The Real Reel Algorithm | Instagram Algorithm in 2022

February 2, 2022

Filed in: Marketing

Ever since the chronological feed disappeared from Instagram we’ve all been wondering the same thing. Will this type of feed ever return? (Spoiler alert: the rumors are true! Say hi to the chronological feed returning this year!) How does Instagram know which posts to put on my feed? How does it know what content to serve me on my home search page? How the heck does this algorithm really work!?


In the simplest of answers, there are multiple algorithms that come into play on your Instagram feed. Instagram as a whole has an algorithm, however, there is also a specific algorithm for the Reel format of content. As one of Instagram’s newest features, Reels are really being pushed by the platform (you’ll even see suggested reels in your native feed). With all this attention, it’s time to get REEL and crack this code once and for all so you can make sure your content takes off.


Instagram Algorithm


Reels are Instagram’s Response to Tik Tok

Since TikTok has exploded globally over the past couple of years, Instagram needed to jump on this bandwagon and offer something similar to the worldwide sensation. Instagram has previously offered the option to post pictures, videos in posts, and stories. But they needed a separate idea to compete with TikTok, which ultimately gave us the Instagram Reels. 


Even though the content is served on different platforms, popular Instagram Reels are currently mirroring the content that is going viral on TikTok. Essentially, we are just moving ground trending content from one platform to another. You do, however, need to create separate content on TikTok and Instagram Reels – recycling content is not a cool look and does impact engagement. Plus you’ll have that pesky Tik Tok watermark on your content. 


Pro-tip: If you need inspiration for Instagram Reels or trending sounds, check out TikTok to get a few ideas and film your new, authentic version for Instagram Reels!


Creating Thumb-Stopping Reel Content


Now that we’re caught up on what Instagram Reels are, we need to discuss the importance of creating thumb-stopping Instagram Reels for your brand. Here are some simple do’s and don’ts for creating Reel content:


  • Use! Vertical! Video! 
  • Always try to capture your audience’s attention quickly
  • Create inspiring and shareable content 
  • Call to actions should always be included
  • Incorporate graphics such as text on screen or fun filters 
  • Pair your video with a voiceover or trending audio
  • Be authentic – have fun and experiment!



  • Film in a poorly lit or dark room
  • Post low resolution or blurry videos 
  • Recycle video from other apps – cannot have TikTok watermark 
  • Use horizontal video – proven to not perform as well 
  • Post a video that is mostly text focused 
  • Use music that is not from the Reels library 
  • Jump on outdated trends


Instagram Algorithm 101


Now that we know what Instagram Reels are and how to create fame-worthy content, let’s chat about the algorithm that you’ll be faced with. To break it down, the Instagram algorithm works based on interests and engagement. 


Your Instagram algorithm is calculated based on score of interests. What does this mean? It means whatever you spend the most time looking at, whether it be reels, fashion, a specific person’s profile or even your favorite type of dog, the algorithm will note that and serve you more posts based on your activity. These posts can also be determined by the amount of likes, comments, saves, shares and profile clicks you give. This is exactly why the chronological feed disappeared – Instagram algorithm would rather serve you posts you’re interested in than posts that have popped up from a friend in high school you haven’t spoken to in 11 years.


The Reel Algorithm


At the end of the day,  winning at Reels will require you to meet the criteria in the “Do” list above. If your video contains more of the aspects in the “Don’t” category, Instagram will immediately deprioritize it, which results in little engagement. 


Our goal when creating content is to always peak our followers’ interests, so creating reels with quality (yet authentic) video footage is extremely important! See below for one of our favorite Reels we’ve created this year for one of our amazing clients:


Click to view the reel


In this example, we created a reel of a lunchbox being packed with our client’s products. We wanted to specifically target parents, and give an idea of how the product could be used to help them save time packing lunches. To gain engagement,  we used trending audio so that it could be found organically by users scrolling through that audio. We also researched and applied relevant hashtags. Parents certainly seemed to notice, as the reel has been viewed over 5,000 times (5x their follower count) and those views are still climbing!


The Takeaway


A high quality Reel with intentional audio selection will immediately receive more impressions. Don’t forget to use hashtags and check out what’s trending. Keeping those simple principles in mind will help get your content in front of the right people and help drive engagement. You may even go viral! And you don’t have to dance to do so. 


We don’t want to give all of our secrets away, but we’ll leave you on this note – in order to give your engagement more of a boost, share your Reel to your Instagram story! It sounds so simple, but the more eyes on your Reels, the better they will perform.

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