Everything You Need To Know About the Instagram Reels Algorithm

Emma Duke
November 14, 2022
Last Updated On
instagram reels stills

It’s no surprise that short-form video has been saturating the social media landscape over the past year through numerous delivery vectors. This shift to video-first is becoming increasingly popular for personal and business accounts seeking an audience, brand, and monetary growth.

Despite TikTok's dominance in the realm of social entertainment, creators and marketers should be careful to place only some of their eggs in one basket when focusing on reach for their social media content strategies. While TikTok has branded Netflix as a direct competitor for social entertainment, Instagram still holds a competitive edge. This visual platform not only maintains a daily audience of over half a billion active users but of those users, 20% of its usage is seen by consuming Reels. It is evident that Instagram plays a significant role in capturing consumers' engagement.

How Important Is the Instagram Reels Algorithm to Brands?

Knowing that over 90% of Instagram users already follow at least one business account, there is a huge opportunity for brands to leverage Reels for their growth and visibility. 83% of its consumers use Instagram to discover new products and services, which means that from an e-commerce perspective, Instagram Reels could be the holy grail for optimal discovery. Even though marketers cannot rely solely on one platform alone, Instagram Reels for businesses should be critical to any manager's social media strategy. With its ability for uncapped reach, Reels have maintained their position even as the landscape constantly changes and new players are introduced. 

Seems clear, right? Creating more Reels on Instagram will increase the chances of a brand going viral through increased views, followers, and engagement⁠—resulting in brand success. However, if you're in the weeds of managing your brand's social media, you'll know it's not as easy as it appears.

Due to Instagram's algorithm, a seemingly black-and-white content strategy has proved its complexity as it maximizes reach, virality, and brand awareness. More and more users have expressed frustration with the platform, as they've noticed their days are spent figuring out how to make Reels and the algorithm work for them. No matter how much time and energy marketers invest, even with an unlimited video budget, their content will struggle to succeed if there is no clear direction and understanding of how the algorithms work. 

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. Instagram has confirmed that its algorithms prioritize Reels over all other forms of media. Consequently, if you regularly post Reels, the algorithm will be more likely to recommend your post over all other visual content to people who aren't necessarily following you and ultimately widen your reach. If increasing your brand's visibility is top of mind for you and your team, this article will not only help you understand how the Instagram algorithm works, but it will also give you tips and tricks for utilizing it to grow your business in 2022. 

How Does the Instagram Reels Algorithm Work?

Due to Instagram's influx of users, the algorithms were introduced to ensure that consumers see the content they are interested in as their feeds became overloaded with information. Although sometimes controversial, the algorithms are designed to improve user experience by tailoring content to each individual. For example, as Instagram's user base grew, the Feed and Stories algorithm intended to prevent users from missing posts from their closest connections. On the other hand, the Reels and Explore algorithms aim to help users discover new content. This relates to our previous point about Instagram users discovering new products/brands through the app. 

The Instagram Reels algorithm determines who sees your content - but how? The top 4 factors are as follows:

Relationships

Instagram's algorithm considers who you interact with and who interacts with you. Connections are based on who is tagging you in their content and who you are tagging in yours. It also considers when you’re being mentioned as well as what you’re being mentioned or tagged for. Through this ripple effect, Instagram will show your content first to the accounts that interact with you most. Following that, the algorithm will evaluate the size of your followers' social networks by pushing your feed to the top of their Explore and Reels pages.

Common Interests

Each Instagram account has a customized algorithm based on the person's likes and interactions. For example, accounts that feature makeup tutorial videos are more likely to be shown Reels about makeup and the beauty industry.

Relevance 

The Instagram Reels algorithm prioritizes relevant content that is fresh and new. Being up-to-date and consistently posting new creative can increase your chances of a viral post and the algorithm working in your favor. Always keep your finger on the pulse of your audience's preferences and stay up to date on trends.

Relevancy can also be affected by the user frequency of the app. Only the most relevant and up-to-date content will appear for consumers if they interact with Instagram infrequently.

Popularity 

Of course, already having a significant following can benefit your reach, and Instagram often favors these accounts. Don't despair if this isn't you. The Instagram team has confirmed that it is looking for smaller creators, so if your account shows high interactions with likes, comments, and shares, this shows that the people are enjoying your content. To achieve high engagement, always consider your more comprehensive Instagram marketing strategy when tying it in with the creative you produce. The ability to access data and insights will also significantly impact your engagement rate and provide insight into how to move forward with your Instagram content strategy.

Where and How to Access Instagram Reels

Because the Instagram reels algorithm works off multiple variables that decide who sees your content, you need to know that besides the following page where your followers see your in-feed grid, your content can also be discovered on other Instagram pages. 

