Instagram Algorithm Changes And How It Impacts Business

On June 30th the Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced publicly that Instagram was “No longer just a square photo-sharing app.” The news made waves around the internet, but should be no surprise to anyone who has paid close attention to the social media’s progression. With the seemingly new trajectory we felt it’d be advantageous to look at how the app has changed and where it’s going.

2010: Instagram’s Beginnings

Over a decade ago Instagram launched with it’s inaugural photo of it’s cofounder’s dog. 10 years ago Instagram was a chronological square-photo app, posting was simple, and the user base rather niche. Remember photo borders? Yeah things have changed a lot since then.

Within a few years Instagram exploded and became the social media heavyweight we all know today. As the years advanced the app changed as well. In 2016 for instance, rather than having posts appear chronologically, users began to see them ranked by importance. This was the introduction of Instagram’s algorithm.

The algorithm, still in use today and helps users and advertisers make use of targeted interest data. In a recent video Mosseri talked thoroughly about how exactly this works. Most importantly he noted that it functions differently across different sections of app (Posts, Stories, Explore, and Reels). A simplified summation is that Posts and Stories show videos and photos from people you follow, while Explore and Reels send these from you accounts you don’t follow, but that match your interests. IE if someone who has similar interests as you engages content, they can predict you likely will as well. So why more video?

2021 and Beyond

Data drives everything nowadays. Today Instagram ranks fourth* in Social Media apps behind Facebook, Youtube, and Whatsapp. As of April 2021 its monthly worldwide users was well over one billion. However the landscape is greatly changing. 

Look at for example at the usage of apps by US teens. From 2016-2019 Instagram slowly grew within the demographic. However, in 2020 something happened that dropped the percentage of by 10%: TikTok. 

With the rapid rise of TikTok, Instagram in 2019 introduced “Reels” a vertical discovery style video addition to the app in order to compete. Again, Reels shows the viewer content they aren’t necessarily subscribed to and digs deeply into its algorithm to send you content it thinks you might like. Youtube released their version a “Shorts” in March of this year.

So how do these changes affect your business’s marketing plan? 

For one, video advertising is becoming increasingly viable on Instagram. Businesses can show ads in all sections of Instagram so it’s worth considering how to advertise in each. As the app changes it’s important to adjust your marketing plan accordingly. For Posts and Explore you’ll want to produce horizontal content while for Reels and Stories you’ll need to create vertical videos. Our previous content on stories is helpful for understanding what exactly to post as well.

End Card

One new update is “Instagram end card”. After being showed an ad in “Stories” advertisers now have the opportunity to include second story which allows viewers to see your recent organic posts. It’s worth checking this box EVERY time as it give the consumer another opportunity to see your product and view your business. 


Beyond all these things though the changes in the app should change the way you use it broadly speaking. Even though the Tik Tok/Reels target audience is much younger and perhaps less likely to buy your product, these audiences are the future. Beginning to think through how you can advertise to them will only help you improve you ROI in the long run. Try your hand creating a Reel, do some research scrolling through the section. Remember too that organic is always free, it doesn’t hurt to learn! And lastly as always, if you need help getting any of this set up you can always reach out to our marketing team at King + Columbus. They’re an excellent resource for getting any of your marketing plans off the ground.

Notes: *We’ve grouped Facebook and Messenger together as they are technically the same provider.