Deciphering and breaking through algorithms is a challenge for any brand on social media. Here, we take a look at how the Instagram algorithm works.
Instagram suggests that, before, when it was chronologically-based, users would see only half of their friends’ content. Now, the algorithm shows them nearly all of it. (Business 2 Community)
Per Instagram, there are three main factors that determine what content appears in one’s feed: interest, recency and relationship. What exactly do these mean? TechCrunch defines these terms and how they affect the Instagram algorithm:
- Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content, and potentially, machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.
- Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old posts.
- Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, determined by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.
Other factors that contribute to ranking influence are how often you post to Instagram (frequency); how many users you follow (the more you follow, the less you may see of any one user); and usage habits (how long you spend on Instagram determines what you see).
Something you may want to notice here; straight engagement is not listed under these factors. So boosting engagement numbers from groups and pods doesn’t necessarily guarantee that post will appear at the top of everyone’s feed. Instagram is looking for a combination of factors to determine what is truly wanted-to-be-seen content based on each individual user.
Where engagement does come into play is under interest and usage habits. For example, if a follower always engages with a influencer’s posts, spends time reading, liking and commenting, then the Instagram algorithm will more than likely present that influencer’s posts at the top of their feed. So if you are a brand or influencer, it is very important to create meaningful content for your followers, so they continue to engage and see your posts.
What About Brands on Instagram?
According to the social media platform: “Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.”
For those creating dynamic, engaging and relevant content, the algorithm changes will benefit brands, since it will showcase that content to more followers than when posts were arranged chronologically.
In fact, according to Instagram, “relevancy sorting has led to its 800 million-plus users seeing 90 percent of their friends’ posts and spending more time on the app.”
What about over-posting? Instagram says they do not penalize brands for posting content frequently. However, Christina d’Avignon, a product designer for Instagram feed, did tell The Verge: “we do make sure your feed feels diverse so we may break up posts.”
Also, while Instagram doesn’t prioritize videos over photos (or vice versa) in the feed, if data determines that a user prefers to engage with videos vs. photos, that user may then start seeing more video content in his or her feed.
As a general takeaway for brands, the quality of a company’s content will determine its overall Instagram reach.