Well I hate to break it to you, but the Instagram world judges that based on a simple ratio: Followers: Following.

For the record, the golden ratio here is 3:1. Meaning if you had 900 followers, you’d want to limit who you’re following to around 300 users. Why does the algorithm even care about this?

Well, besides gauging how our human minds work — Favoring someone who has more people wanting to follow them than people they want to follow — It is also a way to reward those who are playing the “game” fair. There is a frowned upon growth-strategy that entails following as many people as you can to get a follows in return. If you are utilizing this strategy, it will be hard to keep the “golden ratio” up. 

As Instagram assess your profile, if you have 20k followers but are also following 18k, red flags go up as to how you grew your following.What’s worse is that your profile actually take a double hit in this case— If a new user visited your profile and saw this ratio, your profile’s “attractiveness” goes down tremendously.

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