1. Instagram Reels Tab

Within the Instagram app, you can find this by clicking the Reels tab. Your videos can be found by people who don't necessarily follow you (or maybe do). With two areas of increased visibility, the algorithm selects these short-form videos based on several signals. For example, if someone has been actively engaging with beauty content, they will likely be exposed to similar content based on the algorithm's recommendation. Again, the algorithm's main objective is to curate and customize individuals' feeds with content they are likely to engage with.  

2. The Explore Page 

On the Explore page, Reels can be heavily featured along with other forms of content. Explore features new-to-you accounts, increasing brands' chances of being discovered by new consumers. In addition to information about the post, the algorithm considers the creator who posted it and their past history of engagement on similar posts. In addition, it analyzes user interactions with others on the platform, increasing visibility.

How to Hack the Instagram Reels Algorithm

It doesn’t need to be complicated. Now that you understand how Instagram Reels work, let's learn how to hack the algorithm to reach as many people as possible: 

Entertainment Is Key

The primary desire of consumers is to be entertained, so it's no surprise that Instagram prioritizes content that meets that need. You should ensure your content is relatable, easily digestible, and inspiring if you want to grab someone's attention. Again, ensure you have access to relevant data and insights to determine what your audiences prefer. 

Attention, Attention, Attention. Within the first five seconds of your video, make sure your team nails the hook to capture your audience's attention. Use tools such as voiceover or additional text to reinforce your brand messaging and make it more compelling.  

Still don’t know where to start? This short-form video guide includes best practices to get your social team started.

High Quality Content

Let’s talk about quality over quantity. There's no need for an exuberant budget or top-of-the-line equipment to produce video content. However, shooting in 9:16 vertical format at high resolution (1080 x 1920 pixels) will fit perfectly on the Reels and explore tabs, enhancing the user experience. 

Regardless of whether your content's entertaining or novel, keep in mind that the algorithm will not favor videos with blurry or grainy content, muffled audio, or recycled from other social media platforms. Consider aligning your content with Instagram's community guidelines and leveraging the platform's tools surrounding trending hashtags, audio, transitions, etc. With its algorithm, Instagram wants its users to use its tools, so keeping it native to its platform can boost your ranking.

Consistency

While wanting to stay fresh, the Reels algorithm actually encourages brands and creators to post more often. Having a regular and consistent posting schedule can increase a brand's chance of going viral on its explore page, as the algorithm is always searching for the next best thing. Consider scheduling and planning your content in advance to ease the pressure of posting consistently. 

Be Creative and Know Your Niche

Keeping up with current trends can help the algorithm favor your content and attract new audiences, but it is a delicate balance. If you jump on a trend too late, you may create a low-quality "mimic" that does the opposite of increasing your brand's visibility. It’s also not the only way to ensure increased ranking on the algorithm. Being authentic will help the algorithm better target your content to those most likely to engage with it, increasing your visibility to new users on the Explore and Reels tabs. 

It's not that you can't experiment with new content and trends; Instagram encourages it. The key is being creative and topically consistent within your brand’s identity framework. 

Upgrade Your Instagram Reels Game With Dash Hudson

Knowing what Reels are and how to make them is great, but how can you be sure they have the impact you intended? Views and likes only sometimes indicate the kind of engagement brands want from their Reels. Understanding and analyzing the Reel's performance indicators is the last puzzle piece needed for truly hacking the Reels algorithm. 

Measuring success with Dash Hudson’s Instagram Insights and Instagram Reels Tools can help brands improve their ranking in the algorithm, grow their community, and refine their social media strategy. Thus, keeping you and your brand competitive in this ever-changing social entertainment landscape.

Instagram Reels dashboard snapshot from Dash Hudson platform

FAQs

How does Instagram decide what Reels to show you?

Think of it as a personal shopper. Instagram decides what Reels it shows users by analyzing their current and past activity on the platform. That decision is essentially based on what a user likes, what they’ve commented on, and how they've engaged in the past. These signals then allow the algorithm to better understand what type of content would be most relevant for them personally.  

Why do my Reels get less views?

Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why a Reel isn't successful. The most common reason for Reels receiving fewer views than others is not adhering to Instagram's community guidelines. Other factors to consider are signs of repurposed content with watermarks, overall brand engagement, size of social community, and content relevance to the audience.

How do you hit an Instagram Reel algorithm?

Keep in mind that many factors go into the algorithm's decision to increase your ranking and virality on a Reel. These factors include the relationships cultivated by the account, the relevance of its content, the timeliness, and the account's popularity

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