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What Instagram feed ranking means for marketers

The Scoop

This week, Instagram announced that they are beginning to test ranking in their main feed. Any communication of this magnitude means that the key product metrics internally already look favorable and that we can expect this change to stay. The impact on marketers is huge and here’s how we plan to work with teams at ESPN, Vans, Virgin and more to rock the ranking.


In the first 10 minutes of your post’s life, it gets judged, a lot. Did it get 5 likes? 100? 10,000? Engagement that happens in these first 10 minutes can be considered to be super likes and super comments, given the impact that they can have in increasing the rank of your post. Over time, however, incremental likes and comments have less and less influence in your post’s organic distribution.

Well shouldn’t we just then use 10-15 hashtags and drive likes? If it were only so simple! Post ranking is based on engagement rate, not just total likes and comments. So if 5 of those hashtags drive a lot of views that do not result in likes and comments, you can hurt your overall distribution.

Strategy for early engagement

Our brands have two approaches to increasing engagement in the first 10 minutes, sharing deep links to other audiences, and picking relevant and correctly sized hashtags.

Relevant hashtags most people understand - but sized? Hashtags that are large enough for a “top posts” section in the hashtag view can drive insane engagement if you manage to crack into those top 9 posts. But if you are a smaller brand, picking #basketball may be really tricky for you to crack the top 9. Picking hashtags that are big but not dominated by huge players is critical to your hashtag strategy. Make sure to experiment and check the “top posts” section to see if you made it.

Deep linked posts on Facebook and Twitter look like normal, shared posts but with the added benefit that when clicked, open inside the Instagram app where people can like, comment and follow you. From our research, we’ve learned that clicks on deep links have 5x higher engagement than a normal view on Instagram because the person is already indicating that they want to know more. When our brands share deep links immediately to Facebook and Twitter - they are driving those other audiences to engage with their content on Instagram. One team we work with even calls this “pulse marketing” where we provide an impulse of engagement in those first critical moments.

About AppAction

AppAction drives engagement and new follower growth by over 30% for lead brands including ESPN, Vans, Audi, Virgin, Avicii and 3,000 more. We are former Facebook and Instagram team members, building tools for you at AppAction.