When Instagram found out that users missed out on 70% of the posts on their feed, they announced a new algorithm. An algorithm that promised to let you see the posts that you care about the most. But the workings of the algorithm remained a burning question until recently when the Facebook-owned company revealed how does the Instagram algorithm work.
When the Instagram feed was tweaked from chronological to algorithmic, people anticipated a drop in engagement levels. However, people have now started seeing 90% of their feed since the algorithm was instituted. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the Instagram feed algorithm.
Instagram feed ranking factors
Before the Instagram algorithm was announced, the feed worked on a reverse-chronological order. This means you used to see the latest posts first of the accounts you were following. Your preferences and interests didn’t play a role in it.
But that’s not the case now. The latest Instagram algorithm work uses machine learning to personalize your feed. In other words, your past preferences and interactions with the accounts you follow are analyzed before your feed is created. Even if your friend has followed the same accounts as you have, your feed is going to be different from hers.
Check this example out, for instance. I tend to follow a lot of travelers’ accounts on Instagram. I hit a ‘like’ on travel pictures often if they appeal to me. Perhaps that was the reason why this post welcomed me when I opened my Instagram app early in the morning.
If you noticed, this picture was posted 3 hours ago. But there were posts that were more recent than this which appeared later on my feed and belonged to other genres.
Here’s a glimpse into the 6 factors that determine how does your Instagram algorithm work.
Let’s have a look at these points in detail.
The posts that the Instagram algorithm believes you will care about the most is always going to rank higher. The company made it pretty clear in the 2016 press release when it was first announced. It was titled “See The Moments You Care About First”. Self-explanatory indeed!
Instagram gauges the relevance of a post for you based on how you have engaged with posts before. It also maps out the actual content of the post to match your preferences.
If a certain genre catches more of your attention, the posts from the same genre will be given a higher priority. It will take your likes, comments and your follows, into consideration. Hashtags are also analyzed.
The idea is that popularity is not the key here. Posts with higher engagement from other people are not going to matter. Which means a post which is less popular but more relevant to you, will appear on top of your feed.
Instagram hasn’t completely thrown the reverse chronological feed out the window. After all, you would want to see a fresh feed that gives you all the recent updates so that you don’t miss out on anything while you’re gone.
The algorithm was updated in March 2018 to ensure that people get to see newer posts first. So a post uploaded 15 minutes earlier will be prioritized over those which are weeks or days old.
It’s interesting to note that only the posts that you missed are arranged in an order according to the algorithm. The ones that you saw in your last visit retain their arrangement. Instagram also separates the new posts that you haven’t seen yet from the older ones with a “You’re all caught up” message.
Would you not prefer to know what’s going on in your best friend’s life over anyone else? That’s what Instagram takes into account. It will give higher priority to posts of friends who are closer to you.
So, how does Insta rightly guess who your closest friends are? It keeps a track of the people whose posts you like the most, you direct message often and search for the most. You can also let Instagram know who you care about the most by commenting on their posts and tagging them more often.
The above three are the most crucial factors that determines how does the Instagram algorithm work. There are a few other factors that come into play.
How often do you open your Instagram app? If you are a frequent user and open the app every hour on an average, your posts are more likely to follow a chronological order. However, if you just visit say, once a day, there will be more posts for Instagram to sort and the relevance of the post will take precedence.
The number of accounts you follow matters. If you’re following a few hundred accounts, their posts have to be sorted accordingly by the Instagram algorithm. Which means, you will not be able to see all the posts from one account, rather you’ll see a mix of posts from different ones. But if you are following few people, chances are you don’t miss out on any of their posts on your feed.
If you hang out on your Instagram for a short duration at a time, the app will prefer to show you the most relevant posts at a glance. But if you browse for a longer time, you will be given a more in-depth view of the posts.
A few Instagram algorithm myths busted
Myth # 1: You may be shadowbanned
Rumors were ripe that your account may be temporarily banned for overusing hashtags and using them repetitively. Not just that, it was also being said that Instagram will not even notify of the ban. However, the staff of the company had clarified that no such thing exists. Having said that, you should still use your hashtags responsibly and use only the relevant ones.
Myth # 2: The chronological feed may come back
No, it will not! The company has no intentions to bring the old algorithm back for now. It feels that users have gotten used to this and they don’t want to add any more complexity to their experience.
Myth # 3: Business profiles get more preference
Whether you have a personal or a business profile, you will be treated equally by Instagram. So, switching to a business account will not help you enhance your reach. However, you will get access to a few additional features.
Myth # 4: Videos are ranked higher
There’s no such priority given to photos or videos on your feed. It solely depends on what content you prefer to engage in.
Myth # 5: Posting frequently may downrank my account
Your account will not be downranked in any way. But if you post 3 pictures at the same time, they might not appear together. A person following you will see other posts in between.
How does the Instagram algorithm benefit marketers?
The statistics say it all! Instagram’s 800 million users now get to view 90% of the posts. As a single user follows more and more accounts (since there are so many options available now in one genre), they are less likely to come across a post amongst so many others on their feed.
This means the organic reach or impressions of a post are going to go down. In such a scenario, a reverse-chronological approach to the feed will no longer suffice, as it would mean that a user would have to spend a lot of time on the platform to view all the posts. But that’s not always the case.
You would not want to see only the most recent posts when you open Instagram. You would want to see the most relevant and the best ones! That’s where this algorithm is great for marketers.
With the new algorithm, the quality of the content that you post matters the most. The reach of your content depends upon everything – your following, the visuals, captions, hashtags. If need be, you can consider hiring a professional photographer for the images, or invest in becoming a good photographer yourself.
Posts are not the only option. You can even engage your followers with Instagram stories and live videos too. You can start a conversation with your followers by prompting them to comment. The idea is to not focus on the quantity, but the quality of the posts.
Instagram marketing is an exciting new area that is getting the attention of digital marketers worldwide. If you get to know how does the Instagram algorithm work in detail, you would know the tips and tricks to get around the same. I think the best part of the algorithm is that the better your content, the better the chances of you getting noticed.
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Niharika Datta is a Content Writer at Vidooly. She started her career as a Human Resource professional but is now pursuing her love for writing. Though she writes about a myriad of ideas, her personal favourite is writing about the latest trends in the content and digital marketing world. An ambivert by nature, she likes to grab a snack with a warm cup of coffee in the company of a good book or a close friend.