Instagram has never explained exactly how the algorithm chooses what to show until just recently. The Facebook -owned company assembled a group of reporters and explained feed ranking criteria and adressed some very common questions around shadowbanning, declining reach due to turning to business profile and more…
Instagram users were missing 70 percent of all posts and 50 percent of their friends’ posts before the app ditched the reverse chronological feed for an algorithm in July 2016. Despite backlash about confusing ordering, Instagram now says relevancy sorting has led to its 800 million-plus users seeing 90 percent of their friends’ posts and spending more time on the app.
Instagram’s feed ranking criteria
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.
Three main factors determine what you see in your Instagram feed:
- 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.
- Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
- 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.
Beyond those core factors, three additional signals that influence rankings are:
- Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.
- 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.
- 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.
Instagram concerns and myths
Instagram’s team also adressed some very common theories, rumors and questions regarding how the feed works. Here is what Instagram’s declared:
- Instagram is not at this time considering an option to see the old reverse chronological feed because it doesn’t want to add more complexity
- Instagram does not hide posts in the feed, and you’ll see everything posted by everyone you follow if you keep scrolling.
- Feed ranking does not favor the photo or video format universally, but people’s feeds are tuned based on what kind of content they engage with, so if you never stop to watch videos you might see fewer of them.
- Instagram’s feed doesn’t favor users who use Stories, Live, or other special features of the app.
- Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
- Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t affect you.
- Shadowbanning is not a real thing, and Instagram says it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.
Tactic versus strategy
Here’s the difference: The right strategy makes any tactic work better. The right strategy puts less pressure on executing your tactics perfectly.
If you are tired of trying to beat the algorithm, if it feels like you never are good enough, or that you’re working way too hard, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It means you’ve got the wrong strategy.
If you feel you resonate with this, I would love to help with a private consulting discussion.