Understanding the Instagram algorithm and implementing effective growth strategies is crucial for individuals and businesses seeking to expand their reach and engage with their target audience.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri shared an update on how rankings work on the platform, as of May 2023.
In this article, we will delve into the workings of the Instagram algorithm and provide valuable strategies to help you optimize your content and achieve sustainable growth.
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Table of Contents
The Instagram Algorithm, or better yet, The Instagram Algorithms
The Instagram algorithm encompasses a series of procedures employed by the platform to comprehend users’ preferences. It leverages this knowledge to enhance the user experience by predicting and presenting content that individuals are likely to find captivating and engaging.
Surprisingly, or not so, Instagram doesn’t have a single algorithm.
In fact, there are separate algorithms and ranking processes for each area of the platform:
Instagram Promise: Personalization
“We believe in this idea of personalization. What you’re interested in and what I’m interested in is different, therefore your Instagram and my Instagram should be different. And ranking is how we deliver on that promise,” said Mr. Mosseri
1. How Instagram Rank Stories
Stories serve as a means to share everyday moments and foster closer connections with individuals and subjects that matter to you. The stories you come across include those from accounts you have chosen to follow, as well as advertisements.
Similar to the Feed, when determining the order of stories, Instagram begins by identifying all the potential stories shared by the accounts you follow, excluding ads, and filtering out any that violate our Community Guidelines. Subsequently, they consider various input signals, including:
- Viewing history: This takes into account how frequently you view a particular account’s stories, enabling them to prioritize stories from accounts they believe you wouldn’t want to miss.
- Engagement history: This considers how often you interact with the stories of a given account, such as liking or sending a direct message.
- Closeness: This examines the overall relationship you have with the author of the story and the likelihood of being connected as friends or family.
Using these cues, Instagram generates a range of forecasts regarding the stories that would be most pertinent and beneficial to you. This includes assessing the likelihood of your engagement with a story by tapping into it, replying to it, or proceeding to the next story.
These predictions help them determine the order in which stories are displayed prominently in your stories’ tray. It’s important to note that their Community Guidelines and content guidelines for down ranking in the Feed and Stories also apply in this context.
2. How Instagram Rank Feed
The Feed on Instagram is designed to be a personalized hub where you can connect with friends, family, and your interests. It combines content from accounts you follow, recommended content from accounts we think you’ll like, and advertisements.
Your Feed consists of a mix of videos, photos, and carousels.
Here’s how the ranking algorithm works in a nutshell:
- They compile a list of posts to rank, including recent posts from accounts you follow and posts from accounts you don’t follow but might interest you based on your activity, likes, and engagements.
- They consider various signals, including your activity (likes, shares, saves, and comments) to understand your interests, information about the post itself (popularity, timing, and location), and details about the person who posted (their relevance to you and past interactions).
- Using these signals, they make predictions about how likely you are to engage with a post in different ways. The top five interactions they focus on in Feed are spending time on a post, commenting, liking, sharing, and tapping on the profile photo.
- They prioritize posts based on the likelihood of your actions, constantly refining the signals and predictions to improve relevance.
- They also consider factors like post variety, avoiding consecutive posts from the same person, and limiting back-to-back suggested posts.
- They uphold Community Guidelines to ensure safety on the platform, removing content that violates these guidelines. Repeated violations may lead to feature restrictions or account suspension. Users can appeal if they believe a mistake has been made.
- They recently shared guidelines on content that is ranked lower in Feed and Stories, such as content predicted to violate Community Guidelines, fact-checked content, and potentially reportable posts. These guidelines reflect Instagram’s commitment to creating a safer community and addressing user feedback.
By sharing these insights, Instagram aims to be more transparent about the ranking process on Instagram.
3. How Instagram Rank Reels
Reels on Instagram are designed to entertain and introduce you to new content.
Similar to Explore, the majority of what you see in Reels is from accounts you don’t follow. Here’s how they curate and rank Reels to provide an enjoyable experience:
- They source Reels that they think you might like and organize them based on their potential interest to you.
- To find entertaining Reels, they gather feedback from users to understand which Reels are worth their time or fun. This feedback helps us improve our ability to identify content that will entertain people.
- Their key predictions focus on how likely you are to reshare a Reel, watch it all the way through, like it, or explore the audio page (indicating potential inspiration to create your own Reel). The important signals they consider, roughly in order of importance, include:
- Your activity: They analyze your recent likes, saves, shares, comments, and engagements with Reels to understand your preferences and show relevant content.
- Your history with the creator: If you’ve interacted with the person who posted the Reel before, it gives them an idea of your potential interest in their content.
- Information about the Reel: They consider signals related to the audio track, visuals, and popularity of the Reel.
- Information about the creator: Popularity signals like follower count and engagement level help them discover compelling content from a diverse range of creators, ensuring everyone has a chance to find their audience.
- They rank Reels based on factors such as your activity, information about the Reel itself, and details about the creator.
- They apply similar Recommendation Guidelines to Reels as we do for Explore. They may make certain Reels less visible for reasons such as low-quality resolution, watermarked content, reels with borders or majority text, political-focused reels, or those that have been previously posted on Instagram.
By considering these factors and guidelines, they aim to offer an engaging and diverse Reels experience that introduces you to entertaining content and creators on Instagram.
Related content: 7 Instagram Reels Strategies For Businesses
4. How Instagram Rank Explore
Explore on Instagram is designed to help you discover new and interesting content. It consists of a grid of recommendations, including photos and videos, that they find for you from accounts you haven’t followed yet.
The first step Instagram takes is selecting a set of posts to rank. To curate content that matches your interests, they analyze your past activity, such as posts you’ve liked, saved, shared, and commented on.
