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Instagram Provides New Overview of How its Reels Algorithm Works

Are you looking to tap into Instagram Reels as a new growth opportunity, but you're not sure exactly how it works, and what exactly you should be posting to maximize engagement?

You're in luck, because this week, Instagram has shared a new overview of the key factors that it considers in ranking Reels, which ultimately points to how you can maximize Reels reach, by aligning with these elements.

But there's a little more to it than that - either way, here's Instagram's post which highlights the essential considerations of Reels ranking.

Breaking it down, first off, Instagram highlights how it determines which Reels each user is likely to be interested in, based on four key factors:

So the more Reels you watch - ideally all the way through - the more signals of interest Instagram then has in order to determine what you want to see, with the additional, direct factors of Likes and comments also playing a big part.

But Instagram also wants to encourage engagement, so if you're more likely to subsequently create your own Reels based on the original, you'll see more of that content as well. For creators, that could be another reason to try and tap into trending audio to help maximize exposure for your clips.

Next, Instagram shares the four most important signals that can boost Reels reach.

So these are more common algorithm elements - each user will see more content based on their past engagement history, and the specific details of each clip (including the audio again).

But is interesting to note that Instagram factors in 'video understanding based on pixels and whole frames'. In other words, Instagram's trying to match up what you engage with by showing you more content similar to videos you've watched, based on an AI system that determines what's shown in each clip. Facebook's video identification algorithms are always improving, and this will increasingly become an important factor - so if you engage with Reels about dogs, for example, you'll see more dogs in your feed, watching basketball will lead to more basketball, boats to boats, etc.

How detailed that process is, we don't know, but it could get very precise about your visual preferences - and again, it's continuously learning and improving over time.

And finally, Instagram also shares this interesting overview of what it will limit in Reels distribution.

Instagram has previously noted that it will limit the reach of clips that have been re-shared from TikTok, which it can pick out using watermark identification. But it's interesting to note that Instagram's also actively discouraging content around political issues in Reels, as well as Reels that are made by political figures.

Clearly, Instagram's keen to avoid any related complications within Reels, which is designed for more lightweight, fun content - but it's the first time I've seen the platform actively penalize political content.

So, if you're running social for a political candidate or group, Reels probably isn't for you, while the additional notes and pointers here could help you refine your Reels strategy.

Though, as noted, there's more to it than this.

You can read all the technical specifications you want, but the bottom line is that what will resonate on Reels, as with all social platforms and posting options, is content that's entertaining, and which encourages audience response.

Consistently creating quality, engaging content is hard, and there's no amount of hacks and insights that can simply make this happen - there's no prescriptive guide that will turn each of your videos into viral hits simply by following a formula of any kind.

In large part, it's trial and error, while learning from those who are already seeing success will help to fast-track your development.

But it is a learning process. Otherwise, of course, you can partner with influencers to immediately gain traction, by tapping into their established expertise and credibility. But if you, personally, want to create great Reels, or Snaps, or TikTok clips or anything else, the key, really, is to take the time to use each app, and learn what works, then iterate your own ideas from there.

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