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Algorithmic Changes And Their Impact On Instagram Marketing

Instagram has solidified its role as a cornerstone of digital marketing with over a billion monthly active users. For marketers and businesses, the platform offers vast opportunities for brand exposure, customer engagement, and sales generation. However, Instagram is not static; its algorithm evolves, significantly impacting marketing strategies. Understanding these changes is crucial for anyone looking to optimize their presence and achieve marketing success on the platform.

Overview of Instagram’s Algorithm Evolution

Instagram’s algorithm has undergone several significant transformations since its inception. Initially, posts appeared in users’ feeds in a simple chronological order. However, as the platform grew and the volume of content increased, this method made it easy for users to miss posts they might care about. In response, Instagram introduced an algorithm-based feed in 2016 that prioritizes content based on user interactions, presumed interests, and other engagement metrics. This shift aimed to personalize user feeds and increase the time spent on the platform by displaying content that users are more likely to engage with.

Major Algorithmic Changes and Their Implications

Instagram’s evolution from a simple photo-sharing app to a complex platform with various content formats has significantly influenced digital marketing strategies. Several key algorithmic changes, especially the transition from a chronological feed to an engagement-based system, along with the introduction of Stories and Reels, have reshaped how content is consumed and distributed. These changes have profound implications for how brands approach content creation and engagement.

From Chronological to Engagement-Based Feed

Initially, Instagram displayed posts in a chronological order, which meant that the newest posts appeared first. However, as the platform grew, this system did not ensure that users saw the most relevant or engaging content, leading to frequent user complaints about missing important posts. In response, Instagram shifted to an engagement-based feed around 2016, fundamentally changing the content distribution strategy. This new algorithm prioritizes posts based on what it thinks users will be most interested in, based on their past interactions.


  • Engagement Priority: This change meant that posts with high engagement (likes, comments, shares, and views) gained priority in the feed, encouraging brands to create more engaging and interactive content.
  • User Behavior Analysis: The algorithm also began to analyze user behavior more deeply, considering factors like how long users viewed a post or if they liked similar posts in the past.

Introduction of Instagram Stories

Introduced in 2016, Instagram Stories allowed users to post content that would disappear after 24 hours. This feature was designed to encourage more frequent and casual content sharing compared to the more curated main feed.


  • Increased User Engagement: Stories created a new avenue for real-time engagement. Brands could now post more often without overwhelming their followers’ feeds, maintaining visibility and engagement throughout the day.
  • Feature-Rich Content: Instagram continuously added features to Stories, such as polls, question boxes, and links, which provided brands additional tools to interact directly with their audience, gather feedback, and drive traffic.

Launch of Reels

With the rise of TikTok, Instagram introduced Reels in 2020 to offer a similar short-form video experience. Reels are prominently featured in user feeds, the Explore page, and dedicated tabs, making them a crucial part of Instagram’s ecosystem.


  • Priority in Visibility: Reels receive significant promotion from Instagram, often getting more visibility than regular posts or even Stories. This prioritization reflects Instagram’s commitment to keeping users engaged with dynamic and compelling video content.
  • Engagement Through Trends: Reels offer brands a chance to tap into viral trends and music, making content that can achieve rapid, wide-scale engagement. Brands that effectively use Reels can see a substantial increase in their reach and follower growth.

Strategic Diversification of Content

These algorithmic changes have forced marketers to rethink and diversify their content strategies. No longer can brands rely solely on traditional image posts; they now need to integrate a mix of posts, Stories, and Reels to maintain visibility and engagement across the platform.

  • Content Planning: Brands must plan their content to include a variety of formats that cater to different audience preferences and behaviors on Instagram.
  • Adaptability: Marketers need to stay agile, ready to adapt to the latest features and changes. For instance, if Instagram tweaks its algorithm to favor newer content types like Reels, brands should be prepared to pivot quickly and incorporate that into their strategy.

Effects of Algorithmic Shifts on Content Strategy

The algorithmic updates have necessitated strategic shifts in content creation and scheduling. For example, when Instagram started to prioritize video content like Reels, brands had to quickly adapt by incorporating more video content into their marketing strategies to ensure visibility. Similarly, the timing of posts has become an art, with brands needing to analyze and determine when their audience is most active to maximize engagement and take advantage of the algorithm’s preference for timely content.

Impact on Engagement and Reach

The changes in Instagram’s algorithm have had profound effects on user engagement and the reach of marketing campaigns. Posts that receive quick engagement in the form of likes, comments, and shares shortly after posting are more likely to be displayed to a larger segment of an account’s followers, as well as featured on Explore pages, increasing their reach exponentially. This feedback loop creates an environment where popular content becomes more popular, encouraging brands to create highly engaging, quality content consistently.

Adapting Marketing Strategies to Algorithmic Changes

Staying updated with the latest algorithm changes is imperative for marketers. One effective strategy is to engage actively with the community by responding to comments and participating in trends, which can boost the visibility of content. Additionally, utilizing every feature the platform offers—like Stories, Reels, and even shopping features—can help brands stay relevant and favored by the algorithm. Lastly, leveraging analytics tools provided by Instagram Insights, allows marketers to understand what works, adapt their strategies in real-time, and optimize future content for better performance.

Final Thoughts

The dynamic nature of Instagram’s algorithm means that what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Marketers must remain agile, informed, and ready to pivot their strategies in response to these changes. Understanding and adapting to the algorithm’s preferences is not just about keeping up; it’s about leveraging changes to gain a competitive edge. As Instagram continues to evolve, so too should the strategies of those who wish to master the art of marketing on this pivotal platform.

By staying attuned to the nuances of these algorithmic shifts and responding adeptly, marketers can ensure that their Instagram strategies are not only effective but also ahead of the curve, leading to greater engagement, increased reach, and ultimately, a stronger brand presence online.

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