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How Does Instagram Work? The Ultimate Overview


Plixi Team

Nov 30, 2023 16 min read

10x Faster Instagram Growth. Automatically.

Many ask, “How does Instagram work so I can get more out of the social media platform?” As with most social networks, the list of features on Instagram can be overwhelming. That’s why we have created this guide to help break down several important aspects. 

We cover areas such as the Instagram algorithm, Notes, monetization, different content types, and more. Once you read our guide, you can get the lay of the land to hit the ground running. By taking advantage of each feature, you can achieve your Instagram goals. This could be to improve your brand awareness, start an IG influencer career, or sell products on Instagram. 

Finally, we recommend you read the article to the end for insight into how Plixi can help grow your account. We are an Instagram growth service that has helped many IG accounts reach new heights.

How Does Instagram Work? The Ultimate Overview

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?

Are you interested in figuring out how does the Instagram algorithm work? Understanding the Instagram algorithm is important since it dictates content sent to user feeds. Improving your content in the eyes of the Instagram algorithm can increase your viewers, likes, followers, and sales. In the following section, we’ll share the IG algorithms for different types of content.

How Instagram Ranks Reels

Instagram Reels is a highly popular form of content. They are videos or pictures with a maximum run time of 15 seconds. Everyone tries to get their reel to go viral, but the algorithm decides what gets priority viewing. Here’s a summary of how the algorithm decides what reels a person sees:

  • User activity: The algorithm considers the viewing preference of the user. This includes what type of reels they usually watch and have liked or commented on. The algorithm uses this information because it tries to send relevant reels to the user. 
  • Previous interactions: Viewers will get sent reels from users with whom they have interacted in the past. This might be by leaving a comment on their post or sending them an Instagram direct message
  • Reel Information: The algorithm also considers information about the reel, such as the audio track and the nature of the content. Also, search signals such as likes, shares, and comments determine popularity. 
  • The person who posted: Finally, the overall popularity of the IG account that posted the reel is considered. However, the algorithm also tries to promote content from a wide range of people who have something new to share.

How Instagram Ranks Stories and Feeds

Instagram Stories is content that’s similar to reels, but it’s only available for account followers. Also, it’s automatically deleted within 24 hours after the user has posted the content. 

The algorithm at Instagram understands that users want to view content from family, friends, and other close accounts. This reaches a higher priority in their feeds. Furthermore, the algorithm uses criteria that are similar to Instagram Reels above. This includes considering information about the post, who posted the content, and the interaction history. 

Overall, the algorithm uses a set of predictions to determine the Instagram Stories and feed content they want to use. The more you scroll through your feed, the more data the algorithm uses for accuracy improvements.

How Instagram Ranks Explore

Explore is a tool that allows Instagram users to discover new content. The recommendations make it easy for searchers to discover new content they might be interested in consuming. However, the algorithm mainly pushes content from accounts users already follow. Once this criteria is met, the content ranks with similar rules described in the Instagram Reels section above. 

Also, Instagram has rules for what content they recommend in the Explore tool. Recommendations Guidelines avoid potentially offering content that’s harmful or sensitive for users. For instance, you shouldn’t find content relating to vaping or tobacco use in Explore.

Instagram Shadowban

Instagram shadowbanning is when the IG algorithm completely removes an account’s content from consideration. This means that only an account’s current followers can find the content.

Instagram doesn’t officially admit to handing out an Instagram shadowban, but many users have reported experiencing them. You’ll need to figure out what is causing the shadowban and reverse your actions or avoid repeating them. It can take a few weeks or months to get a shadowban removed from your Insta account.

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How Does Instagram Notes Work?

Instagram Notes is a text-sharing tool that allows users to share up to 60 characters with their social circle. Most people use them for status updates and to keep others in the loop. The Notes feature can post content to people you follow back or a close friends list. 

When you create a note, any received replies are in the Instagram direct messages section. Notes are a great way for Instagram influencers and businesses to keep their audience updated. For example, this could be when you want to post new content or release products. 

Furthermore, like Instagram Stories, Notes are automatically deleted within 24 hours. This helps keep your IG account tidy and avoids a build-up of outdated content on your account. 

Since notes encourage a transition to direct messages, they allow businesses to communicate with customers. The detailed level of communication is great for providing customer support and helping with a buying decision. 

Now that you know how Instagram Notes works, give it a try for yourself. Create a list of close friends as a test and see how the interactions unfold. Before long, you may find yourself using the features like it’s second nature.

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How Does Vanish Mode Work on Instagram?

