How Does Instagram Work? The Beginner’s Guide for 2023

Published on: April 21, 2023
Last Updated: April 21, 2023

How Does Instagram Work? The Beginner’s Guide for 2023

Published on: April 21, 2023
Last Updated: April 21, 2023


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If you have access to the Internet at all, then you will have heard of Instagram. Instagram has exploded on the social media scene over the last few years, and it is now one of the most well-established, popular social media sharing apps in the world.

It has more than 1 billion people visiting and posting content on it every month, making it a great place for influencers and brands alike to showcase their products and services.

However, as popular as Instagram is, there are some people out there that just don’t get it.

How Does Instagram Work?

If you are an influencer, brand, or individual that hasn’t discovered how to master the art of Instagramming yet, don’t give up.

We’re here to salvage what you’ve got and turn it into success.

As seasoned Instagram users ourselves, we believe that it’s worth learning everything you can about Instagram.

Not only is it one of the most popular sharing apps in the world, but it also gets even more engagement than Facebook.

This means that if you are using Instagram the right way, you are bound to get more followers who are more willing to interact with you every day.

Instagram’s History


So, if you truly have been living under a rock for the last few years, let’s quickly summarize what Instagram is.

Instagram is a photo sharing application that you can use on your smartphone, whether you are using an iPhone or Android.

It combines the elements of social network with amateur photography.

It offers its users stickers and filters, which means that anybody can come up with an amazing looking image in no time.

When you think about how difficult it was to create an amazing image and share it before Instagram existed, you can get a better understanding of why it has become so successful.

After just six months of doing business, Instagram had already amassed more than 5 million users.

By the time it decided to release its app on Android as well, it had amassed more than 1 million users in just a day.

Getting Seen on Instagram

When someone asks how Instagram works, generally speaking they aren’t asking to see the coding that takes place to make the app work.

In fact, the majority of people out there are trying to work out how Instagram ranks posts and helps certain people do really well.

Like other major social networks out there, Instagram has this thing called an algorithm.

It is a set of rules that Instagram users to work out who should see which content, and when they see it.

The thing about Instagram’s algorithm as that it is always changing, which makes it really difficult for marketers to stay ahead of the curve and use it to their advantage.

In fact, Instagram switched things up with the algorithm so dramatically back in 2016 that people signed a petition for it to go back to normal.

In 2018, Instagram started to focus more on time as the biggest feature of their algorithm, but it’s not the only thing you have to think about if you are a brand.

The switch up moved Instagram away from being a chronological feed, which meant that priority was given to more particular kinds of content.

The issue was, people didn’t understand what they needed to do to be favored by Instagram.

With so many influencers and marketers asking how Instagram works, the company decided to hold a press conference, where they gave away details about what they consider when trying to rank people’s content.

They said that they prioritize three things: interest, timeliness, and relationship.

They also said that things like usage, following, and frequency play a role in how the algorithm works too.



Interest is a measurement that Instagram uses to work out how likely it is that you are going to care about a particular post.

When Instagram first introduced their new algorithm, they discussed how they planned on placing content that they thought their users would be interested in above other kinds of content.

So, how does Instagram work out what you are interested in? Well, one way that they do this is to look at the types of posts that you have already interacted with.

For example, if you are always liking and commenting on food-related posts, then Instagram will know that you are interested in food and will show you more content related to this industry.

So, if you want to do really well on Instagram, you will need to know what your followers are looking for and create content that is relevant to that.


The next big factor in Instagram’s algorithm is the timeliness of your post.

For example, if someone logs into Instagram in the morning, and you’re sharing your content around mid-morning, then they are much more likely to see it compared to a photo that someone shared the night before.

Instagram wants you to find the most relevant, freshest content. This means that even posts that have a lot of engagement might not show up before posts that have literally just been uploaded to Instagram.

For influencers and brands, this means that you need to determine when your target market is online, so that you can post your content appropriately.

The great news about this is that it’s actually really easy to work this out if you are currently using an Instagram business account.

You will automatically be able to see when your audience is online, and even work out a few more things about their demographic in general.



Now, let’s talk about the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to Instagram’s algorithm: relationships.

Instagram said back in 2016 that regardless of how many profiles a user is following, they are always going to see posts from family and friends first.

Ultimately, Instagram wants you to be able to interact with the content from people that you value above everything else.

So, what does this mean for Instagram users who don’t have a personal connection to any of their followers? That means that you need to start getting intimate.

It means that you need to work on interacting with people and their content through comments and likes, responding to questions and direct messages, and making sure that you are showing up in the right searches.

The Additional Factors Considered by Instagram

As we mentioned above, there are a few other key factors in Instagram’s algorithm that you have to consider, beyond the first initial three.

  • Frequency: This basically means how often someone is opening their Instagram app. If you open Instagram just once a day, then you’re only going to see the best posts for that day according to Instagram’s algorithm. However, if you are browsing Instagram a lot more frequently, then Instagram is going to try and prioritize the content that you haven’t previously seen.
  • Following: If you currently follow thousands of different Instagram profiles, then the algorithm has a lot more information to sort through when figuring out what to show you. This means that those who follow a lot of Instagram profiles might see a lot less content from individual accounts.
  • Usage: Whether you take your time browsing through Instagram, or you do it in short bursts, this is also information that is helpful to Instagram when determining when and what content to show you.

Why the Instagram Algorithm Isn’t All That Bad

Instagram Algorithm

So, what’s the bottom line with the Instagram algorithm?

Even though it has left a lot of companies out there asking what the heck is going on and forcing a few people to even sign a petition against it, it isn’t all that bad.

As we have seen over the last couple of years, the number of Instagram users is continuously increasing, which means that there is more content put up every day for Instagram’s algorithm to sort through.

People who are sick of trying to find content that they’re interested in aren’t even going to bother visiting places like the Explore Page because they know that it’s going to be a waste of their time.

In fact, a study showed that before Instagram changed up its algorithm, its users were missing up to 70% of the posts in their feeds.

At the end of the day, as long as you are creating timely, engaging, relevant content for your target markets, then you are going to get people seeing it.

We all know that this is what really counts in the social media world.

Without Instagram’s algorithm, the only thing you would be able to do is post all day long, which is something that even active influencers and brands really struggle with.

How Does Instagram Work? Make Your Strategy Work for You

Instagram is an incredibly popular platform. With more than 1 billion users uploading videos and images every single month, this platform is ideal for building an engaged audience around your content, and excellent for branding purposes.

However, Instagram is only going to work for you if you are able to develop an effective strategy. Knowing what content to show, went to show it and how to present it is key.

For many established and budding brands and influencers, Instagram is still an enigma that they have yet to figure out and might not even have the time for.

Hopefully with the help of this guide you now have an idea of how Instagram works.

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Written by Eddie Hurst

I’m a full-time social media research specialist. Actually you could say I’m a bit obsessed. I seek out the latest information and hacks for our How-to Guides. As well as that, I put companies under the microscope for reviews.