Instagram Algorithm for Creatives in 2021

Confession time: The problem I have the most with Instagram isn’t with the platform itself necessary — it’s the fact that I see creatives post the same post over and over again, hoping that their content will eventually catch fire.

The issue I have with this is the fact that posting the same type of content — content that brings nothing fresh to the table — leads audiences to lose interest and engage less, letting Instagram’s algorithm know that this account is no longer relevant. When you have a small business, beating the Instagram algorithm is the last thing you should be worrying about.

I have another confession: We here at Carrylove Designs spend a lot of time on Instagram, but this is because we’ve worked out what type of content engages our audience and drives traffic to our site. If you’re not seeing any return on investment or ROI (more about that in this blog post), it might be time to re-think your Instagram strategy.

As a creative entrepreneur, you’re most likely already on Instagram, hard at work creating beautiful content that you feel should get more engagement. Like I’ve said so many times before though, beautiful content isn’t enough to generate leads and garner traffic — there has to be a plan in place. So today we’re going to cover how to create content that will increase your engagement and lead to bookings.

Ready? It’s time to get strategic!

The strategy: Building content that drives leads

The main reason for creative entrepreneurs to be on Instagram isn’t just to garner engagement — it’s to drive leads, find potential clients and have them book a consultation, and become actual clients. This sounds easier said than done, but we’ve spent a lot of research hours on Instagram, A/B testing, and trying out different types of content to see how the ever-complicated algorithm works.

We discovered that sharing and bookmarking are the two keys to success.

Let’s cover what these two types of posts entail so you can start working alongside the Instagram algorithm and build content that will set you up for the best success.

The Instagram algorithm in 2021 as creative entrepreneurs

How to navigate the 2021 Instagram algorithm 

Step over likes and comments, there are new cool kids in town: sharing and bookmarking. Yep, it turns out that there is an order of importance in the way people engage with content on Instagram. In the simple days likes were all that mattered, but 2021 looks different. Here is Instagram’s 2021 algorithm hierarchy:

  1. Bookmark icon
  2. Airplane (sharing) icon
  3. Comment icon
  4. Heart icon

Let’s dive deeper into the two most important icons: The bookmark icon and airplane icon.

Saveable and Shareable Instagram Content

How to create shareable content on Instagram in 2021

Airplane (share) icon

First up, let’s talk about the airplane icon (aka the share button). This icon allows users to either share your post individually with a friend via DM or share it with their followers through their Instagram stories. The type of content that lends itself well to sharing is content that followers find valuable, informative, and connects directly with a follower.

One reliable way to see what your audience finds shareable is to go to your Insights, select the timeline you want to view (I usually review the past three months), and filter your content by shares. Note: This will only work for Business accounts.

For Carrylove Designs’ Instagram, we noticed that our audience shares helpful guides like this post, which talks about how to get a website ready for engagement season. This was shared with a lot of educators that have a similar audience like wedding pro coaches, SEO specialists, and Pinterest strategists. They saw the post, knew their audience would find it valuable, and re-shared it to their audience to provide them with content that would be helpful.

If you’re a wedding photographer, for example, ask yourself what your audience would find helpful and valuable. Maybe that means putting together a quick guide on how to choose engagement outfits, or a timeline with information on when to book certain vendors. This type of content is very shareable because everyone knows someone who is about to get married. Not to mention, other professionals who are in a similar niche would be inclined to share the content since it is useful for their audience.

Key takeaway: Whenever you think of the airplane icon, ask yourself “What kind of content can I create that is shareable?”

How to create savable content on Instagram in 2021

Bookmark (save) icon

Second up is the bookmark icon (aka the save button). This icon gives people the ability to save posts to their Instagram collections to save for a later date because they find the content inspiring.

You can find your most bookmarked content in the same way as the airplane icon — just filter for saves instead of shares.

Going back to the wedding pro example, creating savable content may look like putting together a carousel of different engagement outfit inspiration for different locations, like a downtown outfit, beach outfit, or an outfit for a forest backdrop Another example is curating a carousel of your favorite wedding vendors and what they do. That’s a great example because when a bride or groom is going through their Instagram and sees this guide of recommendations, they can easily save your post and go back to it when the time is relevant.

Pro-tip: If you’re sharing content from other pros and vendors in your niche, chances are they’re going to share your content as well if you’ve created useful content. When their audience sees your content on a vendor or pro’s story, they’ll be inclined to save the content, so it’s a double-win!

Key takeaway: When you think of the bookmark icon, ask yourself, “What will my audience find inspiring and want to come back to in the future?” 


If you take nothing else from this blog post, at least write this down: You want your content to be saveable and shareable. If you’ve implemented more shareable and saveable content to your Instagram, how has it been working for your business? Let us know in the comments!

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brand and Showit website design studio for creatives.

I am an award-winning website designer, brand strategist, and community leader. I help take our clients' visual brands to the next level. I am passionate about design and believe pairing a beautiful brand aesthetic with an intentional website strategy is the cornerstone for success, booking clients effortlessly, and creating a delightful online experience.

Founder, Amanda Shuman

I don't believe in coincidences. You arrived here for a reason. I would love the opportunity to show you around and get to know you better. My goal is be able to serve you no matter what stage of business you're in. Please take a look of some of the best places to get started.

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