Mythbusting the algorithm

feat. @lauriseirl

Time to break down the algorithm! There are a lot of myths out there. Understanding why people see – or don’t see – your content will help you focus your energy on what matters, and avoid stressing about the rest.


There isn’t one algorithm. There are several, but your experience is unique.

Tags and brand partnerships won’t hurt your ranking game.

Even your favorite creators have slow days. Growth isn’t a straight line.

Observe how similar creators optimize for discovery.

Once upon a time, I was a social media editor at a really cool women's magazine. And I thought I was so awesome, I was. And all of a sudden, my posts were not performing. And so the next time I had a meeting at Instagram I just straight up asked my rep, "Listen sis, I do not want a coffee or a smoothie, I just wanna know why my post is being shadow banned," and she was like, "You trippin', shadow banning is not real." I've learned a lot since then. I'm here to let you guys know everything I've learned about the algorithm so far. Before we get into that, let me tell you who I am. My name is Laurise McMillian. I am a social media strategist. If they have an Instagram, I've done it. I'm also a content creator on my own personal Instagram. Give your girl a follow.

Breaking down the algorithm

So everyone always wants to know what is the real reason why some people see your content and some people don't. That, my friends, is what we call the algorithm. I don't really know why they say "the algorithm" because there are so many algorithms. There are different algorithms for every different part of the app. So, how does the algorithm make these decisions, you ask? Signals. The main signals are the "who," the "what," and the "when." Allow me to explain. "Who," whose posts I'm liking, I'm saving, whose posts I'm interacting with. For me, I spend so much time DMing and messaging my sister that our algorithms always make sure that we see each other's content. The "what" is another signal that really helps the algorithms think about what content you are going to love. The algorithm is gonna say, "Hey, they like beauty content. This beauty content blew up. They're probably gonna like this one." That's a "what." The last signal that really comes into play is the "when." The "when" really focuses on when a post has been posted to really decide if it's relevant but also, when you get on the app, if you're using the app every single day you might be seeing things chronologically, but if you get on every now and then, the app really has to pick and choose what they wanna show you to prioritize, the things that you're gonna wanna see most.

Mythbusting time

So now that you have a better understanding of how these algorithms work, let's just quickly myth-bust a few things because a lot of people in my DMs have been asking, "Hey, does this hinder your performance? Does the algorithm not like this?" I just wanna set the record straight. First thing's first, if you edit or add to a caption after posting it, you're going to be fine, the algorithm does not hate you. Deleting a photo and re-posting it makes no difference, do it. You're gonna be fine. Using the branded content tool, it's not gonna hurt you. In fact, you should be using it if you're doing branded content. Also, if you doing branded content, girl, go off. I see you, get that money. Tagging other accounts is not going to hurt you in the world of algorithms, in fact, it might even help you. Okay, so now that we all know a little bit more about the algorithms, plural, let's talk about how we can start utilizing these learnings for our advantage. Let's put it to work. Let's start growing these accounts. Here's some things to remember.

Key takeaways

1/ First of all, remember there is no one algorithm. The Reels algorithm looks different than the Explore's algorithm, looks different than the Stories algorithm, looks different than a feed's algorithm. The way you really win with Instagram is really working hard to develop a strategy for each of those individual parts.

2/ Know your signals. What's the "who," what's the "what," what's the "when"? When is your audience getting online? When are you getting online? What is the niche that you bring to the table that you provide value about? Are you an expert on beauty? Are you an expert on knitting? What area do you fit in with? What are the communities that you're serving or that you're a part of? And then the "who." Who's liking your content? Who is enjoying your content? And thinking about how you can have your content rank higher with them.

3/ And don't forget to learn from your Insights. I always like to look and see, okay, what posts gained me the most followers? What posts got the most comments? Those sort of things are things that remind me like, okay, this is working, let's double down on this. Or, hey, this got zero comments, this post wasn't working. What are the things that I wanna stop doing? Being able to throw spaghetti at the wall and experiment is how you're gonna find these learnings that are only going to make your strategy stronger and help you show up in the ranking process a lot better. Every time you post is a new opportunity to get new insights, a new opportunity to learn, a new opportunity to gain more followers. So just hang in there. I promise you, you are going to get a strategy down. Don't give up, keep practicing, you got this.