All you need to know about the new Instagram algorithm is this: it’s brilliant!
Do you want to show your content to a bigger audience? Do you want to increase your brand awareness?
Say no more, this algorithm has got your back!
We’ll explain for you all there is to know about this algorithm and demonstrate why it’s so great for your marketing strategies.
Ready? Here we go!
How does this algorithm work anyway?
A short way of putting it is that it’s complicated.
The long answer?
Well, it’s easier to explain if we break it down to a few factors:
- Profile Searches
- Direct Shares
Before we dig in, let us first explain to you what an algorithm is:
We know that math is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “algorithm”, however, it’s not as scary as it sounds! The algorithm is a term, taken indeed from mathematics, which means any kind of process of any set of rules ones follows to calculate something or to solve a problem.
When you’re adding two numbers, that’s an algorithm. Basically, 1+1 is an algorithm formula. Now it sounds super simple, doesn’t it? Well, they can be simple and they can be complex. We’re putting the new Instagram algorithm under the “medium” range of difficulty.
Ready now? Let’s take a look at the factors:
When a person or a brand publish a post on Instagram, the new algorithm usually shows this post to a sample audience to see how they engage with it, says Michael Stelzner, CEO of Social Media Examiner. If this audience reacts positively to this post, the algorithm then shows this post to more people.
This means that the more engagement a post gets, the more likely it is to rank higher on the Instagram feed. Engagement includes activities on social media like comments, views, likes, shares, direct messages, story views, saves and live video views. If people you follow engage with a certain post, Instagram assumes that you might also be interested in that content and posts it on your feed.
If someone you follow has engaged with a post, Instagram might also assume that you could be interested in that post and they included it within your feed. Business Insider has reported that the new Instagram post ranking will not be based on popularity. This means that posts with less engagement which are relevant to you will keep appearing on your feed.
There are a few interacting factors in how the new Instagram algorithm shows content you might be interested in:
The order of the posts on your newsfeed is based on the likelihood of your interest in this content and the relationship with the account who is posting. This means that the content which is more relevant to your interests is most likely to appear on your newsfeed.
Instagram determines your interests on based on the types of content you have previously interacted with, such as travel, food, animals etc. Usually, this algorithm uses hashtags to make such determinations. It even uses advanced levels of photo recognition technologies or the algorithm to make categorization into simple and sophisticated genres. If there’s a certain type of content you engage with more, like a food blog, for example, Instagram will mostly show related content on your feed.
When Instagram made an announcement about the new feed, they said that no matter how many accounts a person follows, they will never miss their best friend’s latest posts.
The new algorithm does not want people to miss important posts from their friends or family, like an engagement for example. This means that posts from your best friends rank highest on your algorithm.
Since Facebook owns Instagram, all the data from Facebook is used to determine the relationships you have with accounts, if they’re family, friends, colleagues etc.
It also uses interactions in the past to determine your “best friends” When asked about designing and implementing this new algorithm, Thomas Thompson who works as a software engineer at Instagram shared the ways this algorithm uses information to determine the people who you care about:
- Accounts whose posts you like
- Accounts you send direct messages to
- Accounts you search for
- People you know in real life
While these are not the exact criteria used in the Instagram algorithm, it shows us that Instagram is taking into account the people you frequently interact with, aka people you care about.
The next important factor determining what shows up on your feed is timing, or to put it more simply, how recent your posts are. The order of content on your feed is based on how likely you are to be interested in the content, your interaction to the account who is posting and the timing of the post. Instagram shows you content which has been posted frequently by accounts that are relevant to you.
Something that has been posted weeks ago is probably not that relevant now. Instagram would rather show posts a day or two old, but not more than that- even in cases when the posts have gotten a ton of engagement. This means that content posted recently will rank high in your feed and that the timing of your post is relevant.
The Instagram engineer we mentioned earlier, Thomas Thompson, said that the new Instagram algorithm re-orders only the posts between your current and your last visit on the app. For example, if you scrolled through Instagram at 9 PM last night and then 10 AM this morning, there will be more than 50 new posts created in between. These 50 posts do not include any posts from before 9 PM last night. Based on this, it seems like the best time to post on Instagram is when your followers are most active, as there would be less competition.
