How Instagram’s Algorithm Works & Instavids That Show Best Practices

Instagram announced in June that it had a community of more than 1 billion.

So, if you haven’t taken a closer look at Instagram lately, now is a good time.

Developing video content for Instagram involved a lot of guesswork until this June, when Instagram shared the six key ranking factors publicly for the first time.

Instagram’s Key Ranking Factors

Three main factors determine what users see in their Instagram feed:

  • Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.
  • Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
  • Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.

Beyond those core factors, three additional signals that influence rankings are:

  • Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.
  • Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors so you might see less of any specific person.
  • Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.

Instagram Videos That Show Best Practices

So, who is putting all this together to create Instavids that are getting tons of views and lots of engagements?

Here are some examples that illustrate the best practices for nailing it on Instagram aren’t all that easy to replicate.

1. Worldstar Hip Hop

For example, one of the top video creators on Instagram is Worldstar Hip Hop, a content-aggregating video blog. Founded in 2005, the site averages 528,726 unique visitors a day.

Worldstar Hip Hop’s Instagram videos got 1.7 billion views in June 2018.

Now, how did they do that?

For starters, four of their five most viewed videos on Instagram were about Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, known professionally as XXXTentacion, an American rapper, singer, and songwriter, who was shot and killed in Florida in June. That’s a level of “interest” that’s hard to duplicate.


In addition, they uploaded 1,134 Instavids between June 1 and June 30. That’s an average of a new Instavid every 38 minutes. It’s pretty hard to beat that kind of “recency.”

And they have 18.7 million Instagram followers. So, that’s a “relationship” that’s pretty hard to match.

2. 9GAG

Another one of the top video creators on Instagram is 9GAG, which has some of the best funny pics, GIFs, videos, gaming, anime, manga, movie, TV, cosplay, sport, food, memes, cute, fail, WTF photos on the internet.

Its Instagram videos got 1 billion views in June.

Their most viewed Instavid that month was is captioned, “Every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige,’” which got 20.8 million views and 2.1 million engagements.


OK, so how well does 9GAG combine Instagram’s best practices?

Well, the videos are funny. (And it’s really hard to be funny.) So, that’s why they score high on “interest.”

They uploaded 172 Instavids in June, or an average of 5.7 a day. Yep, that’s why they score high on “recency.”

And they have 46 million followers on Instagram. So, they’ve got the “relationship” thing covered.

3. Barstool Sports

A third example of a creator that’s nailing it on Instagram is Barstool Sports, a satirical sports and pop culture blog founded by Dave Portnoy. Its Instagram videos got 678 million views in June 2018.

Their most viewed Instavid that month was is captioned “The look of a man who’s ready to risk it all @oldrowofficial,” which has 6.5 million views and 218,000 engagements.

Barstool Sports

So, so how well does Barstool Sports combine Instagram’s best practices?

Well, Jay Caspian Kang of The New York Times wrote last November:

“The insurgent media company has built a devoted following of what it sees as ‘average’ sports fans: unruly, occasionally toxic and aggressively male.”

So, they score high on “interest” if your target audience is “young bros.”

They uploaded 319 Instavids in June, or an average of 10.6 a day. Yep, that’s why they score high on “recency.”

And they have 5 million followers on Instagram. So, they’ve got that “relationship” with “dudes” thing covered.


As you can see, there are multiple ways to create video content that generates interest with large segments of the Instagram community.

But, you need to upload lots of Instavids and have millions of followers in order to score a hat trick. In other words, it’s great that Instagram has shared their ranking factors publicly.

Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to get hundreds of millions of views every month.

More Instagram Marketing Resources:

Image Credits

Screenshots taken by author, August 2018

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