Latest Instagram Algorithms Explained - June, 2023
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly how Instagram algorithms work? If you had more clarity on what goes behind content recommendations, and how it shapes Feeds?
We thought that might be on your wish list. So, in this article we're providing updates directly from Instagram to help you be more aware of how the popular social media platform operates. But first, a little history ...
Instagram was launched in 2010. At that time, the feed was quite simple, made up of a single stream of photos arranged in chronological order.
But with Instagram's soaring popularity and people joining in droves, it became obvious to the platform's decision-makers that they could no longer show everything to everyone. Thus, they decided to move away from Instagram's traditional feed and introduced a new way of ranking content.
And that's when the confusion started. With little information available on Instagram algorithms, social media marketers and small business owners were flummoxed ... and struggling.
Finally, in June 2021 Instagram Head Adam Mosseri shared some insights about Instagram algorithms – and in doing so, he broke a number of long standing assumptions and myths.
However, there have been plenty of changes and improvements since. So it made all the sense for the Instagram team to release an updated version on March 31, 2023.
Some of you may have read about this already, but perhaps you'd like a bit more explanation.
After all, the more clarity you have, the better you understand what drives traffic and engagement on Instagram.
In this article, we have dissected and broken down hard-to-understand topics into easily digestible bites. So let's get straight to the topic.
What is the Instagram Algorithm And How Does it Work to Rank Content?
The Instagram algorithms consist of a set of rules that decides the ranking of content on the platform.
As you might have noticed, we’ve said ‘algorithms,’ and not ‘algorithm.’
That's because there is no one algorithm.
Instagram uses multiple algorithms, classifiers and processes to personalize users' experience and rank content.
These algorithms are tailored to each section of the app, such as Feed, Stories, Explore, Reels and Search, depending on how users interact with them.
For instance, Stories predominantly cater to users seeking updates from their closest friends. Explore helps users discover fresh content and creators. And Reels entertain users with engaging videos.
The app has also added features and controls like Close Friends, Favorites and Following to further customize the user experience.
Instagram wants you to spend more time on the platform by learning to serve the content you’ll like, appreciate, and enjoy.
Before discussing individual sections, here are six key factors you need to know that shapes what you see on Instagram:
Instagram wants you to spend maximum time on its platform.
So naturally, it aims to keep you hooked.
One way of doing this is to show more of the content that you’ll likely enjoy and keep watching.
Instagram does it by learning your usage patterns, and comparing it with the content.
So how does Instagram learn what you may like?
- Interest: Instagram's algorithm takes into account your past behavior and engagement on the platform to determine your interests. It looks at the posts you have liked, commented on, and saved, as well as accounts you frequently interact with. Posts that align with your interests are more likely to appear higher in your feed.
- Engagement: Instagram heavily relies on user interactions. The algorithms assess how popular a post is by considering the number of likes, comments, shares, and saves it receives. Highly engaging posts are more likely to appear higher in users' feeds.
- Relationship: The algorithm considers your level of engagement with other users. If you regularly interact with a specific account, such as by commenting on their posts or exchanging direct messages, their posts are more likely to appear higher in your feed.
- Usage: Instagram also takes into account how you use the app. If you tend to spend more time on certain types of content, the algorithm will try to show you similar posts in your feed.
- Relevance: The algorithms consider the relevance of the post to you. It takes into account the captions, hashtags, and image content to determine if it matches your interests or preferences.
- Recency: Instagram aims to show you the most recent posts from accounts you follow. However, the algorithm may not strictly follow chronological order and may prioritize more relevant content over the most recent.
How Instagram Ranks Feed
The Feed is personalized to help users keep up with friends, family, and interests.
It includes content from accounts you follow, recommended content, and ads in a mix of videos, photos, and carousels.
Feed ranks recent posts from people you follow and also suggests posts from accounts you don't follow based on your recent activity such as following, liking, or engaging with content or people, and interests.
The goal is to balance content from both types of accounts and personalize the experience for you.
Next, the algorithms consider the information about the content itself, the creator, and your preferences.
Even the content formats are also considered.
For example, I watch Reels all the time and so, Instagram recommends more Reels in my Feed.
Instagram collects thousands of “signals” like these to make educated guesses. These signals take into account almost everything — from the time of post to the device you're using to your engagement with the content.
Here are the top factors that determine what you see in your Feed, starting with the most important ones at first:
- User activities. Instagram algorithms try to predict the likelihood of your interest in the publisher or the account. It considers activities such as engagement with various posts to understand what kind of content a user is interested in.
- Signals about the post, its popularity, number of likes received and how quickly, including other engagement factors.
The algorithms also look at when it was posted, location, length of the video, and the information of the content itself like the hashtags, captions.
- Information about the creator. Instagram considers factors such as how many times people have interacted with that creator in the past few weeks.
A high engagement rate suggests that people are interested in what the person has to say, which makes their content more likely to be interesting to you.