Are you interested in learning how the Vanish mode works on Instagram? Vanish mode allows you to send direct messages that will disappear. The messages are automatically deleted when users leave the chat, which is a great way to send sensitive messages. 

Here’s the step-by-step process for using Vanish mode:

  1. Open the Instagram app and find the chat icon. 
  2. Look at an existing chat log or create a new message thread. Then, scroll to the bottom. 
  3. Now swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and you will initiate Vanish mode. 
  4. You’ll notice that the screen will go into dark mode, and a few rushing emojis will begin to fall from the top of the screen. However, if you are already in dark mode, you’ll see a “You turned on vanish mode” at the top of the chat.

Using Vanish mode is easy and a great way to avoid your personal information getting out on the internet. For example, you can use Vanish mode when communicating with people you don’t trust. 

However, in Vanish mode, the other user can take screenshots of your conversation. This means you should still be cautious of what message you send in Vanish mode. Now that you know how the feature works, give it a try when chanting to someone you know to test.

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How Do Close Friends Work on Instagram

The Close Friends feature on Instagram allows you to create a group of accounts for sharing content. This includes sharing a story, reels, or notes. It allows you to control the number of people that see the content. 

Here is the step-by-step process to create a Close Friends list:

  1. Tap the profile picture toward the bottom right of your screen for the profile area. 
  2. Tap the three horizontal lines icon and then “Close Friends.”
  3. Tap the circle icon alongside the people you want to add to the Close Friends list. You can also search for people not on the list by using the search bar. 
  4. Likewise, tap the circle icon with a check mark to remove people from the Close Friends list.

Note that it’s not possible for other Instagram users to request being added to a Close Friends list. This promotes privacy and keeps the content on the list confidential. However, when sharing sensitive content, you need to trust the users not to share content. 

You can also use the Close Friends feature to avoid sharing irrelevant content with your followers. For example, let’s say that you’re into basketball and want to share stories regarding your sessions. You can create a Friends List that is into basketball and share this content exclusively with them. 

Now that you know how Close Friends works on Instagram, you can begin using the feature. Try creating more than one list to experiment with the feature. Then, send the accounts on that list content to see the feature in action.

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How Does Different Type of Instagram Content Work

Now, let’s turn our attention to how different Instagram content types work. It’s important to use the right type of content for your target audience. This ensures you have more impact and diversity with the range of content. Overall, Instagram does a good job of offering a mixture of content types to match different preferences. 

How Does Instagram Live Work?

Do you want to know how Instagram Live works? This is video content that allows you to create a live stream. When publishing a live broadcast, all followers are immediately notified. Overall, Instagram Live is a great way to interact with your audience since you can answer questions via chat. Some IG users love this content since it allows for deeper connections to be formed with content creators. 

Once the Instagram Live session ends, it automatically archives for public viewing. Therefore, users can view the content anytime if they miss it live. It means your content will continue to generate views and grow your Instagram account. 

However, Instagram Live is more hands-on than other content types. That’s because you must be online at a specific time and provide content without editing. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to notify your audience in advance to increase the viewership. Otherwise, the only viewers you’ll get are those that happen to be online and notice randomly. 

Also, you cannot start an Instagram Live broadcast on a personal computer. It’s only available on Android or Apple smartphones via the Instagram app. You should consider adding Instagram Live to your content production to mix things up.

How Does Instagram Story Views Work?

Do you want to know how Instagram story views work? This refers to looking back at viewers who saw your content so you can keep track of the viewership. You might be interested to know who views your stories the most or what type of followers are interacting. 

The first 50 viewers on Instagram will be sorted chronologically. This means that the first viewers for a story will be at the top of the list. However, after the first 50 viewers, the list will be sorted based on the engagement. Users who have a higher engagement rate will be at the top of the list. 

You can look at the detailed metrics of your Instagram Stories by using Instagram Insights. This is a powerful analytics toolset and is available with Instagram business accounts. Digging into your Instagram Stories analytics is beneficial because:

  • Grow your viewers: You can determine the Instagram Stories that receive the most views and engagement. Then, you can replicate the success by using similar content strategies. 
  • Brand recognition: Business accounts that are growing their brand on Instagram should consider analytics data. They can spot the stories that lead to the biggest improvements in branding efforts. 
  • Sell products: You can sell products directly by using Instagram Stories. This allows your current followers to see what new products you have available and purchase them right away.

Businesses can use the list of viewers to contact with new offers using Instagram direct messages. This is especially true when you see viewers who watch every Instagram story and have good engagement. It suggests they are interested in your brand and might be ready to buy.

How Does Instagram Reels Work?

