The Internet is continuously littered with complaints about how “the algorithm” is hiding their posts. OR the algorithm is constantly changing and impossible to keep up with. Or that Facebook (who also own Instagram) are trying to force you to pay for ads to get people to see your posts.
The truth is, the algorithm isn’t designed to hide your posts intentionally or to force ad spend at all. It also doesn’t change very often, and if it changes dramatically, it’s usually to address a problem on the app (for example, the last significant change was to combat a spam problem).
The algorithm is designed to prioritise great content above less-great content
Because great content is what keeps people on Instagram longer, the longer they stay, the more ads they’ll see, and the more money Facebook will make.
So when posts are being “hidden” (not reaching many people), it’s typically only because the content itself isn’t good enough. It’s not resonating with followers, and it’s not standing out amongst all the other content on the platform.
You must remember that content is always the most important thing on Instagram and the algorithm acts as an invisible complementary set of rules, to push that content further and ensure as many people see it as possible.
All the algorithm does is use a set of tendencies (a little more lenient than “rules”) to determine which content is “best”. It wants to know this because great content is what keeps users on the app (so they can be served ads and thus earn Instagram/Facebook revenue). Naturally, it’s going to prioritise showing the “best” content to more people first to maximise the chances of them staying on the app.
It determines what the “best” content is through engagement rates, specifically the percentage of your followers who engage with your post. Followed by, the percentage of people who viewed your post (through hashtags, shares, and so on) and engaged.
Why isn't my content showing up on the home feed?
Where your content sits in the home feed of your followers – can depend on how much they’ve interacted with you in the past. So if you have a follower who regularly engages with your content, the algorithm will know that follower likes your content. This means that the next time you post, that post will show up high in their home feed. Your aim is to have this happening with a high percentage of your followers, the more, the better.
As you can see, the algorithm heavily prioritises those who are “social” over those who are not. One of the core values of Instagram is “community first” and will reward users who engage socially by responding to comments or engaging with other content on the platform.