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*PRO TIP: Instagram prides itself on its algorithm transparency and explainability. To stay up to date on the latest changes and important information from the app, be sure to follow Adam Mosseri (head of Instagram) at @mosseri on IG.

In head of Instagram Adam Mosseri’s* May 2023 Instagram update, he released information on how Instagram “ranks” Reels. In this update, he stated that “Reels are designed to help you discover new things,” so “the majority of what you see is from accounts you don’t follow” (Mosseri 2023). Moreover, Instagram surveys its users to determine whether or not they liked a particular reel, or found it valuable – and then the app uses this information to rank and recommend the content to more users.

Within this update, Mosseri shared that Instagram “aims to make certain reels less visible” for a number of reasons – and reels that fall into these no-no categories are far less likely to be recommended to Instagram users.

Why is this significant? Well, if your reels are falling into any of these categories, they are most likely NOT reaching your intended audience. Sure, your current followers may be seeing your content because they already subscribe or follow, but if your reels fall into these low-ranking categories, Instagram is not showing them to people who don’t follow you. Thus, if you’re wanting to attract new followers (and potentially new clients), you are missing out by posting these low-ranking reels – and you may not even know you’re doing it.

That’s why we’re taking time today to review these no-no categories – so that you can make sure you’re not unknowingly creating and sharing low-ranking content. 

Instagram WILL NOT Recommend Reels that are…

  • Low Resolution: The visual appeal of your Reels plays a pivotal role in capturing your audience’s attention. Low-resolution videos detract from the overall viewing experience, causing them to earn a low ranking in the Instagram algorithm.
  • Watermarked: Watermarked Reels often convey a sense of borrowed or recycled content – something Instagram will not recommend to other users as it’s not fresh content.
  • Muted: Sound enhances the storytelling potential of your Reels. Muted videos lack the emotional impact and engagement that come with captivating audio – and result in a low ranking.
  • Bordered: While creative framing can enhance your videos, excessive borders can shrink the visual space and diminish the impact of your content. Remember, you want your Reels to fill viewers’ screens and captivate their attention from the moment they start watching!
  • Dominated by Text: As legal experts and marketers, we understand the power of words. However, Reels that are predominantly text-driven do not align with the visual nature of Instagram’s platform, and they don’t perform as well. Think about balancing text with engaging visuals to create a harmonious and impactful viewing experience.
  • Politically Focused: Instagram does not highly rank content that is politically focused. If politically focused content is a part of your brand, keep doing what you’re doing – just know that your content may not be reaching a broad audience.
  • Reposted from Other Accounts: While reposting popular reels has been a strategy for growth in the past, Instagram now does not recommend content to other users if it’s obviously reposted from another account. The goal is to share original content, and reposting old content prevents that.
  • Contests and Giveaways: While contests and giveaways can boost engagement, it’s essential to strike a balance. Overloading your Reels with promotional content might come across as spammy – and cause your content to rank lower in the algorithm. Approach contests and giveaways with a strategic mindset, ensuring they align with your firm’s identity and provide genuine value to your audience.
  • Clickbait + Engagement bait: Instagram users have reported disliking reels that contain obvious clickbait or engagement bait. Because of that, Instagram has pivoted – and these types of reels are now not as likely to be recommended on the platform as they once were. From a marketing perspective, it’s hard to avoid posting ZERO clickbait, as you want your audience to understand how to connect with you – and you want your social media presence to generate more leads. So, our advice is to be mindful with these types of posts. Sprinkle them into your Instagram strategy, but consider also creating Reels that veer away from constant promotional content.

Again, it’s important to remember that Reels are designed to reach a wider audience than the original flat-photo-style Instagram post  – so make sure to be intentional with your Reels strategy in order to increase viewership across the board.

*Mosseri. (2023). Instagram Ranking Explained.


Gracie Howes

Gracie Howes is a Marketing Copywriter and Social Media Strategist at PILMMA. As a former AP English teacher, she is passionate about breaking down complex concepts in the world of marketing and tech in order to facilitate increased access and growth within the world of business. You can contact Gracie at