Instagram’s big algorithm reveal: how brands can crack the code to drive more social conversions

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, revealed the app’s algorithms last week to encourage engagement, as competition with TikTok heats up.

Social platforms are turning up the heat as competition gets tougher. TikTok is taking more and more of marketing budgets and Twitter also revealed how it favours certain posts in an attempt to entice users, and advertisers, on to the platform with algorithms for the best engagement.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, last revealed the algorithm in 2021. “We want to do a better job of explaining how Instagram works,” he said in a blog post. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there, and we recognise that we can do more to help people, especially creators, understand what we do.”

Different formats, different algorithms

The biggest surprise from brands was the difference between the different formats on Instagram. Feed, Stories, Explore, Reels and Search all have varied algorithms determining whether the app will show users more of people they know or new suggested accounts to discover, depending on a user’s activity and engagements..

PMW spoke to smol, the planet-friendly household product brand with a social-first marketing strategy. 

“First of all, I can’t believe that they only started revealing their ranking factors 10 years after the platform was launched!” exclaimed Mihaela Mateescu, Head of Performance Marketing at the brand which has amassed 137K Instagram followers.

“Instagram has been consistently growing year on year and has come to generate almost half of Meta’s revenue, so I think it’s in instagram’s best interest to keep its users active and engaged. I think the best way to retain and grow its user base is by being more transparent about how they operate.

“At smol we typically see differences in engagement across different placements (feeds vs reels for example), so this gives us an opportunity to rethink our content strategy with placements in mind.

“It was a bit surprising to see how the content type is taken into account (for example if you engage with photos, you’re likely to see more photos in your feed). It felt like Instagram’s agenda was very much leaning towards video content across the board. Also it was a bit surprising to not see anything being mentioned about search optimisation (using relevant hashtags, captions, location tags) – as that has historically been top of mind for many marketers.

“I think the algorithm reveal solidifies that we should be looking at Instagram's placements as different funnel stages (Explore for more discovery/top of funnel, Stories for mid funnel and Feeds for bottom of the funnel) which means we can’t really treat them as silos or just rely on one because it gives you more reach vs another – they all serve a purpose.”