Social Media

How to Crack the Instagram Reels Algorithm

Josh Edwards
min read
How to Crack the Instagram Reels Algorithm

In our recent article covering how Instagram will change in 2022, we highlighted the importance of Instagram Reels. With the rise of TikTok and other competitors such as YouTube Shorts wanting in on the short-form vertical video content, Instagram is going all-in on Reels. What that should mean for you is that you too are going all-in on Reels.

Of course, a huge part of success on any social media platform is understanding how the algorithm works. Once you crack the algorithm, you’ll start to see real growth with your account. So, we’re here to show you exactly how to crack the IG Reels algorithm!

This is how the Instagram algorithm works

In 2021, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri released a video & blog post on the IG blog that sheds a lot more light on how the various algorithms on Instagram work. 

Social media platforms—particularly Facebook and Instagram—haven’t always been so open and transparent with their inner workings, so this invitation to see under the hood and really understand how things work was a welcome one. More of that, please.

In this post, Adam opened with the following:

“One of the main misconceptions we want to clear up is the existence of ‘The Algorithm.’ Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose. We want to make the most of your time, and we believe that using technology to personalize your experience is the best way to do that.”

So, different surfaces of Instagram have different algorithms. What works for Instagram Stories or the Instagram Feed won’t necessarily work for IG Reels and vice versa. What these algorithms do share in common, though, is that they are all defined by “signals,” information such as who posted the content, what the content is about, and what your preferences are.

Instagram says that they’re looking for the following:

  • How likely is a user to watch a Reel to completion.
  • Do they like it?
  • Do they find it entertaining or funny?
  • Does the user go to the audio page? (This indicates they may be inspired to make their own Instagram Reel).

To determine this, the Instagram Reels algorithm is studying the following signals every time you watch a Reel or someone else watches your Reel:

Viewer activity 

Which Reels have you liked or engaged with previously? This helps the algorithm determine what content is most relevant to you.

Engagement history

How much have you interacted with the account that posted the Reel? While you may not realize it, you may have already interacted with the creator of the Reel you’re watching. This helps the algorithm understand how interested you are in the content they share.

Reel stats

Information about the Reel such as the audio track, resolution details (pixels and whole frames), and its overall popularity.

Creator stats

The algorithm considers the overall popularity of an account in order to source “eye-catching” content from lots of different creators. This gives everyone—including smaller accounts—the chance to find their audience.

So, with all of this in mind, you now have a much clearer understanding of how the Instagram Reels algorithm works. Using this information, you can make better IG Reels that gain more views and traction. Based on the above information, we can now lay out the dos and don’ts.

Tips to succeed with Instagram Reels

Reels are easy to create, yet the shorter a format is, the more detail oriented you need to be. With a few basic tips, you can improve your IG Reels to get more views and followers. 

Keep it fun and entertaining 

You need to ensure that you grab people’s attention immediately and keep them watching the whole way through. You can do this by making them laugh, doing something unique or offering some sort of surprise or twist.

Look to inspire

Reels is a creator-first format designed to encourage creators to feed off of one another. If you can create a trend that others can participate in easily, that’s a big win.

Use creative tools

These tools are there for a reason! Instagram wants you to use the camera filters, the funky text and effects. It encourages others to try Reels too.


Reels are meant to be immersive by filling up the entire screen like a TikTok video. So, always shoot vertically. Instagram Reels is all about vertical video. Don’t bother with horizontal.


Use trending music or audio from the Instagram library, or the original audio from your video recording.  

Be original

Remember to experiment here. At the end of the day, being yourself is how you stand out and create something unique!

Post it on all feeds

Share your Reel to your IG feed and IG Stories. The more eyeballs you can get on the Reel, the better the traction. This matters particularly in the first few hours.

Engage with your audience 

If they comment, make sure you’re replying and chatting with them! The more you engage, the more you’re able to build a community that encourages more people to engage with your content more often. 


Pay attention to when your audience is online. When you post, you want as many people as possible to see your Reel in those first few hours.

Be consistent

Posting one Reels here or there will not get your content off the ground. Try to post at least three Reels a week to keep the ball rolling and gain traction. 

Avoid these common mistakes with IG Reels 

You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. Put the effort into making your videos great so viewers aren’t distracted by little things.

Low-quality video

Reels are usually low budget, but quality counts. Posting a Reel that’s blurry because of low resolution is a non-starter. The algorithm is highly unlikely to suggest and push it. Smartphones cameras are excellent across the board these days, so just make sure you have decent lighting and the settings on your phone are set appropriately.


Posting a Reel that has a logo or watermark from another social media platform (hello, TikTok) is not a good idea. The algorithm picks up on the watermark and will not circulate your video the way it would for original content. 

For tips on how to share your TikTok video on Reels, read How to Reshare Content on IG


Text overlays can be huge part of the visual experience. But don’t use so much text viewers cannot see the video. Keep your footage uncluttered. Also practice good timing with your text—if people can see it in the thumbnail, it may entice them to watch the video.


Don’t use too many hashtags. Keep them targeted and specific. Between 8-15 hashtags is enough. You want to leave space for a caption.


Don’t put a border around your video, Instagram Reels doesn’t seem to like this and it can be distracting to the immersive experience of Reels.

Wrapping up

So, that’s everything you need to know about how to crack the IG Reels algorithm heading into 2022. Remember, this new format of content is still relatively early in conception, so you can expect things to change drastically throughout the year.

The Instagram Reels algorithm is a beast that’s constantly changing and as an influencer or marketer, it’s your job to stay up to date with the latest changes and tweaks. It could help you get ahead of the competition. Staying up to date with the UNUM blog right here is the perfect way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s coming next.


UNUM is your best tool for planning, creating, and executing beautiful social media feeds and stories. Signup today for a free account.


Header photo by

March 21, 2022

About the author

Josh Edwards

Josh Edwards

Josh is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, and storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK). He’s really passionate about travel and documents adventures and stories through his films.

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