The (in)famous, ever-evolving Instagram algorithm.
You’ve heard about it, you maybe kinda know what it is… but you have questions. So many questions.
Every few days, we get questions about the Instagram algorithm. And recently we’ve had a lot about the algorithm for Stories, specifically. It seems many of you want to know what the algorithm means when it comes to your Story content since it doesn’t appear in the regular Instagram feed.
We’ve put together answers for the most frequently asked questions about the algorithm and Insta Stories.
What Is the Instagram Algorithm?
First up, we’re back to basics. What exactly is the IG algorithm?
In the early days of Insta, chronological order was all the rage. If your friend posted at 10 am, and a brand posted at 12 pm, you would see their content at the top of your feed based on their posting time. That’s now how it works anymore.
Now, the algorithm is a much more complex beast. It’s a highly sophisticated (and secret) system that ranks content across the platform so Instagram users see only the most relevant content in their newsfeed.
Truth is, it’s not just one algorithm. According to Instagram, they “use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”
Is There an Algorithm for Instagram Stories?
Yes, of course! Ever noticed how you see Stories from some friends, influencers or brands before you see others? This is the story algorithm at work.
The Instagram @creators account says “How and what you respond to on each part of the app—like Feed, Explore, Reels—influences your Instagram experience.”
Let’s discuss the ranking factors that influence how and when you see new posts from the accounts you follow first. Then we’ll dive a bit deeper into how the algorithm works for Instagram Stories.
Are there Ranking Factors That Matter to the Algorithm?
Yes! We’re glad you asked.
The Instagram algorithm changes based on how the usage of the platform evolves over time. So is there going to be a new Instagram algorithm in 2022? Only time will tell. But here’s what the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri had to say about key ranking factors in June 2021.
Let’s break that down. There are four key ranking factors to keep in mind if you want your Instagram marketing content to surface onto user’s feeds. These factors influence your image and video Instagram feed posts as well as carousels, Instagram Reels, Stories, and IGTV videos.
When you “win” at the algorithm, your content is more likely to show up on the Explore page as well. The Explore page will expose you to tons of new Instagram followers and be great for the engagement rates of your Instagram account. It’s a dream scenario for anyone running an Instagram marketing campaign!
The four main factors that influence whether or not your target audience sees your most recent posts and Stories are:
1. Information about the post
This signal relates directly to the content of your post. Is it a photo or a video? How many people like it? When was it posted? Is there a location attached to the post?
2. Information about the Instagram account that posted
This signal tells Instagram how interesting and relevant the poster might be to the person on whose feed the content appear. This includes key signals such as if the user is a friend of the poster and how often the user has interacted with the poster’s account.
3. Their activity on Instagram
If the user usually interacts with videos but doesn’t like, share or save images, Instagram uses this activity as a signal as they’re not interested in video content. Similarly if the feed algorithm spots the user is more interested in feed posts vs Stories, then Instagram will show the user more relevant content in their feed. This signal helps Instagram understand what users may be interested in and then shows them more of that.
4. Their Instagram history
If a user has a history of interacting with a particular personal or Instagram business account, they’re more likely to see content from them. If they like or comment on the poster’s (i.e. your) content, then Instagram sees it as a signal to show them more of your content.
But that’s not all.
Instagram users’ likelihood of interaction counts
Remember how Instagram said they take a variety of factors into consideration?
When reviewing your content, the Instagram algorithm also considers the likelihood of whether the user will interact with an Instagram account (personal, creator or business account).
The most valuable interactions that influence how the algorithm might show an Instagram user the latest content from their favorite friend or brand account.
- How much time would they spend on the post?
- Are they likely to like the post?
- Would they possibly comment on the post
- Would they want to save the post?
- How likely are they to tap through to the profile after viewing the content?
- Would the content result in direct messages (DMs) to the poster?
- Are they likely to click a link in Stories?
What this means is, if you create content that is interesting and engaging enough for your audience and they interact with you, it sends a very strong signal to the algo overlords. It signals that you’re interesting and Instagram users want to see more of your content in their feeds and Stories.
The timeliness of your post matters
By timeliness, we mean everything from the specific time you share content to the timely relevance of your content (i.e. sharing seasonal content). Instagram will check how timely your Instagram content is as irrelevant, poorly timed content is unlikely to resonate with your audience.
What is the right time to post? That will depend on various factors such as your industry, your target audience, your time zone, the type of content you share and so much.
Instagram Insights and more advanced Instagram analytics tools (like Sked Social!) can be very helpful for figuring out the best time for posting content. Sked’s Best Time to Post feature is a great way to optimize your content strategy and make nail the timing of your Instagram posts.
You can read more about these ranking signals directly from the horse’s mouth.
How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work on Stories?
When asked how they rank Feed and Stories, Instagram says, “Over the years we’ve learned that Feed and Stories are places where people want to see content from their friends, family, and those they are closest to.”
