Instagram Algorithm 2020 September Update - What's Going On?

Instagram's algorithm has always been...questionable.

But in September 2020 we got an update, and with it came a lot of outcry about how the algorithm is performing and the new user experience on the app.

Recently many users have taken to Twitter to publicly criticise and question Instagram's Algorithm and intention for the direction the app is currently taking.

Tweet by @leenahxs

Many complaining that their posts are not being seen by their followers and that their reach has dramatically dropped as a result of it. When businesses and influencers livelihood is measured based on these metrics, it can have a consequential impact.

Users are reporting that they are seeing less content from their friends and family and that ads and celebrity content is being pushed to their feed and explore pages.

This blog post will look into the update and what it means from my point of view.

First, let's look into what determines your Content Recommendations on Instagram.

Posts you like, save share or comment on often triggers the algorithm to notice you're enjoying this kind of content and personalises recommendations so you see them in your Explore, Accounts You May Like and IGTV Discover sections.

Instagram recently updated their help page to offer more insight into what may not be eligible for recommendations. These fall into five broad categories with some including (Read the full guidelines here)

  • Content that goes against Instagrams ability to keep a safe community

  • including discussion of self-harm, suicide, eating disorders. Violence.

  • Sexually explicit or suggestive imagery including see-through clothing.

  • Content that promotes the use of certain regulated content including cigarette and pharmaceutical goods.

  • "Sensitive or low-quality content about Health or Finance"

  • including Content that promotes misleading or deceptive business models.

  • Content that includes clickbait or engagement bait.

  • Content that promotes a contest or giveaway (however these can still be pushed as ads)

  • "unoriginal content that is largely repurposed from another without adding material value"

They also will not recommend accounts that have:

  • Recently violated Instagram's Community Guidelines

  • Accounts that have recently shared content that they try to not recommend

  • Accounts that engage in practices to build followings such as purchasing likes which also could include the follow & unfollow method in a short period can lead to accounts being banned for a week or longer.

  • Are associated with offline movements or organisations that are tied to violence.

Leading to an outcry from users speaking out that they have hundreds or thousands of accounts they're following, however, they will see the same small amount of people every day on their feeds and not their friends and family including high followed celebrities or influencers.

Tweet by @casemraex

It's not hidden that Instagram has always favoured promoting celebrities and other blue tick people on their platform. When you first made your account you were recommended to follow your favourite celebrity. And with celebrities having social media teams commenting on other celebrity or trending content to ensure their client is seen in the top of the comments section this is not surprising.

The introduction of The Reels Effect?

Instagram Reels

Reels are reportedly being pushed and suffocating other content leading in creators and businesses receiving a shocking amount of low reach from what they're used to.

Instagram's CEO Adam Mosseri reported in a post that the use of Reels being tested in three versions including the home screen that add shortcuts to reels and shops tab is reflecting on how users are using the app by stating "These changes reflect shifts we're seeing from people, both in how they use the product but also how they push culture forward on Instagram: the rise of creators, explosion of video, acceleration of online shopping.

Reels is their new shiny toy like everyone says with Instagram Stories "I have better results in terms of engagement and views on my stories compared to feed posts".

They will be pushing and promoting users who are using their new feature as they're in direct competition with TikTok and want to keep users on their platform as much as possible.

They're already doing this with website links. Have you clicked a website link or an in-feed product link? You experience an in-app web pop up but you have never left the app. This is so they can understand more about you and gather data to then apply it to elsewhere such as enticing brands, influencers and ordinary people to purchase ads.

So, what can you do?

Other than following Instagram's full guidelines, there are a few things that you can do.

First of all, understand if you have a drop of an engagement or reach It's not your fault, don't let any guru tell you that.

It's Instagram's shitty algorithm.

What we do know is that Instagram's algorithm loves the following:

Saves, Shares & Comments.

Instagram did announce that they have removed the automatic follower filter when it comes to deciding who gets a blue tick. So try not to focus on the number of followers you have because if you produce quality and enjoyable engagement you will gain followers.


Engage daily with your following and your audience (using your keywords as hashtags). To encourage engagement and attention to your posts you need to let your audience know about them by creating a connection with them and chatting to them. Same as you would offline.

Get creative with Reels!

Get creative with Reels. Content perfect for Reels are how to's, top tips etc as you only have 15 Seconds but considering academic reports claim that users on Instagram have an 8-second memory span, Reels is great for content than can be given in short bursts.

✨ Video Content

As adam said above he is making the app favour Videos. @workingwomxn has an amazing Instagram account all about creating videos and video resource library free to download!

✨ Be a small business /freelancer/ creator supporter!

Support local businesses and creators and your favourite influencer! Fact is our economy is shit and taken over by the likes of Amazon, due to how easy it is to find a product and buy it, which isn't bad at all especially when you need something straight away. However, you may discover a small independent business who can give you better customer service, purchasing experience and quality on product or service. And you'll feel amazing for helping small business in this difficult time.

There are some easy ways to find businesses including searching what you're looking for or viewing hashtags such as #smallbizuk #smallbizsaturdays.

Feel free to shout them out too and share them with your followers too. They may repost you on their stories, so you're reaching more people too!

Community & having fun!

Also, having a great community of likeminded people helps you enjoy the app and keep creating content :)

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