- Interaction history. Past history of interaction with an individual or business can give Instagram an idea of how interested you are in seeing their posts.
A few things to keep in mind ...
💡Feed prioritizes posts based on five interactions. The more you take an action in the form of spending time on a post, liking and commenting, saving to favorites, and sharing, the higher the chances of that content showing up at the top of your feed.
💡Instagram refreshes and removes signals over time based on your activities.
💡Algorithms try to avoid showing too many posts from the same account in a row or too many suggested posts one after the other.
💡Instagram can push certain types of posts lower in the Feed. This type of content may include spam, content that’s not original and obtained from the internet without proper permission, nudity, graphic violence, self-injury, or illegal in nature.
💡If a piece of content goes again Instagram's Community Guidelines, Instagram will take it down if it finds it. But if this happens repeatedly, Instagram might limit access to certain features like Instagram Live, and even suspend that account.
Instagram Reels Algorithms
Reels are a fun and engaging way to discover new things.
They’re short, looping videos that can be used to share anything from funny moments to creative ideas.
Much like Explore, the majority of Instagram Reels can be from accounts you don’t follow (yet).
Instagram depends on similar sets of algorithms discussed above to predict what videos you’re likely to enjoy watching.
When it comes to Reels, Instagram collects feedback and survey responses from users to determine if they liked what they found, and whether the Reels videos are entertaining or not. Based on the data, algorithms make predictions and show content.
Instagram's most important predictions are based on how likely users are to reshare, watch a reel all the way through, like it, and go to the audio page to get inspired to create and share your own Reels.
Here are the most important signals for Instagram to rank Reels:
- User Activity. Instagram considers how a user has interacted with Reels in the past, such as which Reels they have liked, saved, reshared, commented on, and interacted with.
These signals are helpful to understand what kind of content could be relevant.
- Interaction history with the creator. As it’s the case in Explore, perhaps the creator who made the Reels is unfamiliar to you. However, if you have engaged with them, it provides insight into your level of interest in their content.
- Information about the Reel, including audio and visual content, as well as popularity signals.
- Information about the Creator. Instagram uses popularity signals like followers and engagement to find interesting content from a diverse range of people and give everyone the opportunity to reach their audience.
Instagram Stories Algorithms
Instagram Stories allow users to share photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
They appear at the top of the Instagram feed, and users can swipe through them to view them.
Unlike TikTok Stories, which are shared with the public as regular feed videos, Instagram Stories can be shared exclusively with your followers unless they’re ads.
The algorithms for prioritizing Instagram Stories is based on three factors: viewing history, engagement history, and closeness.
- Viewing history considers how often you view an account's stories.
- Engagement history looks at how often you interact with them.
- Closeness takes into account your overall relationship with the creator and the likelihood of being connected as friends or family.
Instagram Explore Page Algorithms
Explore is designed to help you discover new accounts and content. The grid is made up of photos and videos that Instagram recommends.
Small businesses and influencers can take advantage of Explore and show up to potential followers.
So how does Instagram rank Explore?
To rank content in Explore (as with Feed and Stories), Instagram makes an educated guess of the topics that might interest you based on your activities.
Here’s an example of how that’s done:
Suppose you’re a dog lover; the accounts you follow and posts you typically like are often about dogs and pets.
Instagram will take this into consideration when shaping Explore grids for you.
Also, the algorithms look at other followers with similar interests, and accounts and businesses they follow and/or posts they like, and may show you content from those accounts.
Each time you watch a video in Explore or like posts, Instagram will take cues and further refine its algorithms.
What Signals Are Used for Ranking Content in Explore?
- Information about the post – how many and how quickly Instagram users are hitting likes, sharing comments, and saving your posts – is one of the most important signals used for ranking Explore.
- User activities and engagement across Explore. Instagram uses signals such as likes, saves, shares, and comments on posts, as well as your past interactions with posts in Explore, to show more content that is similar to what you have already engaged with.
- Engagement history with the creator. On most occasions you’ll see content from people you don’t follow; but if you have liked or engaged with content from someone, Instagram is likely to show content from that account based on your perceived interest.
- Information about the creator. Creator information and how many Instagram users interacted with that account in the past few weeks are also important to find relevant and compelling content.
Do Hashtags Work on Instagram?
We hear this question often, and our answer is always the same: YES! Instagram is a great place to use hashtags and they absolutely work.
In fact, Instagram's own guidelines promote the use of hashtags.
You can add hashtags on Instagram in a number of ways, including captions, videos, Reels, and Stories.
If you want your posts to generate organic views from potentially interested and already-sold followers, there is no better way than using hashtags.
Small businesses can benefit from our How to Include Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy guide. Be sure to check it out!
At Hashtag Expert, it's our goal to help small business owners and individuals by sharing knowledge through which they can leverage the power of Instagram marketing.
We put together this article because Instagram algorithms are among the most commonly misunderstood topics.
Hopefully, all your questions about this subject have been answered. If not, don't hesitate to contact us – we love hearing from you.
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