8 Ways to Cheat the Instagram Algorithm

By Jillian Warren

Published May 12, 2021

8 minute read

We’re sharing 8 organic ways to gain an advantage with the Instagram algorithm, so you can reach new audiences and grow your following.


Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

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 8 strategies you can use right now to gain an advantage with the Instagram algorithm:

  1. Be Consistent in Your Niche

  2. Share Content When Your Audience is Most Active

  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)

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 Active

Another way to boost your performance with the Instagram algorithm is to post when your followers are most active and engaged.

This increases the likelihood of likes, comments and shares, as your community is more “switched on,” rather than distracted by work, or school.

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 active, 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 comments, likes, reshares, and video views.

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, this categorization likely relied heavily on the hashtags a user included in a post.

However, Instagram now allows users to “search by keyword” in several countries, 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.

TIP: Later’s Saved Captions feature is great for saving curated lists of hashtags for different content themes. When it’s time to schedule, all you need to do is click to add the right bundle of hashtags to your caption or first comment — it’s that easy!

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.

Take Instagram Reels for example. Instagram have prioritized Reels in users’ home feeds over the last 6 months — with early adopters seeing major results.

“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.

Instagram Reels are still a big opportunity for creators to “hack” the algorithm, but new features are rolling out all of the time. Instagram Guides are still in their infancy, and could be one to watch.

Looking to level-up your Instagram Reels strategy? Discover the top Instagram Reels hacks you need to know in this video:

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.

Instagram Stories are often more personable due to their ephemeral format. Capitalize on this opportunity by verbally encouraging your audience to let you know what they think — either by voting in a poll or replying in a DM.

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

As we’ve already mentioned, Instagram Reels are a serious growth hack right now — but there is a catch.

Instagram has confirmed that the Reels algorithm will deprioritize Reels with a TikTok watermark, and favor original Reels content instead. Similarly, low quality or blurry content will be 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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