If you were left confused about how the Instagram algorithm actually works following the move away from a chronological feed – you’re not alone. For marketers and non-marketers alike, understanding the new algorithm has been nothing short of a mystery, leaving many of us scratching our heads about what the best way forward is.

Are videos preferred to photos? Does timing matter? Is quantity important?

Thankfully, the mystery has been solved. Instagram kindly decided to clear up the confusion by answering our burning questions. And now we’re breaking it down for you so you know exactly how the Instagram algorithm works in 2020. Let’s go!

#1 Photos and videos are treated equally

There’s been a recent surge of video content on Instagram, along with the claim that video content will get your post ranked higher in people’s feed. But it turns out, this isn’t a thing.

Video content is great and you most definitely should still generate it. But it’s not given greater priority over photos when it comes to the algorithm.
What actually happens is that the algorithm crafts your feed depending on how you use Instagram. If you watch more videos then expect to see more videos and vice versa – much like user engagement profiling in Facebook (unsurprisingly, given they own it).

So now that’s been ironed out, it really comes down to what works best for your brand. Video content does naturally attract a longer viewing period, so could be an easy win for your engagement. Videos also are featured 4x as much as photos on the Instagram explore page, giving the potential for a much greater reach. But what works for one business might not work for another. And maybe your audience… just prefers images? Only you will figure out what works best for your customers so experiment with your content, safe in the knowledge that you’re not missing out on priority ranking.

Tip: With videos and images treated equally, it won’t hurt to try out more videos in your feed this year. It could be huge for your engagement!

#2 Fake interactions can’t trick the algorithm

Rumour had it that groups of people (otherwise known as ‘pods’) could agree to like and comment on each other’s posts. This supposedly would work two-fold. Firstly you’d gain a whole bunch of (fake) engagement. But secondly, this quick spike in engagement was believed to trick the algorithm to rank your post higher.

Essentially these pods are like texting the group chat to like and comment on your latest post. If the group chat was 2000+ strong.

But Instagram has confirmed that the latest algorithm shifts now recognise inauthentic activity and makes relevant adjustments accordingly. So even if you manage to get away with faking your engagement, you’re likely to get penalised for it eventually. Whether that be via a feature ban or account suspension. Genuine interaction is really the key to building long-lasting and meaningful engagement on Instagram so don’t be tempted by short-term (fake) wins.

Tip: Stick to authenticity and transparency! Trying to game the system will get you nowhere.

#3 All comment lengths count as engagement

The myth that comments do not count towards engagement if it’s less than 3 words is just that. A myth. Embrace all your comments, even those containing a single emoji! 🙌

But whilst we’re here, it’s worth mentioning that although comment length doesn’t matter, the Instagram algorithm in 2020 does still place great importance on comments when ranking content. So engaging with your comments is a smart move if you’re wanting to be looked upon favourably in the eyes of the all-seeing algorithm. Not to mention you’ll show your audience you care about their thoughts which can promote future interactions!

Tip: Try to regularly reply to your comments in a timely manner for a quick algorithm and engagement win.

#4 Account types are treated equally

Switching to a business account gives you access to invaluable analytics data so you can easily track your audience demographics, organic and paid reach of your content. But there’s a deep-rooted fear that switching from a personal account to a business or creator account would see engagement plummet.

Granted these fears came hand-in-hand with the introduction of Instagram’s non-chronological feed, which prioritised the relationship between poster and viewer and consequently encourage the belief that business posts would be bottom of the food chain.

But Instagram has put these fears to bed. Posts aren’t favoured if they come from a particular business type. What counts is whether your users regularly engage with your content. If they were engaging regularly when you were a personal profile, then you’ll likely still rank higher in their feeds once you’ve switched to a business profile.

Tip: As a business, you need to be using a business account. There’s too much value to miss out on otherwise!

#5 The first 30 minutes after posting doesn’t determine your ranking

That’s right. Forget the rumour that your post is ranked depending on how much engagement it got in the first 30 minutes.

The algorithm will place your content in front of those who regularly engage, so it can still gain traction well after 30 minutes since posting 😌.

Tip: It’s still a good idea to post when your audience is most active. Not sure when this is? Our scheduling platform Shareable, will calculate this for you.

The takeaway from all of this is that the Instagram algorithm isn’t here to catch businesses out. The more the algorithm thinks you’ll like a post, the higher it’ll appear on your feed. And of course, this is how it’ll be for your target audience too. The key is to generate content that they want to see and that they want to like, comment and share. This engagement is what will keep your content appearing at the top of their feed time and time again.
Want help in getting social media to work for your business? Get in touch to discuss your goals with us today and never worry about the Instagram algorithm again!