The Instagram Algorithm In 2020: Part 1

Updated: Jun 24, 2020


It’s time to fact-check what you’ve heard about the Instagram algorithm and engagement.

Do videos get less engagement? Do hashtags work? Why are my impressions so low? How can my posts get seen more?

It’s about time we debunked those Instagram myths and answered those questions, once and for all! We’re listing the facts about Instagram’s algorithm and tips for using the algorithm to your advantage.

Let’s break down the following:

  • Facts about the Instagram algorithm

  • Using the Instagram algorithm to your advantage

Facts About The Instagram Algorithm

The facts below have been confirmed by Instagram, most through a Live Q&A they hosted.

1. Photos and Videos Are Treated Equally

Engage with the content you want to see more of. Instagram learns what you engage with and shows you more of that content or from that account. If you engage more with photos than videos, you’ll most likely see more photos than videos on your feed.

Social Light Tip: Videos appear on the Explore page more often and larger than photos. Experiment with posting videos to see how that affects your engagement. Videos also attract a longer attention time than photos.

2. Fake Engagement, Followers, And Engagement Pods Don’t Count

Instagram can now tell (more often than not) where interaction comes from and if it’s authentic. If these methods are used and identified, Instagram won’t necessarily use them against you, they just won’t count them towards your overall engagement and ranking in someone's feed or for the Explore page. However, we do not recommend most of these methods, as they could get action-blocked and cause you to not be able to engage or post for a while.

3. Comment Length Doesn’t Matter

Rumor has it that a comment has to be 3 words or more to count as engagement.

False. All comments are considered engagement - even if it’s just an emoji!

Social Light Tip: respond to people who comment on your posts! It’ll up your engagement and people may be more inclined to comment if they know you’re listening and are willing to start a conversation.

4. Personal, Business and Creator Accounts Are Treated The Same

Another speculation about the Instagram algorithm: changing your account to a different type affects your engagement.

Instagram confirmed this is incorrect, stating: “No, we do not favor posts from business or verified accounts in Feed. If you interact with that content more, of course, it is more likely to appear at the top of your Feed.”

The more you interact with someone, the more often you’ll see their posts, as Instagram is understanding that you’re willing to engage with them. This is why it’s so important for brands to understand who their audience is and what posts they’ll most likely engage with.

5. The First 30-Minutes Myth

We’ve never heard this one but for those of you who have, here’s the truth straight from the horse's mouth: posts are not prioritized in the first 30 minutes of posting just because of the amount of engagement they received in that amount of time.

However, it’s a good idea to learn what days and times your audience engages with you most when you post. While Instagram’s insights are a useful tool for analyzing your data, most reporting or scheduling systems can provide you a more in-depth look into this information.

Using The Instagram Algorithm To Your Advantage

When in doubt, go all out! Use everything (within reason) that Instagram has to offer.

1. Story Stickers

Often pleasing to the eye, a fun way to catch someone’s attention, and a great way to encourage someone to engage with you! However, the best stickers that are most effective for engagement are the Question stickers, Emoji sliders, and Polls.

2. Intentional Captions

Don’t just slap any ol’ caption up there. Think of what may entice your audience to interact or (especially) comment on your post.

Social Light Tip: The following are most effective in encouraging engagement:

  • Ask a question

  • Add a call-to-action

  • Shocking/attention-grabbing

  • Giving others a safe space to feel heard

3. Cross-Post On Your Own Platform

Share your Feed post to your Instagram story. Given that Stories are seen more often by people who most likely care about what you post, this will notify your followers fairly quickly that you have a new post. Add a catchy line to get people to go to that post, or put a sticker over your eyes for a new eyeshadow tutorial you just posted.

You can even share a little bit of your IGTV video on your Stories, and it’ll automatically play!

4. Hashtags, Hashtags, Hashtags

Keep them relevant to what you’re posting about and make sure they’re searchable. You don’t want to use a hashtag that has barely any results - that means people aren’t using it OR searching for it.

Take a look at what other individuals or brands with high engagement are using for their hashtags. This ensures you’re not only using successful hashtags, but hashtags that are relevant to you and your brand, and are attracting people who want to engage with your type or style of content.

Social Light Tip: See a cute caption during your research? Write it down and save it for later! Same goes with hashtags.

5. Take Advantage Of The Backend

Instagram provides you a look into your data under the “Insights” tab. This gives you a full run-down of what’s really going on with your content and your account. This is a great tool to figure out which content your audience prefers and can help you develop a successful content and posting pattern.


Our next blog will be Part 2 of the Instagram Algorithm, so Subscribe on our website to be notified!

In the meantime...need some help? That’s what we’re here for! Take a look at Social Light’s Company Deck to learn more about how we can help you - then let’s jump on a call to get to know each other and discuss the future of your brand!

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