How does Instagram's algorithm actually work?

How does Instagram's algorithm actually work?

15th June 2018 in Social media

We all remember the glory days - when Instagram's algorithm was reverse chronological and your posts didn’t disappear into the abyss as they do now (or at least that's how a lot of users view the social media app).

In July 2016, Instagram ditched the reverse chronological feed for an algorithm, the workings of which have never really been explained. Until recently, when they got together a group of reporters at their new San Francisco office to give us insight into Instagram’s feed ranking algorithm.

So, how does it work?

The algorithm aims to create a unique feed for each user. Even if you follow the same accounts as other users, your feed will be personalised based on how you interact with those accounts. The algorithm determines what you see in your feed based on the following three factors:

Interest: By analysing your past behaviour within the app, Instagram predicts how much you’ll care about a post with higher rankings given for what matters to you.

Timing: How recently the post was shared with priority given to recent timely posts over ones that are days or weeks old.

Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it and how much interaction you’ve had with them previously, such as liking and commenting on their posts or being tagged in photos together. The relationship you have with another user, again like the Interest factor of the algorithm, is based on your past behaviours within the app.

As well as these three main factors, a few additional measures such as how often you open the app, how many people you follow and the amount of time you generally spend in the app during each session also play a part in the algorithm and its sorting of the posts most relevant to you.

What about the myths?

There are many myths and conspiracies out there surrounding the algorithm and how it works, with some users longing for the reverse chronological feed to come back.

Instagram’s reporters addressed these myths and answered the question we’re all dying to know - will the old feed come back?

The answer: No, Instagram isn’t considering bringing the old reverse chronological feed back as they don’t want to add more complexity to the already complex algorithm. But, they are listening to users who dislike the current feed.

As well as this, they also dispelled the following myths:

  • Instagram’s feed doesn’t favour users who use Stories, Live or other special features of the app
  • Instagram doesn’t downrank users who post frequently, but might swap other content in between these posts.
  • Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.
  • Instagram doesn’t hide posts in the feed, you’ll see everything posted by everyone you follow if you keep scrolling.
  • Shadowbanning (making posts undiscoverable if they contain too many hashtags) isn’t a real thing. They don’t hide content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.

This insight into how the algorithm works should clear up a lot of the misunderstandings surrounding it. Since being introduced in 2016, Instagram’s 800 million users reportedly see 90% of their friends’ posts rather than the 50% they used to see in the reverse chronological feed.

And, as long as the content you create is engaging, timely and relevant, the algorithm will actually work in your favour - whether it’s for a personal or business account.

Here at Applied Digital, we can help your business keep up to date with social media and make the most of the opportunities it can bring. To find out how social media can benefit your business, contact us or give us a call on 01484 30 20 10.

More from the blog