The New Instagram Algorithm Has Arrived – Here’s How it Works
The new Instagram algorithm has finally arrived, and Instagram is opening up to explain just how the algorithm chooses what photos and videos show up in your feed.
Earlier this year, Instagram announced that they would be updating the Instagram algorithm to make it more chronological and “feel more fresh.”
Now they’re letting everyone know exactly how the Instagram algorithm works and going on-record for the first time about rumors about Instagram business profiles and the Instagram shadowban. Here’s what we know:
Your Instagram Feed is Personalized to You and Based on What You Like – Literally
Your Instagram feed isn’t just based on who you follow, it’s also based on who and what you like.
According to TechCrunch, who were in the room with Instagram’s product lead, “Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. Even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.”
So what exactly does this mean?
There’s a reason that all of Kim Kardashian’s posts are always near the top of my feed. I’m a Kardashian fan, and I always like both her posts and posts about her, so Instagram knows that I really want to see Kim’s posts. But while lots of my friends follow her, they’re not all crazy Kardashian fans, so if they aren’t engaging with her content often then her posts will probably show up lower down in their feeds.
Instagram’s main goal is to help you see content from your “friends and family,” and with the algorithm, they say that people now see 90% of posts from their friends and family, instead of 50% when it was the chronological feed.
The key factor here is what and how Instagram determines who falls into your “friends and family” category. Personally, I’m pretty sure that Instagram thinks that the Kardashians are actually my family, but hey, that’s the way I like my feed.
How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?
The Instagram algorithm tries to predict what photos and videos are the most important to you, and uses three main factors to determine this: interest, timeliness, and relationship.
The 3 Most Important Factors for the Instagram Algorithm:
#1 Interest: this is Instagram predicting how much you’ll care about a post.
The more they think you’ll “like” that post, the higher it appears in your feed. This is based on “past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.”
Think about this one like the Instagram Explore page: once you like one video of slime, your entire explore page is full of slime videos. If someone in your feed posts a video of slime, Instagram’s going to guess that you’ll like that, too.
#2 Timeliness: how long ago was this photo posted? The new Instagram algorithm will prioritize recent posts, so you’ll hopefully see fewer posts from over a week ago.
It sounds like Instagram is starting to care a lot more about when you posted, instead of just the content or engagement on the post. This was brought up around the holidays last year when a lot of people were still seeing Christmas posts even though it was passed New Year’s.
Tip: if you want to get more engagement, find your best time to post on Instagram!
#3 Relationship: how do you know this person? If you comment on a lot of someone’s photos or are tagged in photos with them, this signals to Instagram that they probably fall into your “friends and family” category.
Feel like you never see a certain someone’s photos in your feed? Start commenting on their photos!
Tip: You might want to try encouraging your followers to tag you in posts, if the hopes that you would then show up more frequently in their feeds. We’re not sure if this will actually work, but it sounds like it might!
Other factors that influence the new Instagram Algorithm:
While those are the top 3, Instagram does have other factors that affect what posts up highest in the algorithm.
#4 Frequency: how often do you open the Instagram app? If you’re a frequent scroller, your feed will look more “chronological” since Instagram tries to “show you the best posts since your last visit.”
If you check the Instagram app less often, then your feed will be sorted more to what Instagram thinks you’ll like, instead of chronologically.
#5 Following: how many people do you follow on Instagram? If you follow a lot of people, then Instagram has more options to choose from, so you probably won’t see all of the posts from every account.
Tip: if you don’t think your feed shows the accounts you want to see, this might be a good time to do an unfollowing spree! Or, you can now mute Instagram accounts, too.
#6 Usage: if you spend a lot of time on Instagram, you’re going to see more posts as Instagram “digs deeper into its catalog.”
If you only spend a few minutes in the app each day, then you’re going to just get the highlights from the algorithm.
In addition to clearing up how the Instagram algorithm works, Instagram also addressed some common questions and rumors. Here’s what they said:
Is the chronological Instagram feed coming back?
No, it’s not. A few months ago Instagram was testing a “new posts” button, but it seems like they have scrapped that now. According to TechCrunch, Instagram “doesn’t want to add more complexity” because users might forget what feed they’re set to.
That being said, they did say that “Instagram does not hide posts in the feed, and you’ll see everything posted by everyone you follow if you keep scrolling.”
If I switch to an Instagram business profile, will my posts get less reach in the new algorithm?
Nope. “Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.”
If I post a video, will it perform better in the Instagram algorithm?
Not anymore. While this may have been true in the past when videos were a new thing on Instagram, “feed ranking does not favor the photo or video format universally.”
That being said, because people’s feeds are based on what they interact with, if you don’t watch videos on Instagram, you might see less of them.
Does using new Instagram features help your posts perform better in the Instagram algorithm?
No, using Instagram Stories or Instagram Live won’t help your posts in the feed anymore. According to Recode, an Instagram product designer said that “we don’t favor accounts that use different parts of the app more than others. The only way to get your content higher ranked is to produce great content.”
Editor’s note: some of these answers are contradictory to what other Instagram employees have said in the past (and what we have reported on). That being said, we think it’s best to trust this latest news as it was all on the record with credible tech journalists.
Does posting a lot hurt your performance in the Instagram algorithm?
It won’t hurt your account, but if you post 3 times in a row, there will probably be other people’s content in between your posts.
That being said, “Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors,” so you can try finding your optimal post frequency without risking your account.
Learn more: How Often Should You Post to Instagram?
What about the Instagram shadowban? Can using Instagram hashtags make my posts not show up?
Time to listen up: “shadowbanning is not a real thing.”
A year ago, many Instagram accounts were affected by a mysterious “bug” in the Instagram app, that was effectively shadowbanning posts if they used the same hashtags over and over, which Instagram classified as “spammy” behavior.
However, this is not the case anymore. Instagram says “it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions,” so now is a good time to update your Instagram hashtag strategy.
Now that you know how the new Instagram algorithm works, it’s time to get caught up on the other changes and new features coming soon to Instagram. Check out 5 Exciting Instagram Updates Coming in 2018 next!
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