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  • Writer's pictureSara

Cracking the Instagram Algorithm

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

The instagram algorithm is something we always feel like is changing as soon as we think we understand it. A “One step forward, two steps back” kind of thing. But understanding the algorithm, at least before they change it again, is going to be instrumental in your success on insta.

In today’s blog we’re gonna cover some myths about the algorithm and strategies for achieving the results you want to see.

Myths & Strategies

Switching to a business account will increase/decrease your reach

Switching from personal to business or back again will not do anything to affect your reach on instagram. That’s because Instagram sees your activities and is aware of what you’re doing (e.g. some users switch back to a personal account when they experience lower reach results with a business account). The main advantage of a business account is having access to instagram account metrics and engagement data. If you do decided to switch back to a personal account from a business account you lose access to this data. You’ll need to switch back to a business profile and allow instagram to start gathering data again for the insights to provide any type of value.

Shadowing Banning

The dreaded shadow ban; when we see a drastic drop in our engagement we immediately think “Ahh yes, instagram is shadow banning my content even though this big creator posted the exact same thing” Welllll… the algorithm doesn’t exactly work like that. It’s not even an intentional thing that instagram created. It’s more like a byproduct of the algorithm. Lets dive into this one… According to instagram there are some types of content that are against their algorithm and may toe the line of CGs, so the algorithm doesnt pick them up and push them. here are some examples of what the algorithm doesnt push:

  1. content that might hinder their ability to create a safe environment (mentions of violence, certain mental health topics, regulated substances, sexually suggestive content)

  2. sensitive and low-quality content about health and finance (mentions of cures, cosmetic procedures, misleading business models)

  3. content that is regularly complained about (clickbait, promoting contests/giveaways, engagement bait)

  4. low-quality content (repurposed content from another account, content from sites that have too many clicks from Instagram compared to other platforms, news without clear details about the author)

  5. misleading content (content that was proven to be false by fact-checkers or encourages the use of fake documents).

That first one is mostly where our industry comes in, specifically “sexually suggestive content”. This is why whenever we talk about promoting on instagram we emphasis keeping it classy and within community guidelines. You can take a look at Steph, Saras, or Cataleyas instagram accounts and see the for the most part they’re fully clothed and finding creative ways to promote their fans platforms without being too sexually suggestive. Steph in particular is a master at this.

Instagram Prefers reels over photos

well… kind of. Instagram tends to push their newer features more to try to get those new features to catch on, like the push towards reels this year. The fact of the matter is, photos will still do just as good as reels if the quality is there. And using reels does not mean your engagement will automatically increase. Instagram is all about the engagement, babes, the longer someone stays on your content the better and if your content is low quality, no one is staying on it for very long. You should aim to use a combination of features to boost your engagement. Use reels when you have good quality ones that could be picked up by the algorithm, especially if they use trending sounds or actions. Use high quality, semi professional looking photo sets when you don’t have reels. Use the carousel feature to post multiple pictures at a time. Remember, we want people to spend time on our content.

Instagram is hiding posts

They’re really not. Instagram puts higher engaging content, and friends and family (people you follow who follow back) at the top of your feed. If you scroll the feed you’ll eventually get to your content.

The way the algorithm works is easy

Eh, Not really… The algorithm takes a lot of different factors into account when choosing content to push.

When was the post published: more recent postings will show higher in the feed than posts that are a few days old.

User interests and preferences: you ever watch one zit popping video and suddenly you’re down a zit popping video and now your discover page is nothing but zit popping… yea? Me either 😅 That is instagrams algorithm seeing that you’re spending a good portion of your time on thier app consuming that type of content. The algorithm thinks thats the type of content you are interested in. Use this information to your advantage when creating content: make the type of content that people are already consuming so that yours will be pushed into their feeds or discovery pages. Do this by checking out whats trending in the discovery page and what other users are doing. Our relationship with specific profiles: profiles you follow, like, comment, tag and DM will be featured higher in your feed than other profiles. Engagement on posts; posts with higher engagement are featured higher in your feed and will more likely be featured on the discover page of users consuming your type of content.

Deleting content wont effect the algorithm

This one is wrong. Very wrong. We also wish we had known this sooner… Okay so here’s the deal, we know by now that the algorithm knows… EVERYTHING or pretty close to everything. We’ve talked before about having a pretty consistent posting schedule. The algorithm gets an idea of when you post and how frequently you post and is waiting for your next posting because it’s become predictable. So the algorithm doesn’t really like it when something suddenly disappears from its programming and will have a bit of a fit over it because it throws off the stability of the algorithm for your content. Not only will deleting content effect your reach and engagement but so will things like deleting comments, liking too many posts at once, commenting too much at once or blocking too many accounts at a time. If you want to remove something from your profile but dont want to affect your reach and enegement, we recommend archiving the item. This removes it from your profile but wont interfere with the algorithm.

Buying Likes and Follows is a good thing

Let’s clarify this a little bit; Paying to be featured on someone else’s instagram page, especially a shoutout page that has good engagement to follower ratio is fine. Paying someone for likes and follows is not. And this is because those likes and follows are typically from bot accounts. And instagram is not a big fan of these bot accounts and is actually cracking down on them. So if you’re seeing that your engagement is dropping even though you’ve bought followers and like this is why. Bots baby, Bots. When looking at promo accounts look at the number of followers they have, and the engagement on each post. If the account has 100k followers and only 300 likes per post and less than 100 comments, do not work with them. However if they have 100k followers, and thousands of likes and comments on posts, these are good pages to work with. Also make sure these pages are not promising you a certain number of follows in a set time frame and are promoting other creators in your niche. Exposure to real followers genuinely interested in your content will always out preform bought bot activity.

Wrapping up

We’ve covered a lot here today. Keep these strategies in mind for manipulating the algorithm to your advantage and let us know how it works out for you. Got an idea for a blog post? Shoot me an email at

Until Next Time, Sara Lyn Chacon, Unfiltrd Staff

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