How the Instagram algorithm works for Stories, Feeds, Reels and Explore

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has released a new video and blog post explaining how the Instagram algorithm works for Stories, Feeds, Reels and Explore.

In addition to ranking, it provides more information on shadowbanning, checking your account status, and best practices for building an Instagram audience.

Below is an update on the original Instagram algorithm video from 2021.

It’s more than an algorithm

The first point Mosseri emphasizes is that the Instagram algorithm is not a single algorithm, but many algorithms and processes that work together to personalize the content each Instagram user sees.

Why does Instagram use algorithms? Because everyone is different, every Instagram user should see content that matches their interests.

That’s what Instagram is trying to achieve with ranking – a personalized experience that keeps users engaged with the Instagram platform for a longer period of time.

Ranking Stories: How the Instagram Stories algorithm works

When you open the Instagram app, the first thing you see at the top is a series of the latest stories from accounts you follow.

To determine which stories appear first, Instagram analyzes all the stories of those you’ve followed in the last 24 hours. The goal is to use proxies (guesses) to decide which stories are most likely to interest you.

Instagram wants to predict which stories you are likely to open, reply to, react to, or like.

To make these predictions, Instagram uses signals — previous interactions you’ve had with Stories. Some of the key signals that affect the order of stories in your Instagram app include the following:

  • How often do you view stories by an author (account/creator)?
  • How often do you interact with an author’s stories?
  • How close you are to an author based on how many times you’ve messaged them.

Instagram hopes that ranking stories through personalized proxies, signals, and predictions will ultimately result in the stories of the people you care about most being ranked first.

Feed ranking: How the Instagram feed algorithm works

The Instagram feed aims to provide users with the best content posted since they last used the app.

It will feature a mix of content from those you follow and Instagram accounts that may interest you based on a range of predictions.

These predictions are based on the following top signals:

  • How likely are you to comment, like or share the post?
  • How likely are you to tap the profile?
  • How much time do you expect to spend on the post?

Instagram uses your interaction history, post popularity, information about the author and how many times you have interacted with the author to determine the order in which content is displayed.

You can customize the content of your feed by designating your favorite accounts, which will place posts from those accounts at the top of the feed. You can also switch to the following feed, which only shows posts from accounts you follow chronologically.

How the Instagram algorithm works for Stories, Feeds, Reels and ExploreScreenshot from Instagram, May 2023

Ranking Reels: How the Instagram Reels algorithm works

The goal of Instagram Reels is to entertain users. Instagram mostly serves Reels from accounts you don’t follow.

First, Instagram examines the reels you have interacted with in the past and the reels that other users similar to you have liked.

Next, it guesses which reels you’re most likely to watch to the end, share with friends, or visit the audio page for your content creation efforts.

To make these assumptions, Instagram uses signals such as the history of the reels you’ve viewed, information about the reel, information about the author of the reel, and how many times you have interacted with the author.

This is combined to create an immersive, fun and delightful tab.

Ranking Explore: How the Instagram Explore algorithm works

Like Reels, Instagram Explore aims to bring the best content from accounts you don’t follow to help you discover new interesting things on Instagram.

Instagram predicts which posts you are likely to like, save, or share.

It uses signals such as post popularity, topics that tend to interest you, information about the author, and how many times you have interacted with the author.

Shadowbanning and Account Status

In addition to explaining how ranking works in different areas of Instagram, Mosseri wanted to talk about shadowbanning and debunk a common myth about it.

Some creators believe they’ve been shadow banned because their content isn’t getting the reach they expect or want.

While there has been speculation that Instagram is reducing the reach of accounts to “encourage” them to pay for advertising, Mosseri believes this is a myth.

He explained that it is in Instagram’s best interest to connect people with the most compelling content possible in order to increase the time spent on the app and ultimately increase ad revenue.

To help users, Instagram has created an account status section detailing all the reasons Instagram may limit an account’s visibility on the platform.

How the Instagram algorithm works for Stories, Feeds, Reels and ExploreScreenshot from Instagram, May 2023

How to grow your Instagram audience

To wrap up the video, Mosseri shared the following best practices to help you grow your audience and reach on Instagram.

  • Because every creator and audience is different, it’s important to experiment to find out what content drives the most engagement from your audience.
  • Use insights to uncover trends that allow you to improve the overall quality and user engagement with your content.
  • Collaborate with other popular YouTubers in your niche to reach new audiences with original content.
  • Check your account status to ensure you’ve taken the necessary steps to follow the community guidelines and remove any restrictions on your visibility.
  • Try to create original content instead of aggregating content from others.

Have questions? Mosseri invites Instagram followers to participate in regular AMAs on Instagram via Stories.

Featured image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock