What Makes A 'Top Post' On Instagram?

When we ask the question "What's your favorite social platform?," to our socialites or peers in the community, we often receive the response of "Instagram!"

Which is awesome–we LOVE Instagram too (we share how to boost your engagement here and why we love other networks just as much here and here)! Although, if so many entrepreneurs are loving Instagram, we want to be using its features most effectively to get eyes on YOUR content, right?

Right! So–have you noticed, since Instagram's latest update, that there is now a "Top Posts" section on the top of every hashtag or geotag hub? 

Ever wonder what makes an Instagram Top Post top? Find out the two factors that play into the Instagram algorithm and how you can use Top Posts to your advantage to strategically grow your Instagram account! Pin this Instagram tip and click through to learn more!

Photo by Carley Rudd

What Makes A 'Top Post' On Instagram? (Tweet this!)

If you've noticed them, or are checking your phone right this minute to see what all the fuss is about, you're probably wondering–what makes a 'top post' a 'top post'? 

Sure, we can guess or assume it's the photos receiving the highest amount of likes. But actually, I would like you to consider otherwise! 

Here's what I've found:

Instagram's "Top Posts" take into account the speed of interacting and engagement ratio. 

What do I mean by that jargon? I mean that it's not only the amount of likes that is placing them in this category but also a few other factors! 

As you can see, in the hashtag #bandotodolist, there are images in the "Top Posts" that range from tens of likes to thousands of likes! Why?

Well, there are a few things to take into consideration:

The engagement rate. Or the percentage of interactions compared to the amount of followers. For example–the account @doragillett received 44 likes and 2 comments on this image (when we last checked). With 488 followers, that means 9.4% of her audience is engaging! 

It's not about how many likes you get but rather how engaged your audience is with your content! | Read "What Makes A 'Top Post' On Instagram?" via @social_studio

(That's killer. Kudos to you, Dora!) 

So it's not about how many likes you get but rather how engaged your audience is with your content! 

Next, from what I can gather, there is some element of time used in this part of Instagram's algorithm. It's seems that accounts who have their audience interacting on their images/videos very rapidly tend to be the ones favored for this "Top Posts" section. 

Pro Tip: If you already use industry-related hashtags (for example, we could use #mycreativebiz to get in front of potential new customers), go ahead and add those to the comments on your post. This will allow your post to stay nice and clean and appear less spammy to your audience all while still increasing the reach of your post to new faces. Then, when you're adding those industry-related tags, make sure to add a "vanity hashtag" to increase the amount of fast-action 'likes' that your post gets. For example, we could add something like #ihaveathingwithfloors or #coffee to our post. These vanity hashtags are less likely to lead new customers our way because of the sheer amount of volume that posts are tagged with these BUT you will see a lot of fast-action 'likes' which will come it and help your post rise to the Top Posts of #mycreativebiz and help that post stay there longer. Which as you can imagine, can help you get in front of new customers for a longer period of time. Make sense? This tip brought to our attention by our good friend, Jenn Herman– thanks Jenn!

Lastly, there are only 4,000 images in this hashtag, so there aren't as many images with thousands of likes to 'compete' with on a small hub like this, compared to #thatsdarling which has 1 million+ photos in their hub and a considerable amount of those images having thousands of likes/comments. 

Instagram has been extremely vague about how they define "Top Posts" so I am sharing what I have observed. Instagram describes the "Top Posts" as those which are 'trending' but as I just demonstrated, users that have a higher engagement ratio and a rapid engagement speed, have ranked among the "Top Posts" over those who have achieved more likes (who, in theory, would be up there if it's simply about likes).

Another theory I would like to explore is the idea that the "Top Posts" algorithm possibly considers the credibility of the account posting and the accounts interacting (just like in SEO, where the link is ranked higher if it comes from a respectable site). Just an idea at this moment... I hope to find out more as concrete information develops! 

Now, all this information is great, but how can YOU use this "Top Posts" feature to your advantage?

Gain Inspiration

When you are trying to come up with inspiration for your photos/video for your social media accounts, consider checking the "Top Posts" on hashtags used in your industry. 

For example, if you are an organic juicing company, you might want to check out #coldpressedjuice, #juiceservedhere or #organicjuice to see what content is doing really well in the community at the moment! This way, you can include different kinds of photos into your content if you have been stuck in a rut. 

Grow Your Reach

Instagram's goal with their new search, explore page and "Top Posts" sections are to grow the capabilities of people finding new accounts to follow and to interact with! They express this with their statement–"How can you find content that you wouldn't otherwise see on your feed? It's always about content that's not coming from people that you directly follow." 

So, to execute this awesome feature to grow your reach:
Find and use small hashtag hubs (in the thousands range rather than tens/hundreds of thousands) that you have a chance to stand out in! Develop a list of these hashtags to paste into your first comment and see if they increase your reach!

Do you need help getting a better grasp on how to define the best hashtag strategy for YOU? You'll love this! >>> How to Develop a Successful Hashtag Strategy

Gear Your Content to Your Niche

Rather than just slapping random hashtags (#sunset, #girl, #cali) on your photos, find what hashtags are killing it in your niche! This way, you can connect with other creatives in your industry and develop personal relationships. 

Now remember, the elements (that I can find) which affect your content ranking as a 'top post' are:

  • Having a large percentage of your audience engage on your post
  • How quickly your audience interacts
  • Using hashtags that are smaller and catered to your niche

Have fun using this tool and happy posting!