How Instagram’s Algorithm Works – A Step by Step Breakdown

Instagram recently held a town hall meeting with journalists at their headquarters in San Francisco where they explained how their algorithm works. Julian Gutman, product lead at Instagram, led the meeting and detailed the specifics. Multiple outlets reported what they learned, with the first being TechCrunch. We aggregated what we found below, and added some nice visuals as well. Enjoy!

It’s important to understand how Instagram’s algorithm works, since the platform now has over 800 million active users. It’s also the go-to app for B2C brands to market their content and engage with their fans/ambassadors. B2B is growing fast on the platform as well.

Instagram’s Algorithmic Feed Ranking Criteria:

Instagram utilizes machine learning and A.I., combined with your past behavior, to create a unique feed for everyone. That means that even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you engage with the content of those accounts.

There are 3 primary factors that determine what you see in your feed:

1. Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.

2. Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.

3. Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.

In addition to those core factors, there are 3 additional signals that influence rankings:

1. Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.

2. Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors so you might see less of any specific person.

3. Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.

So there you have it. The six primary factors that make up the Instagram algorithm are: Interest, Recency, Relationship, Frequency, Following, and Usage.

how Instagram algorithm works

Additional Instagram Facts:

In the same meeting with journalists, Instagram also shared the following information:

  • Instagram is not at this time considering an option for users to opt into the old reverse chronological feed
  • Instagram does not hide any posts in the feed
  • Feed ranking does not favor the photo or video format necessarily, but is weighted towards what each user engages with
  • Instagram’s feed doesn’t favor users who use Stories, Live, or other features of the app
  • Instagram does not downrank users for posting too frequently or any other unique behaviors
  • Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach (this has been a big topic of discussion among our clients)
  • Instagram is working on a video hub competitor to Snapchat Discover – learn more here

As we all know – increased competition reduces reach. As more users and businesses join Instagram and post more often, but feed browsing time stays stable per user, the average post will get drowned out and receive fewer views. If you want help with strategy to stand out from your competition, or if you’d like to scale your brand via effective social media advertising, contact us today!

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