5. Direct Shares
You are probably familiar with Instagram’s feature called “Direct Shares” which allows you to share whatever post you’ve seen on your feed with your friends. This is yet another signal that Instagram’s takes this into account when looking to understand your interests.
To better how this works, we have divided it into parts. First of all, sharing a post indicates that you are most likely interested in other posts by that account. The Instagram algorithm takes this into account when ranking posts for you on your feed.
Secondly, Instagram takes into account the people who you share all of these posts with. The more you share something with a specific friend, the most Instagram understands that you interact with them most. Combining these two, it means that sharing certain posts with certain people allows Instagram to rank those posts highest on your feed.
6. Profile Searches:
If there’s an account you regularly search for, that can be taken as an indication that you are interested in that account, however, its post does not appear regularly on your feed. Instagram understands that regular searches of account indicate their ranking position.
Based on this, the new Instagram algorithm might rank their posts high on your feed so that you don’t have to search for their profiles on your own, hence improving your whole Instagram experience.
Thomas Thompson said in his talk that when they implemented this new formula, the number of searches went significantly down. Instagram took this a good sign because it meant that people are seeing more of the posts they want to see without actually having to look up their favorite profiles.
Just like the Facebook newsfeed, Instagram shares the same algorithm regarding the posts that appear on your feed. Afterall, Facebook is the owner of Instagram.
According to Facebook, the more time people spend on a particular post on their News feed, compared to the other posts, the more likely that post is relevant to them. This even excludes commenting, sharing or liking. It’s all about the time spent. Facebook even stated “.The fact that people don’t scroll down past a certain post, meaning it was on the screen for a longer time than the other posts were on your Newsfeed, we infer that there was something you found interesting about that post and we will show more posts like that on your News Feed in the future.” This factor in now included in the new Instagram algorithm. The more time your spend on an Instagram post than other posts, Instagram will surface similar posts to that on your feed.
These were the top 7 key factors you need to understand in order to make use of this new Instagram algorithm for your business. However, keep in mind there are a bunch of other signals that this new Instagram algorithm considers. This algorithm changes constantly based on its user’s interactions so that it can offer them the best experience possible. The Facebook algorithm itself takes into account hundreds of factors.
Stef Lewandowski, writer at Makelight put together a brief list of other factors that this algorithm might consider:
- How often you open Instagram
- How often you post
- How many likes images get
- How old an image is
- If the post is a video
- If an image comes from a business account or a personal one
- How active the image poster has been today – how many comments, likes, and shares have they gotten?
- How many posts you have liked or commented on
- How many hashtags the post has
Why is this new Instagram algorithm so great for marketers?
A shorter list would definitely why it isn’t! Instagram is one of the most powerful social media outlets in the world today. With millions of daily active users, Instagram has become a sensation for all businesses out there, big or small, private or public. As the number of Instagram users keeps increasing, so does the number of the content people post. The more people are followed by Instagram users, the more their number of posts in their news feed will increase. This implies that the engagement, or that the organic reach of this content is most likely to fall- that is unless users start spending more time on Instagram looking at all of the extra posts.
The truth is that most people don’t usually see all of the newly posted content when they visit their Instagram feed. Even a study by Instagram itself showed that, on average, most users miss around 70 percent of the posts on their feed when they are arranged in some sort of reverse-chronological order.
However, as long as you are posting engaging, creative, relevant and timely content, this new algorithm is going to be an advantage for you. It will help surface your content to more of you followers, and even to those who don’t actually follow you!
There is yet another way around to look at this: If Instagram didn’t have this new algorithm, then you would have had to constantly post new content, sometimes even a couple of times a day, to get your follower’s attention and to attract new ones. If most marketers followed this strategy, it would be counter productive because the number of their Instagram posts would increase dramatically while at the same time their organic reach of each post would wall proportionally, even in cases where that content is top notch!
With the newly implemented algorithm, brands are offered the opportunity to only post their best content and this way, the quality of their posts will determine their organic reach. Generally, brands with the best content will stand out much more easily with this new algorithm.
There’s yet another bonus to this: The Explore tab also uses this algorithm to show content based on the user’s interest by comparing their likes, shares, and comments. This opens brilliant ways for you to reach to potential new clients and expand your brand. The new algorithm has transformed Instagram into one of the best platforms for content display. If you create good content, even people who do not follow you are going to see it.