Understanding how Instagram’s algorithm works

Written by Kirsty Bamford


instagram

Instagram recently shared more information on how its feed algorithm works since changing from the chronological ordering back in 2016. To date, Instagram has never shared exactly how the algorithm chooses what you see despite facing backlash when it was first launched.

In an effort to provide more transparency and build its relationship with its users, the Facebook-owned company shared specific detail on how their system goes about sorting content – and how that benefits you and me, the end user.

The three main factors

1. Interest
Determined by past behaviour, the algorithm will show you posts that you’re more likely to care about and engage with. Instagram looks at the actual visual content of the posts using its image recognition tools. For example, if you’re someone who likes and comments on posts of your perfect beach holiday, you’ll see more and more posts of dreamy destinations that are posted by people you follow.

2. Recency
With the old algorithm, users were missing 70% of posts and 50% of posts from their friends. Whereas now, Instagram prioritises more recent posts over ones that are weeks old. It’s clear the aim is to keep the content relevant.

3. Relationship
Lastly, the algorithm takes into account the relationship between users and could include common interactions. Putting it simply, the more you and your BFF like and comment on each other’s posts, the more likely they are to appear higher in your feeds.

Setting it apart

Now you may be thinking this seems fairly obvious as Facebook’s news feed algorithm uses very similar factors, however, there are three additional factors that Instagram uses:

Frequency – how often you open the app
Instagram will change what you see when you first open the app as it will try to show you the best posts since you last visited

Following – how many people you follow
If you’re someone who follows a lot of people, Instagram will select content from a wider pool of accounts meaning you might see less posts from specific people

Usage – how long you spend on the app
Whether you’re someone who checks in every hour of every day or dip in and out during the week, Instagram considers the type of user you are and determines the best posts for you to see from its catalogue of content

Instagram myths debunked

Now we can’t confirm the full accuracy of these claims, however, Instagram’s team have shared the following with tech journalists:

• The chronological algorithm won’t be coming back any time soon
• All posts from people you follow are in your feed, you just have to keep scrolling
• The algorithm isn’t based on whether you post images or videos (if you watch less videos, you’ll see less videos)
• It doesn’t favour certain people’s stories/live over others
• You won’t get punished for posting too much
• It also doesn’t favour personal accounts over business accounts, or vice versa
• Shadowbanning is not a real thing

Whether you’re a fan of the algorithm or not, the mass public certain is – it was announced that users spend an average of 24 minutes per day on the app, an increase of three minutes. Now, when you think there’s over 800 million active users, that’s a lot of time.

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