What is going on with Instagram’s algorithm?
This is the question every user is asking.
Back in 2016, Instagram updated its platform–how posts and profiles were appearing on peoples’ feeds. Evidently, the algorithm changed. With this change, more and more users found it hard to get a good engagement rate on both their profile and their posts. When people started to notice this, all hell broke loose. (Not to be dramatic or anything.)
To this day, Instagram users are still trying to figure out what the algorithm is and how they can work around it. According to research, Instagram’s algorithm is designed around “The Big 3”: users’ Interests, Relationships, and Timeliness.
So let’s talk about that for a little bit, shall we?
Here’s what you need to know about Instagram’s algorithm
It predicts your feed, based on your interests.
Have you ever really noticed the photos and videos on your Explore Page? Or the “suggestions for you” for who to follow? Or all those sponsored ads? These are all cute little things that Instagram is doing, optimizing its content to show you what they think you’ll like.
Instagram’s algorithm predicts how much you’ll care about a post. Whatever your interests are will rank higher on your feed and thus, your feed becomes strictly relevant to what you like (photos you’re interested in and photos that you actually, physically double-tap).
Here’s an example: if you’re into makeup and skincare, you will most likely see that on your feed. Maybe you post about your routines and what products you use or you follow accounts and hashtags related to different brands that sell makeup and skincare products. With these interests, your explore page is going to be full of beauty bloggers, Instagram influencers, and more products for you to purchase. You most likely will receive sponsored ads from beauty and skincare brands.
If you like a certain genre of content, Instagram will filter out the posts from people you follow to show you your interests.
Instagram even addressed these changes in a tweet thread back in January 2019:
Your relationships are filtered.
If you refresh your feed, you’ll see that the people you interact with the most come up first.
How does Instagram know who I interact with?
Instagram looks at your interactions and filters them out as your “best friends.” You always see the same users’ posts and stories — that’s because Instagram assumes the closeness of your relationship with certain people (whether or not you’re actually close with them in real life). These relationships are determined by:
- Comments — whose photos you comment on/who comments on your photos
- Direct Messages — who you’re sending messages to
- Tags — who you tag in posts/who tags you
- Searches — who you search for
A lot of people replied to this tweet with frustration and disappointment. One Twitter user even noted that this Instagram algorithm is just an endless loop of seeing the same people and their content 24/7.
What about the new people I follow every day? Do I ever see their posts?
The content you see = optimization via timeliness.
Through all the changes Instagram has made, the one thing that people really dislike is the order of the photos they see. The content on your feed is put in order of most recent. People hate it–they want the chronological order back! Some photos are never seen just because Instagram doesn’t put it at the top of the feed as a recent post (because it’s not…but still, it’s annoying).
Not only is the optimized content you see based on timeliness (RIP to the chronological order), but it’s also based on frequency and usage. In other words, Instagram notes how often you’re active and refreshing the page. Instagram also notes how long you’re online; it knows if you’re on the app for a brief check-in or for a long scrolling session.
This Instagram update is heavily dependent on users’ interests and relationships and every post is time-based. Luckily, some people are figuring out what works for them and how they can beat the algorithm. Some know what and when to post their content. Some are strategic in the ways in which they keep up a good engagement rate.
The most important thing to remember is that using this app is just a matter of figuring things out. What works? What doesn’t work? How long will we have to wait for Instagram to update again with more efficient, user-friendly aspects?