How does the new Instagram algorithm work?

Comment fonctionne le nouvel algorithme d'instagram

Instagram announced a new algorithm in early 2018. What are the changes and how can you adapt your account to take advantage of them?

A change in the algorithm is the blogger/influencer’s pet peeve… Yes, the unknown is scary, yes, the risk of losing a certain visibility is scary. In fact, understanding how Instagram and its algorithm work will allow you to improve your presence on Instagram. Indeed, it is no longer only the size of the audience that counts. Any driven person can therefore promote their content. The key is to learn some of the criteria in order to make them a strength rather than a disadvantage.

Lucky for you, I’m passionate about the subject and I’ve read a lot of articles to find out about these new features. At the same time, I am a public relations student (specializing in digital communication) and a blogger. I hope that I can give you the keys to understand this new operating mode and help you use Instagram. This article will be composed of two parts: my advice to optimize a publication and some explanations about the new algorithm.

Photographs by Robin Ceccarini.

Optimize your publication

Instagram is a visual social platform that has become highly professionalized over the years. One of the priorities of the new algorithm is to focus on the quality of the content. This means that the content must be relevant to the community. It is therefore better to spend time thinking about the type of photos you want to share and focusing on the quality. I will also write a series of articles on the use of Lightroom, including an article about the creation of your own filter.

Use hashtags correctly

Photography is not the only thing you need to be aware of. Just as a site must be optimized in order to be visible on search engines, an Instagram post must also be optimized. If on the web we talk about keywords, here we talk about hashtags. Be careful, however, Instagram has strengthened its criteria for hashtags:

  • The hashtag must be relevant and consistent with the subject on the photo

  • It is better to vary the hashtags from one photo to another, in order to prove to Instagram that you are not copying/pasting from a pre-made hashtag list or that you are not a robot that posts automatically.

  • If you modify your hashtags in the first few hours after your publication, they will no longer be valuable to Instagram.

  • You must have a lot of hashtags, but not too many. If you write 20 hashtags, Instagram will penalize you. It is better to have 10 specific hashtags than 20 general hashtags


If these principles are respected, Instagram will promote the suggested content by means of these “keywords”. Moreover, there’s a new feature this year: the possibility of subscribing to a hashtag in order to see all the related publications in the news feed. It is therefore better to focus on the selection of these hashtags. What is more, Instagram tends to favour users who use the new features.

Regarding publications, many articles have already been published, identifying the type of posts that are the most successful and boost engagement:

Publications with geolocation get 50% more engagement.

Those with a human presence (especially when the faces are visible) receive, on average, more likes.

And those mentioning other accounts in the legend (@) gain, on average, 56% more engagement.

On average, photographs that are bright, desaturated or have blue/grey tones receive more likes.

Of course, this varies according to the interests of your community. You should therefore carry out tests to identify the publications, among the creations that are similar to yours, your subscribers love the most. Don’t hesitate to use the “Poll” function in stories to pinpoint the preferences of your followers.

Comment fonctionne le nouvel algorithme d'instagram

Encourage action

Finally, you should encourage your community to interact with the publication by asking questions in the legend, for example. These interactions will be important for the visibility of the publication.

Post at the best possible time

Now all you have to do is post your publication at the time your community is active. If you have a professional account (just link a Facebook page to the Instagram account), you have access to this information in your statistics. You can see the time slots during which your audience is more active. Publishing at regular times helps retain your community, but you don’t need to become obsessed with your schedule either.

The new Instagram algorithm

How does the algorithm work ?

When a publication is posted, it will be instantly visible in the news feed of 10% of your community (not a lot, right?). Everything happens during the first hour. Depending on the number of likes, comments, people who saved your content, profile visits, Instagram will see if the post is liked or not. If so, it will then be considered relevant and promoted to a wider audience.

This relatively simple mode of operation can be frightening at first. 10% of the community… We really feel aggrieved. But in the end, I think it’s positive. Let me explain…

Comment fonctionne le nouvel algorithme d'instagram

Recently, buying followers have become commonplace for social networks, including Instagram. If it seems like a simple solution to build a base for a new account, or to accelerate its evolution, it is actually a poisoned gift. If ethics does not convince you to resist, the logic of the new algorithm should do the trick. Indeed, when purchasing followers, the community grows, but not the engagement. In other words, a number of accounts will follow your Instagram, but will not react to your posts. As a result, among the 10% of people who will see your publication, some will be ghost accounts that will not help improve its visibility.


Interactions that are taken into account are, among others, comments. Here again, Instagram strengthens its criteria by only taking into account comments of 4 words or more. I guess it’s aimed at avoiding Instagram pods. These are user groups that keep themselves informed of each of their publications and automatically comment on the publications of other members of the pod. A technique that was developed by influencers to fight the Instagram algorithm but that will no longer be enough.

In fact, I sincerely believe that you will make better use of your time by sincerely commenting on publications that you find relevant, by creating a real relationship with other users. They will tend to come to your profile and interact with your content sincerely. As a result, in your next publications, you will get more interactions that are taken into account by the application, and your content will be valued.

Comment fonctionne le nouvel algorithme d'instagram

Instagram is a social network. This means that posting and waiting for a miracle to get the attention of other users will not work. To gain engagement, you will need to give engagement too. Being active on the platform, discovering new accounts, reacting to other people’s stories, posting regularly, creating stories, going live, responding to comments, chatting with others… The possibilities are endless and are made available for you to use. The response time to comments also affects the reach of a publication. Instagram will therefore value active users.

Be Authentic

This means that what Instagram is looking for is authenticity. Originally, the application was created so that users could share snapshots of their daily lives. There is this notion of sharing. Be sincerely interested in what others create, and don’t act like a king waiting for others to come and show interest without ever reciprocating. Go back to basics, don’t be blinded by statistics and focus on the human aspect. The rest will follow.

By the way, with all the current tools and a little judgment, accounts that use too many “window dressing” techniques are quickly uncovered. In the long term, these are not the ones who will benefit from a great active community and they are not the ones who will be picked for real interesting and constructive collaborations. Count on the long term, your real and active community and quality.

I hope that this article will have shed some light on this new algorithm and that you like this new category of articles. Feel free to comment on what you think, and if you think of other topics that you would like me to develop, don’t hesitate!

Comment fonctionne le nouvel algorithme d'instagram

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