Before Instagram switched to its algorithm based feed, it used to run on the reverse chronological feed. During its reign in its reverse chronological mode, majority of the users have complained about missing 70% of all posts in their feed and they were not seeing at least 50% of their friend’s post. However, Instagram switched to algorithm based feed in July 2016. Despite their upgrade, they still received backlashes mostly due to keeping their audiences and marketers in the dark about how their feed works now and why are we seeing what we are seeing. People like it when there is transparency in the system. A couple of years later, Instagram finally removed the lid on how their feed works.
Before actually grasping how the algorithm really works, you first need to have a clear understanding of what Instagram is and what is its motive. First of all, Instagram doesn’t exist to “create community” or “connect with your friends”. Its primary objective is to make money from advertising. Due to this, whatever they do revolves around catching your attention and keeping you in the app as long as possible.
There are many reasons why we use this app, could be because of their UI or how well of a platform it is share pictures or short videos. But the question arises, why do we see what we see? Since reverse chronological feed allows us to view whatever is posted recently first, it has been a long debate about how the new algorithm system works. The Facebook-owned company (Instagram) assembled a group of reporters at its under-construction new San Francisco office and held a press conference to show how it’s feed ranking criteria.
What does the Company Say?
Instagram product lead Julian Gutman explained that Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. It means that insta will analyze your likes/dislikes or preference and optimize the feed according to it. For example, if you follow the exact same account as Person X, you might not see his/her pictures at the top of your feed like Person X. You’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with that person.There are many other factors that determine what you see in your feed. There are 3 core factors and 3 additional factors that influence your feed. We have covered all the factors; check out below to see.
The core factors of Instagram algorithm
The 3 core factors that influence your Instagram feed –
1. Interest: Instagram analyzes your past behavior and preferences and finds what you like/dislike, and then it predicts what post you might like the most and tries to optimize the feed accordingly. This factor makes Instagram helps to know what type of contents matter to you the most!
2. Recency: Instagram cares about the immediate post so this factor determines how recently the post was shared. It prioritizes new post over old ones and timely posts over weeks-old ones.
3. Relationship: Your relationship with other users matter a lot! Instagram optimizes your feed according to how close you are to the person who shared the content. And how do Instagram determine closeness with other users? Simple!
They rank people higher with whom you have interacted with the most. For example, commenting on their posts or being tagged together in pictures.
Beyond those core factors, there are 3 more additional factors that also influence your Instagram feed –
1. Frequency: Instagram is like a fridge sometimes, you always tend to open up to find something new. That’s why the every time you open your feed, you see something new. This factor depends on how frequently you open Instagram; it tries to show you the best post since your last visit.
2. Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider variety of users so you might see less of any specific person and more of diversity of people.
3. Usage Time: If you spend a long time on Instagram without cutting off the app, it starts to dig deep and show you a lot of old posts that you might have missed the last time you were on the app. A long session on this app will dig deep and short session will show you the best posts available.
Unraveling the myths of Instagram
In the press conference done by the Instagram team, they also busted some of the myths or rumors that have been going around the internet. They responded to many common questions and conspiracy theories on how its feed works.
- Instagram does not cover posts in the feed, and you'll see everything posted by everybody you follow if you continue to scroll.
- Feed ranking does not support the picture or video format. User’s feeds are optimized depending on what sort of content they consume or see, so if you watch less video, your feed will have less video.
- Instagram doesn’t offer extra service to those who use Stories, Live, or other exceptional features of the app.
- Instagram doesn't down rank users for posting too much or for any specific behavior.
- Shadow-banning is not a real thing; it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hash tags or doing other activities.
- Instagram doesn't give additional support to business accounts or personal accounts. They both receive same support and features.