Uncover The Mystery Behind Instagram’s Reels Algorithm

By The Superviral Team, March 8th 2024
3 minutes read

Instagram Reels can open access to new audiences and expand your reach—if you use it right. Though what does and doesn’t go viral on Instagram Reels must seem mysterious, there are methods to it, which can be broken down into actionable steps.

Keep reading to understand how Instagram’s Reels algorithm works, and how to improve your reach. 

How Does the Instagram Reels Algorithm Work?


The Reels algorithm decides what to show by measuring four different factors: Relationships, timeliness, relevance, and popularity.


When we say relationships, we mean how you interact with other users and vice versa. Do people look for you, search for you by name? Do you comment on other people’s posts, and do people comment on yours? 

The more someone interacts with your profile, the more likely your Reel will appear on their page. This means engagement is crucial if you’re trying to grow your audience on Instagram via Reels. 


Of course, this doesn’t mean strangers can’t discover you as well. This is just one metric. 


Instagram’s Reels algorithm prioritizes new content over old content. By old, we mean roughly week-old to month-old content and older. This is one of the key reasons to time when you post—so you can get the most eyes on your content and, therefore, the most engagement. 


Instagram wants to ensure its content caters to each individual profile’s interest, which means they are looking at the relevance of your content for each profile. The Reels algorithm determines relevance based on what a profile user has previously engaged with. If your content is way outside a profile user’s interest, they won’t show it to them.

This actually works in your favor, because you want your content to be seen by people who will engage with it (as opposed to scrolling past it).


Instagram also cares about how popular your post is. Just like with relevance, Instagram measures popularity through engagement, i.e., shares, likes, comments, etc. 

Engagement Metrics


Speaking of engagement, Instagram’s Reels algorithm measures engagement in five core ways: 

Accounts Reach

This metric refers to how many unique Instagram users saw your Reel. Accounts Reach shows you how far your Reel can spread across different audiences. 

If you notice your Account Reach is much higher than usual, this can be a sign of minor virality. It could mean Instagram thought your Reel was good enough for the Explore or Top Reels page. 

You should know that Account Reach is different from Impressions. The two are often thought of as the same thing—which can hamper your rise to popularity. Reach refers to individuals, while Impressions refer to the number of times your Reel was shown to different accounts. 

Let’s say one person has five different Instagram accounts, and they watch your Reel. You’ll see you have an Account Reach of one while having five impressions. This is because for Reach, it doesn’t matter how many accounts see your content—it’s the people. 

Plays (and Watch Completion)

Plays refers to the number of times your Reel has been played. If you notice your Plays are higher than Account Reach numbers, that can mean some accounts are watching your Reel multiple times.

Use Plays as a guideline for what kind of content performs better on Reels versus other platforms. 

Similar to Plays, there’s also a Watch Completion metric, which shows how many people watched your Reel entirely. This is an important distinction from Plays, as Plays can be counted even if a user only watches a few seconds. 

Likes & Comments



Because these metrics are already familiar, we combined them into one section. Likes are, of course, a metric that shows how many people pressed Like on your Reel. It’s a sign of engagement and popularity.

Comments are…well, how many people commented on your Reel. Comments are a good metric to determine how engaging your content is, because your content causes someone to feel something enough to type out a comment (positive or negative).

A nice byproduct of comments is they cause your content to appear on other people’s accounts. Followers of that commenter will see the commenter engaged with your Reel on their feeds.


Saves refers to how many times your Reel was bookmarked, meaning saved to watch later. This metric is important, as it clearly shows Instagram your content is valuable to the viewer. This importance can lead the platform to show your Reels to more accounts.  


When someone decides to share your Reel, it will show up in your Share metrics. Sharing lets Instagram know your content is interesting enough that a user thinks other people can benefit from it. Eventually, this leads to the platform sharing your content as well. 

7 Ways to Get Your Content Shown


Here are seven useful tips to expand your Reel’s reach: 

1. Write Catchy Captions

Despite being a visual-centric social media platform, attention-grabbing captions still matter when making Instagram Reels. Captions are also an easy way to include keywords (words people type when searching) so your Reel appears in people’s searches. 

Creating catchy captions requires a balance of art and practicality. Never forget you are writing for real people, not just search algorithms. 

Take advantage of the fact that Reels are both visual and convey sound by having the latest trending sound clip in the background of your video. Whether it’s part of a song or a funny sound effect, adding popular background noise can bring you closer to the trending page—leading to more followers, comments, and likes. 

3. Focus on Niche-Specific Content

You can’t appeal to everyone—no matter how hard you try—which is why it’s wise to focus on niche-specific content. By narrowing your focus, you can create content that appeals to that niche’s audience and develop a relationship with your audience.

You’ll also be able to create a solid identity and establish credibility within the niche. Instagram likes to highlight experts, which renders your stuff more likely to be seen. Then, you’ll gain more followers and expand your reach even further. 

4. Use the Correct Hashtags

Hashtags are still the best way for people to discover content on Instagram. Before posting your Reel, make sure you add quality hashtags to your caption. Your captions should describe your Reel and be a mix of specific words, and more broad, descriptive words. 

Hashtags help the Reels algorithm choose what content goes to what user. By intelligently using hashtags, you help the algorithm. It’s best to use 3–5 hashtags for a Reel on average, though you may find using more or less may work better for your content specifically.

5. Create Visual Appeal

You have to make people want to watch your Reel, so don’t forget to make it visually appealing while trying to cater to Instagram’s Reels algorithm. Simple things like always shooting vertically, ensuring the quality is high, and adding colorful filters can vastly improve your Reel’s reach. 

Different ways to enhance visual appeal include:


6. Share Consistently 

If you want to be seen on Reels, you need to have a consistent upload/share schedule and spread your content everywhere. When you share your Reel, it will only be in the Reels feed—but you can spread its reach by sharing it on your main feed and even as an Instagram Story. 

Instagram likes consistency and promotes creators who provide content regularly. Not only does it show you’re reliable, but it also creates an expectation for your audience about when you’ll post—leading them to look you up more often. 

7. Grab Their Attention Fast

With so much to look at, you need a hook that grabs a person’s attention quickly so they pause in their scrolling. This is called a hook, because you want to pull a viewer in (kind of like a fish…). 

To hook Instagram users, you can use:

Start Improving Your Reels Performance 

Improving and expanding your Reels reach can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Superviral understands how the Instagram Reels algorithm operates—and can assist with improving your Reels performance. 

If you want other helpful Instagram tips and tricks, check out our blog.

Learn how we can get you more views today!