Decoding the Instagram Reels Algorithm

January 18th, 2023 by

For some, social media algorithms are about as interesting as watching paint dry. For others, they are the key to success. 

Hootsuite describes a social media algorithm as a set of rules and signals that automatically ranks content on a social platform based on how likely each individual social media user is to interact with it and like it. 

Ever noticed that your Instagram feed was suddenly full of flapjack recipes after interacting with a few food accounts to find the best one? That’s the algorithm at work. It noticed your efforts to find the best flapjack recipes and now views you as an avid fan. To support your supposed flapjack obsession, the algorithm pushes similar content onto your Feed and Explore page. 

But what if you’re not actually a fan of flapjacks?

That’s okay. Algorithms are flexible and change depending on what content you interact with most. 

Knowing how to wrangle your way around the Instagram algorithm is no easy task, but once decoded, it can have a profound impact on your engagement levels, follower count, and reach. For those interested, keep reading to find out exactly how to strategically tap into the Instagram Reels algorithm and get your content the coverage it deserves.

How does the Instagram Reels Algorithm work?

Instagram, like every other social media platform in 2023, prioritises video content. Attention spans are lower and standard images now lack that je nais se quois, pushing features such as Reels to the forefront of content creation and sharing. Leaning into these features can be incredibly beneficial to your brand, as they have the ability to put you in front of audiences you would otherwise struggle to reach.

Before we begin, it’s worth pointing out exactly where on the platform Reels appear for users to see. As well as on your own profile, Reels that have been pushed by the algorithm appear in either:

The Reels Tab: this is Instagram’s answer to the TikTok For You page. Here, you can scroll endlessly through algorithm-selected Reels. Just simply tap the icon in the center at the bottom of the screen. 

The Reels Tab - Instagram Reels Algorithm

The Explore Page: alongside other posts that the algorithm has selected for the user, Reels take up a lot of real estate on the Explore page, making them hard to miss. 

The Explore Page

But how do creators ensure that their Reels appear in these places?


The Instagram algorithm doesn’t just take into consideration how you interact with content, it also notices how you interact with other users. Do you have an Instagram BFF whose photos you like and comment on regularly? If so, the algorithm is more likely to share your video with them. This is why, for influencers, communication and connection with your followers are crucial. 

Relevance of the content

Linking back to the flapjack analogy at the start, Instagram takes note of what type of content you interact with every time you step onto the platform and tries to offer up similar content to it. 

But how does Instagram keep note of what videos you interact with when they aren’t static images that can be stored. The first way is through whichever hashtags the video uses. If these fail, then the platforms AI analyses the videos pixels, frames and audio. 


Fresh, new Reels will always be prioritised by the Instagram Reels algorithm than those that have been floating around the platform for a few days. So stay consistent with your uploads!


Both the real world and the Reel world see popularity as an advantage. The bottom line is that if you are already a popular account whose content receives a lot of engagement, this will signal to the algorithm that you have something that is worth sharing. 

Ultimately Instagram’s mission is to promote quality content, so if you have a reputation for making great content, then the platform will reward you. 

Tips for getting your Reels noticed

Ultimately, the Instagram Reels algorithm prioritizes content that it thinks many people will like. This was confirmed by its Creators account here:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Instagram’s @Creators (@creators)

Looking at this post in a nutshell, we can see that the tips and tricks include:

  1. Create quality content
  2. Make your Reels visually appealing
  3. Avoid reposting TikToks
  4. Use the right hashtags
  5. Feature people in your Reels
  6. Use trending sounds/music
  7. Create content outside of Reels
  8. Follow Instagram’s recommendation guidelines
  9. Give the people what they want


Does Instagram Reels have an algorithm?

Yes, the Instagram Reels algorithm prioritizes any content that has the potential to be liked by many people. 

How do you beat the Instagram Reels algorithm?

While you cannot beat it, you can certainly lean into it and use it to your advantage by doing the following:

  1. Create quality content
  2. Make your Reels visually appealing
  3. Avoid reposting TikToks
  4. Use the right hashtags
  5. Feature people in your Reels
  6. Use trending sounds/music
  7. Create content outside of Reels
  8. Follow Instagram’s recommendation guidelines
  9. Give the people what they want

What is the best time to post a Reel on Instagram? 

This is dependent on your following. Keep a close eye on when they are typically most active online and post at this time to increase engagement chances.

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