Instagram Reels is short-form content that can be a maximum of 15 seconds. It could be a series of images or videos; you can add annotations such as captions. Instagram Reels is among the most popular types of content on the social media platform. However, unlike Instagram Stories, reels share with everyone on Instagram. 

Here is the 4 step process for creating Instagram Reels:

  1. Gather ideas: The first step is to come up with a bunch of ideas for your Instagram Reels. The brainstorming session should lay the groundwork for the next steps. You need to answer questions such as what your IG reel will be about to the target audience. 
  2. Shoot Instagram Reel: Now it’s time to create the Instagram Reel, and there are a few methods. You can use the Reels tab, Instagram home screen, or Instagram Stories camera. 
  3. Preview and add effects: Once you have the content for the Instagram Reel, it’s time to add different effects. This will allow you to bring the Instagram Reel to life. You can add text so the reader can understand if they have the audio turned off. Also, you may want to add filters to change the color format.
  4. Share Instagram Reel: Now it’s time to publish the content and share it with your audience. Also, you can use your other digital channels to promote Instagram Reels to boost viewership.

Now that you know how Instagram Reels work, you can start publishing a few. Use the steps above to develop and share a few ideas with your audience. Make sure to monitor the reels to identify the weak ones that need improvement.

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How Does Instagram Monetization Work?

Do you want to discover how Instagram monetization works? Monetization on Instagram takes many forms. It includes working with other brands or earning ad revenue on your published content. In this section, we’ll show you how Instagram monetization works so you can start earning.

  • Instagram ad revenue: You might have noticed that ads run between content as users scroll their stories or reels. You can receive a share of this ad revenue if you’re eligible. You need to be 18 years of age and located in the United States. Also, you must remain compliant with Instagram’s Partner Monetization Policies
  • Brand sponsorship: Grow a big following on Instagram, and you’ll start getting noticed by brands. Some of them might contact you with a sponsorship deal. You’ll typically need to promote or review their products or services. In return, you may get free products and money. Usually, the size of these sponsorship deals varies based on the size of your Instagram viewership. 
  • Sell products: You can sell products directly on Instagram by opening up a business account. This account type unlocks features like dedicated product pages and hashtags. Hence, there’s no need to funnel users away from Instagram to get sales. This is ideal if you don’t have a big brand that users can trust enough to buy from your website. 
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How Does Restrict Work on Instagram

You can restrict other users on Instagram to reduce their ability to interact with your account. You may want to restrict users who are harassing you, or you want to minimize communication for any reason. 

There are a few options available when it comes to restricting users. Here are some of the top ones:

  • Reduce visibility: You can hide your online status from other Instagram users. This means other users cannot see when you log into your account. You may want to do this when browsing Instagram without interacting with others. 
  • Comments: When other users leave comments on your posts, you can make it so the general public can’t see them. You can look at the comment by selecting “See comment,” and then you can tap Approve so others can see. This feature is handy if someone is leaving comments you don’t want on your posts. 
  • Remove notifications: You can completely remove any notification related to a specific Instagram account. This means that you will not get a notification if they send you a message, post content, or leave comments.

Now that you understand how to restrict work on Instagram, you can test the feature for yourself. Try the different restrictions to protect your Instagram account from unwanted users.

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How Does Unsend Work on Instagram?

Do you want to know how unsend works on Instagram? This feature allows you to “unsend” a message. You can do this if you accidentally sent the wrong person a message or changed your mind. 

Here is the step-by-step process for unsending messages on Instagram:

  1. In your account area, click the message icon to view your message threads.
  2. Select the conversation with the message you want to delete. 
  3. Click the three-dot icon on the message you want to delete. 
  4. Select the Unsend option, and then click Unsend to confirm.

Once you have unsent a message, you and other Instagram accounts in the chat cannot see the message. However, you need to be aware that the recipients may have already read the message. 

Also, deleted messages may linger if other users have saved a screenshot. Therefore, deleting a message doesn’t guarantee that it is gone forever. You can always ask the recipients if they have a copy of the message.

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Final Thoughts on Using the Instagram App

To conclude, there are many aspects of Instagram you have to understand to use the platform to its full potential. This ensures you can grow your Instagram account quicker and avoid getting harassed by others with restrictions. 

Now that you understand how Instagram works, put some of the information into action. For example, start creating new types of content or restricting users who have been bothering you. Using the features firsthand will help you understand how they work, so it becomes second nature. 

Are you looking for strategies to grow your Instagram account? Then, take advantage of the services provided here at Plixi. We provide a combination of an in-house algorithm and Instagram influencers to target specific audiences. So what are you waiting for? Start growing and gaining Instagram followers today.

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