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8 Ways to Cheat the Instagram Algorithm


By Jillian Warren

Published November 29, 2021

7 minute read

Discover 8 ways to gain an advantage with the elusive Instagram algorithm...

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Ever wondered if there’s a way to cheat the Instagram algorithm?

In short, the answer is yes — and there’s no need for shady tactics like engagement pods or pay-per-like schemes.

Simply understanding how the algorithm works, and how to optimize your content strategy for it, is the best way to gain an advantage.

Can You Really Cheat the Instagram Algorithm?

Ultimately, Instagram’s algorithm (or multiple algorithms, to be precise) is designed to serve users the content they are most likely to engage with.

So when it comes to cheating the system, the best tactic is to give the algorithm exactly what it needs to do its job properly.

With this in mind, here are our top 8 strategies to hack the Instagram algorithm:

  1. Be Consistent in Your Niche

  2. Share Content When Your Audience is Most Engaged

  3. Encourage Comments and Likes

  4. Tailor Your Posts for Instagram SEO

  5. Improve Your Hashtag Strategy

  6. Embrace New Instagram Features

  7. Regularly Post Stories with Engagement-driving Stickers

  8. Share Original Content on Reels (Without a TikTok Watermark)

Ready to jump into the details? Get the low-down by watching this video — or read the full blog post below.

Algorithm Hack #1: Be Consistent in Your Niche

The Instagram algorithm is constantly learning from you. Every post you share, hashtag you use, and engagement you make gives the algorithm an indicator of what your account is all about.

The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.

With this in mind, being consistent in your niche (from the content you post to the accounts you interact with) is one of the best ways to continually educate the algorithm.

The easier the algorithm can “categorize” your account and its content, the more likely your posts will appear for users who have shown a previous interest in your niche.

Once the algorithm has a strong indication of your niche, your profile is more likely to be shown to relevant audiences in suggested profiles to follow, recommended Reels, and Explore Page results.

Algorithm Hack #2: Share Content When Your Audience is Most Engaged

Another way to boost your performance with the Instagram algorithm is to post when your followers are most likely to engage with your content.

This increases the likelihood of likes, comments and shares, as your community is more “switched on.”

And this engagement is a huge indicator for the Instagram algorithm. The more engagement your post receives, the more likely it will be served to more users.

However, it can be tricky to know exactly when your audience is most engaged, as every account is slightly different.

You can find your unique best time to post by delving into your Instagram analytics, or by using Later’s Best Time to Post feature.

Later automatically calculates your seven top posting times for the week based on your audience’s activity from the recent month — making it super easy to reach your audience when they’re most engaged.

Discover your best times to post by upgrading to one of Later’s Starter, Growth, or Advanced plans today!

Algorithm Hack #3: Encourage Comments and Likes by Adding Strong Call-to-actions to Your Captions

One of the main ways to hack the Instagram algorithm is to encourage as many engagements as possible.

According to Instagram, the most important engagements for feed ranking are:

  • Time spent

  • Likes

  • Comments

  • Saves

  • Taps on Profile

The best way to encourage more of these engagements? Include a strong call-to-action in your post captions!

This can be as simple as asking your community a question, or prompting them to tag a friend in the comments to enter your latest giveaway.

Want to improve your caption strategy? Discover all of our top tips in The Ultimate Guide to Writing Good Instagram Captions.

Algorithm Hack #4: Tailor Your Posts for Instagram SEO

As we’ve already covered, the Instagram algorithm is constantly “interpreting” your posts so it can categorize your content and serve it to the right audiences.

In the early days, categorization relied heavily on the hashtags a user included in a post.

Now, Instagram allows users to search by keyword, which indicates the algorithm is also processing visual content and caption semantics.

With this in mind, there are a few things you can do to optimize your posts for Instagram SEO:

  • Write descriptive captions with relevant, highly-searched keywords throughout.

  • Manually write alt text for your Instagram posts. To do this, tap “Advanced Settings” in the publishing flow, and select “Write alt text.” Instagram uses image recognition software to automatically generate a description if you don’t manually input alt text, however this is often inaccurate or lacking in detail.

  • Include up to 30 relevant hashtags in your post caption or first comment.

Algorithm Hack #5: Improve Your Hashtag Strategy

Instagram’s search features may have evolved over the years, but the humble hashtag is still a big player when it comes to categorizing your content.

If you’re looking to improve your hashtag strategy, these four tips are a good place to start:

  1. Make sure your hashtags are relevant to the content of your post, target audience, industry, location, or brand.

  2. Take inspiration from trending posts in your niche. Look at relevant content on your Instagram Explore Page and take note of commonly used hashtags.

  3. Use hashtags with a healthy volume of posts, but avoid oversaturated ones. Anything between 10K and 250K will give your content the best chance of being seen.

  4. Avoid banned hashtags. Even seemingly innocuous hashtags can end up on the banned list, so do your due diligence and carry out an Instagram search for every hashtag you use.

Struggling to find #Inspiration? Check out Later's Hashtag Suggestions tool and discover relevant hashtags for your posts in seconds.

Algorithm Hack #6: Embrace New Instagram Features

One of the biggest ways to hack the Instagram algorithm is by jumping on the latest features, fast.

Instagram gives extra prominence to new features to help drive adoption, so getting to grips with them while the competition is still low can be a huge advantage.

A great example of this was Instagram Reels.

“Since introducing Reels to our Instagram channel last year, we’ve seen our engagement grow by 280%,” shares Later’s Social Media Manager, Christine Colling. “Reels have become a crucial role in our social media strategy.

Algorithm Hack #7: Regularly Post Stories with Engagement-driving Stickers

Interactions are a huge indicator for the Instagram algorithm — and Instagram Stories stickers are one of the quickest and easiest ways to boost your engagement.

Poll, emoji slider, and quiz stickers are fun and have a super low barrier to entry, making them a real quick win for audience interactions.

Question stickers, on the other hand, are a great way to encourage DM conversations, which indicates a deeper, more personal relationship to the Instagram algorithm.

Stories are a great channel for building stronger audience connections. Encourage your viewers to get involved and share their opinions by voting in a poll or sending a DM.

TIP: Use a quick win engagement sticker on your first Instagram story slide for an engagement boost.

Algorithm Hack #8: Share Original Content on Reels (without a TikTok Watermark)

Instagram Reels are still a serious growth hack, but it's not as easy as it once was to go viral on the platform.

At first, almost any content would perform reasonably well – even videos shared directly from TikTok. But not any more.

Instagram confirmed that the Reels algorithm actively deprioritizes Reels with a TikTok watermark, favoring original Reels instead. Similarly, low quality or blurry content is deprioritized.

With this in mind, the best way to hack the Reels algorithm is to create original, high-quality content, right within the Reels editor.

So there you have it, eight ways to improve your ranking with the Instagram algorithm.

These tips can be used as a baseline for your posts, but ultimately, the best way to gain favor with the algorithm is to keep your audience at the heart of your strategy.

Building authentic relationships with your followers is the most powerful way to “cheat” the algorithm, and will always deliver measurable results for your brand or business.

Ready to optimize your posts for the Instagram algorithm? Start planning and scheduling your posts with Later. Sign up now – it’s free!

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

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