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Instagram’s Algorithm Explained for Brands

Nelli Tokleh - Senior Social Media Strategist

Wondering how the Instagram algorithm really works?

The goal of this platform’s algorithm is to keep users on the app longer by providing interesting content. It shows what it thinks users want to see based on their past activity on the app. (And for me, that’s a lot of pet and coffee videos!) Multiple algorithms are at play including on the Feed, Stories, Reels and in the Explore section. We’ve leveraged our experiences, as well as what Instagram tells us, to help brands better understand how the algorithm works in order to reach audiences.

In this post, we break down the distinct algorithm rankings for each part of the app and how brands can work to benefit from it. Take a look!

Instagram Algorithms Explained – Feed, Stories, Reels, Explore


The Feed will reflect content based on posts a user has liked, shared, saved or commented on. Also, if the app sees how popular a post is among one’s network of followers, users may likely see this content too. Instagram also looks at the information about the user who posted to see how many times they have interacted with that person. The more a user is inclined to take an action on a post, the higher up that post will show in their Feed. In return, it’s a better chance for a brand’s post to be seen among multiple users and garnering higher metrics on the content.​


Instagram looks at one’s viewing history on Stories posted by other users, and it will prioritize those account Stories at the top of the app. It also looks at how often one engages with a user’s Stories, including liking the content or sending that person or brand a direct message. Brands are encouraged to upload Stories, as it’s an opportunity to show up on the top of users’ Feeds once the app is opened. To encourage followers (and non-followers) to interact with a Story, brands can include one of the many engagement stickers on this content. It’s a simple and entertaining way for users to connect with a brand in a matter of seconds.


The platform continues to emphasize Reels — even showing Reels from accounts users don’t follow (which IG hopes is interesting content)​. The Reels section will show similar content that a user has already engaged with from other users, as well as trending videos it thinks users want to see. It also takes into account trending audio and visual features that are being widely used across the app. (Brands would need to have the rights to add popular music on their Reels or opt for other songs that are safe to use.) For brands, it’s a no brainer to create Reels and test how this content performs. Once a brand has a better understanding of what works and doesn’t work with their audience, it will help them come up with a better strategy. For the algorithms to prioritize a Reel on the feeds, keep in mind that content should be interesting, entertaining and even funny, while being visually appealing. 


The Explore page was created to help users discover new content and includes photos and Reels from accounts not followed. The Explore grid features content that is popular among users, plus it shows users content they may find interesting, based on their past activity of posts they’ve liked, saved, shared and commented on. If a brand creates really engaging Reel content that is being noticed by fans, the IG algorithm may feature the Reel on the Explore tab, creating an opportunity for the content to be seen by a wider audience.

What’s Next?

For brands, leverage these algorithms for overall success on Instagram. Focus on creating engaging content and feeding the algorithms and developing content that adheres to what IG is currently emphasizing to get the best results on reach, impressions and engagement. Engagement should be the primary focus, especially for long-term growth and success. Be sure the activity produced remains consistent and authentic to stay true to the brand’s audience.

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