Instagram algorithm 2021 vs 2024 – How to win in the new era

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Ever feel like your Instagram content is disappearing into a black hole? You put so much effort into crafting beautiful posts and captions, but your engagement just isn’t what it used to be. Well, you’re not alone. The Instagram algorithm is constantly evolving, and keeping up with its changes can feel like chasing a moving target.

But fear not, fellow marketers! In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of the Instagram algorithm in 2024, contrasting it with the landscape of 2021. We’ll uncover the key differences and equip you with the knowledge you need to create content that gets seen, loved, and shared.

Dethroning self-promotion: The user-centric approach (2024)

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Back in 2021, it was tempting to focus solely on promoting ourselves and our brand. We churned out content that might have resonated with us, but not necessarily with our target audience. The algorithm, however, has shifted its focus in 2024. It now prioritizes content that sparks genuine user interest and engagement.

Here’s the golden rule: understand your audience’s needs and tailor your content accordingly. What are their interests, desires, and pain points? What kind of content would make them stop scrolling and actually engage? This user-centric approach is the key to unlocking the algorithm’s favor in 2024.

Dethroning self-promotion

This doesn’t mean your brand voice or message needs to disappear. It simply means weaving it seamlessly into content that resonates with your audience.

For instance, imagine you’re a brand selling athletic wear. In 2021, you might have posted a photo of a model in your latest leggings. But in 2024, a more successful approach would be to create a video showcasing a workout routine using your leggings. This content provides value to your audience (helping them achieve their fitness goals) while subtly showcasing your product.

The algorithm speaks: Signals that matter (2021 vs 2024)

While the core concept of prioritizing engagement remains, the specific signals the algorithm uses to measure it have evolved. Here’s a breakdown of what mattered in 2021 compared to 2024:


  • Likes and comments: These were the kings and queens of the algorithm jungle. The more likes and comments a post received, the higher its visibility soared.
  • Post frequency: Consistent posting was a major factor. The algorithm favored accounts that kept their audience engaged with a steady stream of content.
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  • Meaningful engagement: While likes and comments still hold weight, the algorithm now prioritizes deeper forms of engagement. Replies to comments, shares, and saves all indicate a higher level of user interest.
  • Content type: Short-form video content, particularly Reels, has taken center stage. The algorithm actively promotes Reels to a wider audience, recognizing their ability to capture user attention.

Focus on creating content that sparks conversations, not just quick likes. Encourage in-depth discussions by asking questions in your captions, responding thoughtfully to comments, and running interactive polls or Q&As. Additionally, incorporate Reels into your content strategy. Reels can be anything from behind-the-scenes glimpses into your brand to educational tutorials or even entertaining skits.

Signals that matter

Let’s expand on the reels example. Imagine you run a bakery. In 2021, you might have posted a photo of your delicious cupcakes. But for 2024, you could create a Reel showcasing a fun and easy cupcake decorating tutorial. This type of content provides value to your audience (teaching them a new skill) while increasing brand awareness.

Beyond the basics: Advanced algorithm tactics for 2024

Understanding the core principles is crucial, but let’s delve a little deeper. Here are some advanced tactics to optimize your content for the 2024 Instagram algorithm:

  • Hashtag harmony: Hashtags remain a powerful discovery tool. Research relevant hashtags that your target audience is actively using, but avoid overstuffing your captions. A good rule of thumb is to use a mix of popular and niche hashtags to maximize reach without seeming spammy.
  • Storytelling power: People connect with stories. Weave narratives into your content, whether it’s through captivating visuals or compelling captions. Take your bakery example again. You could create a Story series following the journey of a batch of cupcakes from mixing the batter to the final decorated masterpiece.

Beyond the basics

Collaboration is key: Expanding your reach (2024)

The power of collaboration shouldn’t be underestimated. Partnering with influencers or complementary brands can expose your content to a wider audience and foster a sense of community.

Influencer marketing: Identify micro-influencers or creators whose audience aligns with yours. Collaborate on a Reel, host a joint live session, or simply give each other shoutouts. This allows you to leverage their established audience while offering your own unique value proposition.

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Brand partnerships: Partner with non-competing brands that complement your product or service. For example, a bakery could collaborate with a coffee shop to offer a special combo deal or co-host a baking competition. This cross-promotion strategy expands your reach and opens doors to new potential customers.

Remember: When collaborating, prioritize authenticity and value. Choose partners who genuinely resonate with your brand and offer something valuable to your audience.

Mastering reels: The algorithm’s favorite child (2024)

Reels remain a top priority for the 2024 Instagram algorithm. Here are some tips to create Reels that get noticed:

Hook ‘Em Early: Grab your audience’s attention within the first few seconds. Use dynamic visuals, catchy music, or a thought-provoking question to entice them to keep watching.

Content is king (and queen): Offer valuable content that entertains, educates, or inspires your audience. Baking tutorials, product demonstrations, or behind-the-scenes glimpses can all be compelling Reel content.

Mastering reels

Hop on trends: Leverage trending audio tracks, challenges, or visual effects to increase your Reel’s discoverability. This showcases your brand’s awareness and ability to adapt to current trends.

Optimize for sound: The majority of Reels are watched with the sound on. Use high-quality audio, add captions or text overlays for clarity, and choose music that complements your content.

Remember: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of Reels and track your analytics to see what resonates best with your audience.

Consistency is key, but quality reigns supreme (2024)

While consistent posting was a major factor in the 2021 algorithm, quality now trumps quantity in 2024. It’s better to publish high-quality, engaging content less frequently than to flood your audience’s feed with mediocre posts.

Focus on creating content that aligns with the following criteria:

Visually appealing: High-quality visuals are crucial for grabbing attention on a platform dominated by images and videos. Invest in good lighting, consider using editing tools, and maintain a cohesive aesthetic for your feed.

Compelling captions: Don’t underestimate the power of captions. Use them to tell a story, ask questions, spark conversations, and include relevant calls to action.

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Strategic posting: Identify the times when your target audience is most active on Instagram and schedule your posts accordingly. Analytics tools can provide valuable insights into your audience’s behavior.

Remember: Posting consistently demonstrates your brand’s commitment and encourages your audience to stay tuned for new content. However, prioritize quality over quantity to maximize engagement.

Analytics: Your guide to algorithm success (2024)

Instagram analytics are your goldmine of insights. Utilize them to understand what’s working and what’s not with your content strategy. Here’s what to track:

Reach and impressions: Track how many unique accounts saw your posts and how many times they were displayed.

Engagement metrics: Monitor likes, comments, shares, and saves to understand how your audience interacts with your content.

Content insights: See which post formats (photos, videos, Reels) perform best and analyze audience demographics to refine your targeting.

Remember: Regularly analyze your Instagram insights to identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach allows you to tailor your content to what your audience truly wants to see.


By understanding the user-centric approach, prioritizing meaningful engagement, and implementing the advanced tactics outlined above, you can leverage the 2024 Instagram algorithm to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to experiment, track your results, and constantly adapt your strategy. Remember, the key is to create high-quality content that resonates with your target audience and provides them with genuine value. With dedication and a user-centric approach, you can crack the code of the Instagram algorithm and establish a thriving presence on the platform.

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