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  • Writer's pictureMarco Lange

Understanding the Instagram Algorithm in 2020: Everything You Need — A Startup Founders Guide

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Using Instagram for your marketing purposes is essential this day and age. Obviously, some businesses don’t need an Instagram account. But, it is actually one of the top platforms for businesses looking to grow their leads and advertise their products and services.

Market research shows that in 2020, marketers are going to be spending a lot on Instagram, which means that if you want to be competitive in this climate, you need to understand exactly how Instagram works.

Utilizing Instagram in a way that widens your audience and differentiates you from your competition is necessary, yet is confusing for many people who don’t quite grasp the ways that Instagram has changed since its inception.

While every platform experiences updates and progression over time, Instagram has made a number of changes that blatantly affect the way that marketers can use it.

A long time ago and one of the biggest and most important changes that Instagram has undertaken, is switching from a chronological feed to using algorithms which determine the content that is shown. What does this mean? Well just because you have a bomb post, doesn’t mean it’s going to be shown to a lot of people. Enter, the infamous algorithm.

The Instagram Algorithm

It’s not entirely easy to learn the way the Instagram Algorithm works. It’s really just a matter of understanding social media marketing and learning to utilize it on this specific platform.

The best way to understand Instagram is with the realization that it is not the same as it used to be. With the algorithms, a user must scroll through their feed in order to see the most recent posts. Every post will show up, but instead of showing up in chronological order, they show up by priority that is determined by the algorithm.

The job of a marketer is to learn to master the Instagram Algorithm instead of having it essentially determine the level of success they will have. In order to be successful at marketing with Instagram, you will need to understand the way that that algorithm works.

Instagram has shared that the top three things which determine what shows up in your feed are interest, relationship, and timeliness, and on a more minor level, the user’s frequency, usage, and number they’re following. Mastering the algorithm will mean learning to use these tools cohesively in order to ensure that whatever you post shows up first.


Instagram attempts to show users the posts that will most interest them first. They determine what content will be most relevant to users by tracking the content genres that each user follows and interacts with, as well as their top hashtags. This means that if a post is more relevant to a user, yet has less followers and engagement than other posts, it could very likely appear at the top of the feed.

Keeping this in mind when you create posts is essential. You should already be marketing to your target market, which means that you have already determined who and what is relevant for what you are going to share. Ideally, the better you are at narrowing down your target market, the more likely Instagram is to determine that your posts are relevant and an interest of your audience.


Instagram designed its algorithm to allow people to see their family and best friends’ posts first. It is likely that the algorithm reads users interactions in order to determine who they have the best relationships with.

What this means for marketing is that the more you engage with your audience, commenting on their posts, interacting through tags, likes, comments, and messages, the more likely the algorithm is to determine that you have a strong relationship. The stronger Instagram thinks your relationship is, the more likely they are to show your posts first.


While Instagram doesn’t show posts chronologically anymore, the algorithms do consider timeliness when determining what to show. Popular but older posts are less likely to show up than posts from the past day, even if those posts have less engagement.

When considering Instagram marketing, this means that you will want to post regularly to ensure that you have timely posts on a consistent basis. If you are only posting once a week, it’s likely that less than half of your audience is actually seeing your posts. Make sure to post consistently in order to keep your posts at the top.

Instagram Stories and the Algorithm

Instagram Stories is one of the most popular features on Instagram, and provides a great opportunity for marketing. While it utilizes an algorithm that determines whose Stories appear first for followers, it is possible to use the algorithm for your benefit.

The best way to create successful Instagram Stories is to ensure they are engaging, using a variety of the video features, question stickers, polls, and more. Not only can you use the information you learn to create better content for your target market that will help you beat the algorithm with your posts, but the engagement that these features provide will help your stories to show first.

Marketing and the Instagram Algorithm

When the Instagram changes occurred, many marketers were worried that they would no longer be able to use the platform for gaining leads. On the contrary, Instagram is still one of the most essential platforms for digital marketing and continues to increase in popularity.

The key is learning to use the algorithm to your advantage, which is basically just using digital marketing tactics appropriately. Determine your target market in order to create consistent, relevant content and build a relationship with them through engaging and connecting on the platform.

When you follow these simple techniques, you are helping to ensure that your posts and Stories appear first for your followers, which will increase your visibility, leads,, and conversions.

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