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How the Instagram algorithm works in 2021

Don’t be afraid to evolve and update your plan with social media platforms; with algorithms and new features added, it always deems old practices as just that, old. Instagram is focusing much less on likes overall and more on saving content and engaging. You may be asking yourself, why would saving be critical to the algorithm? Instagram is based on what the user likes; your feed is based on who you follow, direct message, view, and engage with most. If you save posts, this means you have made that content a priority, and Instagram is paying close attention to these sorts of engagements. As Julian K.Gutman, the Product Lead of Instagram, said in a conference, “Instagram in 2021 will be all about engagement, frequency, and communication. But, to create a perfect mixture and have all three, you have to be committed. You must be able to use new features and follow simple rules while creating content.”

To break it down, this is the latest ranking system as far as Instagram is concerned. 

  1. Save to collection.
  2. Share.
  3. Comment.
  4. Like.

Now I will go over the new features’ ins and outs, how they function with the algorithm, and how they can benefit your business. 


The new algorithm is going to arrange your feed in a way to get you to engage more frequently. The most important posts are going to the top, while the less important posts will be on the bottom. How does it determine what is and is not essential? It’s all based on how you use Instagram. If you frequently comment on a particular page and save their posts or send or like, then presto, this account will frequent the top of your feed. There could be many examples to explain this, but here’s what I saw on my feed when I opened the app (and why these posts came up first.)

  1. Your relationship to the account. (My niece’s account popped up first.)
  2. The interest you have shown. (Saved, sent, commented, liked; I often engage with her posts.)
  3. Relevancy. (Post receives a relevancy score determined by the algorithm; how often I have engaged with her posts.)

The change to the feed initially had many users concerned that their posts would be seen less frequently, but in the end, the payoff has been new users, new engagements, and new opportunities for businesses/creators. It’s vital to utilize all of Instagram’s new mediums to take full advantage of luring in new customers. 


Stories have dominated the marketplace for some time now, with everything from ads, to contests, to puppy videos. This is a superb way to engage with your followers and give them a new avenue aside from your static posts. Stories have also been affected by the new algorithm, but it’s still based on the user. The amount of engagement will determine which stories appear first in your feed, so if you scroll through to find a creator’s story first often enough, it will start to pop up on your suggested stories first. Location tags have become increasingly important as they determine who gets stories suggested. For instance, if you travel out of town and tag your location, it’s set up so that stories from said town will show up on your feed. This gives businesses a chance to catch people’s attention who may only be in town for a short time. The more users who engage with you through stories, the more likely your posts will show up on their feed. Consistently posting stories and tagging your location is a must for business accounts in 2021, but this is not the only way businesses create video content for their users. 

Reels & IGTV

These are two of the newest features for video content on Instagram, let’s start with reels. This is a relatively new source of discoverability on Instagram, and it does have its perks. Your hashtags will come in handy in pushing new followers to this source of new engagement. This format will function most closely to your feed, as the users who pursue the most engagement with your posts will view your reels first. There are also businesses using reels to sell products directly to their customers, as it can be fully interactive. As this is the newest feature to Instagram, it’s wise to set up a game plan to utilize this new content source. 

This new form of content development could even cross platforms; according to social media developer Alessandro Paluzzi, “Instagram reels could appear soon on Facebook news feeds and would appear as ‘recommended’ as opposed to being linked to an account.” This has the potential to drum up new followers and new engagement quickly and easily without having to engage solely with followers who are already engaged with your content. 

So what’s the difference between Reels & IGTV? It’s pretty simple. 

Reels: Short video content developed to function like Tik Tok. 

IGTV: Longer video content developed to function like Youtube.

We’ve already covered many of the benefits of Reels, but IGTV also has some serious advantages. So with content times ranging from 15 seconds to 10 minutes, there are a lot of options. In fact, if your account is verified, you can make content that’s up to 60 minutes long. This puts IGTV in heavy competition with Youtube, and with Youtube scrambling to catch up to shorter, quicker content, it’s a 50/50 which will win the video wars. I wouldn’t put it past Instagram to come out the winner in this competition. Instagram has 500 million daily active users vs. Youtube’s 50 million, but it’s hard to say based on the data as they both pull in dramatically different averages monthly; With Youtube pulling in 1.5 billion monthly users vs. Instagram’s 800 million, It’s all about content. The crucial takeaway of these features is understanding how to utilize them to promote your business correctly. 


The most significant difference between Instagram and other competitors is the ease of acquiring goods and services. The platform has grown so abundantly from its early days of simple photographs and expanded to new markets. According to business.instagram, “81% of people use Instagram to help research products and services, and furthermore, 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every month. While the Instagram stat above shows people research purchases in the platform, this confirms that people are making purchases directly from Instagram.” 

The engagement rate on Instagram is unsurpassed, but how can you make Instagram work for your business or brand? Just remember the key points we’ve touched on, and be adaptable. Instagram has become a one-stop-shop for users; the trick is to keep them coming back for more. 

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