Once they have a group of photos and videos that might interest you, they order them based on their estimation of your level of interest in each one. This ranking process is similar to how we rank content in Feed and Stories. The best way to gauge your interest is by predicting your likelihood of taking action with the post. The key actions we predict in Explore include likes, saves, and shares.
The important signals we consider, roughly in order of importance, are:
- Information about the post: They evaluate the popularity of a post, including the number and speed of likes, comments, shares, and saves. These signals have a greater impact in Explore than in Feed or Stories.
- Your activity in Explore: They take into account your past interactions with posts in Explore, such as likes, saves, shares, and comments. If you engage with a specific type of post, they aim to show you more content similar to what you interacted with.
- Your history of interacting with the person who posted: Although the post is likely from someone you haven’t heard of, if you have engaged with their content before, it gives them an idea of your potential interest in what they share.
- Information about the person who posted: They consider signals like the frequency of interactions with that person over the past few weeks, aiming to discover compelling content from a diverse range of individuals.
To rank Explore, they utilize factors such as post information, your past activity in Explore, and information about the person who posted.
Most of the content you encounter in Explore comes from accounts you don’t follow, which changes the dynamics when problematic content arises. If a post goes against Instagram’s Recommendations Guidelines, they try not to include it in our content recommendations. If an account consistently violates their Recommendations Guidelines or Community Guidelines, none of their posts will be eligible for recommendation for a certain period. Account Status provides insights into whether your account and content are eligible for recommendation on Instagram.
How Can You Influence What You See
Your usage of Instagram plays a significant role in determining the content you see or don’t see. By simply engaging with profiles and content you enjoy, you can contribute to improving your experience. However, there are a few explicit actions you can take to have more control over what you see.
1) Personalize your Feed and Stories
- Create a Favorites list to ensure you never miss the content from your preferred accounts. The new posts from your Favorites will appear higher in your Feed. You can also customize your feed to display only content from your Favorites or accounts you follow. The “Following” option will show you the posts from those you follow in chronological order.
- If you want a break from recommended posts, you can snooze all suggested posts in your feed for 30 days.
- Select your Close Friends to share Stories exclusively with the people closest to you. It’s a way to limit the audience for your Stories.
2) Manage the content you see
- Mute accounts that you’re not interested in. You can mute an account’s Feed posts, Stories, Messages, or Notes if you prefer to stop seeing their shared content without unfollowing them completely. This way, the account owners won’t be aware that you’ve muted them.
- If you no longer want to see posts from a particular account, you can unfollow them at any time. Unfollowing an account won’t notify the account owner.
3) Provide feedback and improve recommendations
- Respond to surveys sent by Instagram, where they ask if a post is worth your time. Insights from these surveys help enhance overall recommendations.
- Personalize your recommendations by adjusting the Sensitive Content Control. It allows you to choose whether you want to see more or less of certain types of sensitive content from accounts you don’t follow. Note that the “more” option is not available for users under 18 years old.
- Help Instagram improve by indicating “Not Interested” on recommended posts that you dislike. This feedback enables them to show you less of what you don’t prefer. Additionally, they are testing an option for indicating “Interested” on recommended posts to show you more of what you like.
- Proactively hide suggested posts that contain words, phrases, or emojis you don’t want to see in the captions.
- Report any content that you believe violates Instagram’s policies using the reporting tool. You can report posts or profiles, and this feedback helps decrease the visibility of similar content across all Instagram surfaces.
If you ever wonder why you’re seeing specific content, you can tap the three dots in the upper right corner next to the content and select “Why you’re seeing this post/ad.” Instagram will then provide a list of signals used to display that content to you.
Some individuals use “shadowbanning” to suggest that their account or content is unfairly limited or hidden without a clear explanation or justification. However, Mr. Mosseri assess that it’s important to clarify that this is not their intention when ranking content across Instagram.
If there is an audience interested in your content, Instagram strives to help that audience see your content more effectively because the more engaged they are with our platform, the better it is for their business.
They do not suppress content to encourage ad purchases.
Now, they’ve developed features like Account Status, which helps you understand why your account’s content may not be eligible for recommendation, allows you to remove any content that might impact your account, and provides the option to appeal if you believe an error has occurred.
Tips On How To Grow Your Audience on Instagram
The Head of Instagram, Mr. Mosseri, gave us some tips to grow the audience. Although there are no silver bullets, here are some best practices that do tend to work:
1. To experiment (the most important)
As every audience is different, what they’re interested is also different.
So, Mr. Mosseri recommends us to experiment and figure out what resonates with people who follow us.
2. Check your Insights
Your Insights will tell you what works and what doesn’t.
However, you got to look for broader trends, not a single photo or video. That is, the type of content that does well.
3. Collaborate with other creators
People love seeing creators come together to create new things and using creativity in new ways.
4. Check out Account Status
It’s important to check Account Status, as you can see if there’s any recommendability issue with your account, so you can address that or appeal if you don’t agree.
How to check Account Status?
Go to Profile > Settings and Privacy > Account Status [Below More info and support]
5. Create original and engaging content
There’s a difference between aggregators and creators who create original content. Instagram favorites the latter.
Understanding the Instagram algorithm is a crucial step towards achieving sustainable growth on the platform. By optimizing your content to align with the algorithm’s key factors, implementing a consistent posting strategy, and actively engaging with your audience, you can unlock the potential of Instagram as a powerful marketing tool.
Embrace experimentation, analyze your insights, and refine your strategies to continuously adapt to the ever-evolving platform, ensuring your content reaches and resonates with your target audience.