Of course, this would mean you would always see Stories from your BFFs first. But we know this doesn’t always happen. This is because of the ranking factors that we discussed above.
The Instagram algorithm for Stories in some ways is similar to a chronological feed. It ensures you see the most recent content first. Of course you don’t see every recently posted Story from every account you follow. You see recent Stories from the Instagram accounts you have a great historical relationship with and are most likely to engage with.
As the owner of a business account, this means, you need to consistently create high-quality content for Stories that invites engagement from your followers. This will not enhance your reach on Instagram, improve your engagement metrics and ultimately tell the algorithm that your Stories deserve to be seen by more people.
We discuss this further in the next answer.
How Do You Get Your Stories to Show up on Instagram?
So who shows up first on Instagram Stories and how can you join the club? Unfortunately there is no magic hack to make this happen.
The “secret” lies in creating high-quality content for your Stories that result in high quality Instagram engagement. This engagement—as we mention above—is a very strong signal to the algorithm that your users are interested in seeing and interacting with your Stories more often.
Here are some tips for improving your engagement on Stories:
Find the best time to post
As we discussed earlier, when you post your content can really make your break your presence on social media platforms. Figure out the best time to share Stories for your target audience and make use of that data. This will send Insta all the right “timeliness” signals you need for better performance on the algorithm.
If you want to show up more often, post to Stories more often. It’s really as simple as that. Kind of.
You don’t have to overshare. However, remember that every time you post fresh content to Stories, you will show up first and make it more likely that your audience sees your content.
If posting repeatedly throughout the day is getting too much, Sked Social can help you automate the process. You can bulk upload your Stories content to Sked, set a time and rest easy that Sked will take care of your posting schedule for you. Learn more here: How To Schedule Instagram Posts [and Stories]: The Ultimate Step by Step Guide.
Stickers are a ubiquitous part of Instagram Stories, so for best results, make full use of them. For example, you could use a poll sticker to make fun (or useful) polls. The product sticker on the other hand, lets your audience click through to products on your website.
Stickers are a magnet for interaction and we already know how much the algorithm loves user interactions!
Instagram often tests new features and stickers on Stories too. If you see something pop up, try it—especially if it’s likely to drive interaction on your content.
Add hashtags to your Stories
Hashtags go hand-in-hand with an Instagram marketing strategy. Use hashtags in your Instagram Stories. After you tag your Stories with a hashtag sticker, you’ll be able to tap the tag to see a page that shows all photos and videos people have uploaded with that hashtag, thus increasing the visibility of your Stories to a wider audience.
A well-thought-out hashtag strategy will help you get the most out of your Stories. The stronger your hashtag game, the more people will see (and engage!) with your content.
Partner with influencers
Don’t have the time or skills to create your own Stories content? Collaborate with an influencer (or few) to create the content you need. Influencers often have their own legion of followers as well, which can be very helpful for expanding your reach and engagement.
Influencer content is often seen as “more authentic” than just plain old branded content. People are more likely to interact with a brand that feels and acts human.
Resharing influencer or user-generated content on your Stories is also a great way to share more authentic content without having to put too much effort into it.
To learn more, check out: 10 Simple Ways to Increase Instagram Engagement.
Why Won’t the Story Algorithm Show My Content?
Tried absolutely everything but your Instagram Stories still seem to be getting swallowed into a black hole? You may be guilty of black hat Instagram marketing practices and you may not even know it!
This “being invisible” phenomenon is commonly known as ‘shadowbanning’ among Instagram users. It’s a broad term used by Instagram users, however, it’s not a practice Instagram has ever acknowledged.
Black hat strategies are usually designed to grow your Instagram account in ways that are often unethical. Instead of focusing on real, authentic growth on Instagram, these practices attempt to game the system for the sake of more followers, likes, or comments. This could include:
- Content that violates Instagram’s community guidelines or otherwise spammy content.
- Posting too much and too often.
- Interacting (i.e. liking, commenting, DM-ing) too much and too often.
- Using the same hashtag sets in all your Instagram content.
- Buying fake followers for your business account.
- Engaging in follow/unfollow practices.
While black hat marketing can do a lot of damage to your account (and your business’ reputation)—recovery is not unheard of. Learn how to bounce back from black hat tactics that are strangling your success.
How Can I Simplify My Instagram Stories Process and Post More Often to Please the Algorithm?
Posting quality, valuable content consistently is key if you want to “beat” the algorithm Gods for your Instagram feed, Stories, Instagram Reels, and any other type of content. However, keeping up with posting Stories can feel like a neverending process for social media managers—with your phone forever stuck to your hands.
Sked Social can help you with that. As your Story sidekick, Sked can help you simplify the whole process and automate your Instagram Stories. Bulk upload your content, share videos and images and add links to your Instagram Stories with Sked’s auto-posting feature.
Sign up for a free 7-day trial today and test it out.