Hacking the Instagram Algorithm in 2021 (+ 10 Growth Tips!)

Alan VanToai

March 23, 2021

Have you ever posted a piece of content that you thought would perform exceptionally well on Instagram just to check your analytics and see it was your worst performing piece all week?

Why is that, honestly?

The short answer: you didn't optimize for the Instagram algorithm.

If you want to drive more engagement and see massive growth on Instagram this year, then you need to learn how to optimize for the algorithm.

Today, we are going to take a deep dive and discover how you can see 10x the growth this year by simply hacking the Instagram algorithm.

Are you ready to acheive your Instagram growth goals in 2021? Then let's get into it!

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?

Instagram has one goal - to keep you on the app for as long as possible. The longer users stay on the platform, the more money Instagram makes from advertisements.

The Instagram algorithm can be broken down into four simple steps it uses to assess the content deemed deserving of the most exposure. It looks something like this:

  1. Instagram detects the order of posts
  2. Prioritizes the best posts - the posts that will keep users engaged and active on the platform for longer
  3. Pushes that highly engageable and relevant content to the top
  4. Rewards the most visibility to that content

Essentially, the more quality content you post, the more engagement you will receive from your audience. The longer your audience interacts with your content, the more money Instagram makes via advertising, thus rewarding you with more visibility on the app.

The Six Key Factors in the Instagram Algorithm

The Instagram Algorithm seems simple enough, right? Post high quality content and get more exposure on Instagram.

Well, that's essentially it, but there are six key factors at play that dictates the order of the feed.

In order of importance, those factors are:

  • Interest - Based on machine learning and your past behavior, Instagram will predict the posts that you will care most about and rank them higher in the feed. If your goal is to grow your audience this year, being consistent with your content will give your audience more opportunity to interact with you, thus signaling to Instagram to rank your content higher in the feed.
  • Relationship - The accounts you frequently interact with are the ones that show up regularly on your feed. The main accounts on your feed are likely friends, family, brands, and content creators you enjoy. That is why building relationships with your followers will lead to increased exposure for your content on the feed.
  • Timeliness - How consistent are you with posting? Instagram favors persistence and will rank you higher the more consistent you are with producing fresh content.
  • Frequency - How frequently do you go on Instagram? Frequency on the app signals how to organize the feed. People that check frequently will see feed posts appear in chronological order while others who check less consistently will see a feed that has more relevant content - hint, they want you to stay on longer!
  • Following - The more people you follow, the more pieces of content Instagram has to choose from when organizing your feed. ****How active and engaged is your following? This plays a factor in the algorithm. If you have 100k followers but half are bots/ghosts, then you won't perform well since your posts will lack robust engagement.
  • Usage - How long does a person stay on Instagram? The session length will depend on how the algorithm shows you content. If you go on for short periods of time, then Instagram will show you the highlights from your most important accounts. Instagram will dive deeper into the catalog the longer you spend on the app in order to show you fresh content. If you don't follow many accounts, Instagram could run out of content and then will show you suggested content based on your interests.

Tally Weijl Generated $466k in Referral Sales, 8,000 Pieces of UGC, and 48k Instagram Engagements in 12 Months with CrewFire

Read how they did it

How Did the Instagram Algorithm Change in 2021?

Instagram Algorithm IG is actually split into separate algorithms, each one created specifically for the main features Instagram offers. Understanding how each of the functions will help get more visibility on your content.

Instagram Stories

Having a sound story strategy in play in 2021 will help you hack the Instagram Algorithm. The stories you see at the start of your feed are from accounts you engage with most frequently. Posting often and consistently will help get more eyes on your content and push your content to the front of the feed.

Reels & IGTV

Instagram will continue to push video content, especially reels, to keep up with its biggest competitor, TikTok.

Similar to feed posts, Instagram will show your content to the people who interact with it the most. Always post your reels to your feed and optimize each post for SEO. Instagram wants to promote new features, so there is a huge opportunity for your reels to reach the discovery page.

Feed Posts

The goal for beating the IG algorithm with your feed posts is by creating valuable content for your audience and aiming to get more shares and saves.

Remember that now, you can search keywords in IG, so write a captivating, SEO-friendly caption and leverage niche keywords, and carousel to gain more visibility for your feed posts.

How to Hack the Instagram Algorithm - 10 Tips for Brands & Content Creators!

If you are looking to help boost your content and grow your community on Instagram this year, then here are a few tips to help you gain more exposure on Instagram and hack the algorithm this year.

#1 Aim to Get More Saves & Shares on Your Posts

When your followers save and share your content, it signals to Instagram that your content is valuable and important to your audience, thus helping you move to the top of the feed. Saves and shares will reign supreme over likes and comments in 2021!

#2 Be Consistent, but Relevant

Most large influencers will say they really started growing when they were consistent, so this means posting nearly every day and keeping your content fresh.

But, there is a caveat to that. When posting, always remember that quality beats quantity. Ensure that you are resonating with your audience and that your content delivers each time you post so that you can boost engagement and add value to the feed.

#3 Improve Your Retention Rate

Instagram monitors how long your audience interacts with your post! And they will reward you with the higher retention rate you have.

If you are creating video content but find that your bounce rate is high and most of your audience doesn't view it to completion, then consolidate that content! Make it punchy so you keep that retention rate high.

#4 Add Video Captions!

Captions simply ensure that your audience can watch your content even with the sound off.

Not to mention, a majority of Instagram users will scroll or watch stories without the sound on. Prepare for this by adding captions to any video content you make.

(via HubSpot)

Plus, it also ensures that your hearing-impaired audience can enjoy your content with ease.

#5 Post a SneakPeek for Your IGTV

While IGTV is an important tool to utilize on Instagram to help your audience get to know you and engage with your content, but there isn't a real way for IG to monetize IGTV at this time, so there is the least amount of exposure with IGTV.

But, if you want to increase visibility and engagement on your IGTV, post a preview on your regular feed to get more exposure.

#6 Spend Time on Your Caption

Instagram can tell when you expand a caption and keep reading. This signals to Instagram that your post is meaningful and is adding value to your following.

Not to mention, you get the added SEO benefits when you invest time into your narrative.

#7 Engage with Your Community

Don't post then ghost. Spend the first hour or two replying to comments and engaging with your community! You want to create social proof and keep the conversation going with your followers.

#8 Spice Up Your Feed posts

Single image posts are great, but posting carousals gives more of an opportunity for engagement and provides a longer retention rate.

Why post one image when you could post 5 or 10? Where your first photo might not resonate with some members of your audience, the third post could. This gives more opportunity to appeal to a wider audience by adding a variety!

#9 Watch Your Timing

IG wants to keep the feed updated and relevant and will favor the most recent posts, so be intentional about the time you post.

#10 Remove the TikTok Watermark from Your Reels

Since Instagram is in direct competition with TikTok, they will give less exposure to Reels that are published with the TikTok watermark.

But, if you are creating amazing TikTok content and want to save yourself time but still get massive exposure on Instagram, all you have to do is go to Snaptik.app or MusicallyDown which will remove the TikTok watermark and you will be good to go and repurpose that content on your Instagram!


Are you ready to hack the Instagram algorithm?

Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to hitting all of your growth goals in 2021!

Ready to turn your customers into your army of brand ambassadors? If so, check out CrewFire's epic demo video to see how you can drive more referrals, word-of-mouth, and user-generated content for your Shopify store.

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Alan VanToai

Co-Founder of CrewFire


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