After in 2016 the Instagram algorithm – a reverse chronological feed – was set aside and a new algorithm was put in place, our friendships were secured again – this is how it claims online platform . Before this algorithm change occurred, Instagram users missed 70% of all posts and 50% of friends’ posts. At a time when friendships were built on tags, likes and comments, the previous algorithm was the foundation of the downfall of our relations.
2016 was the turning point – the year in which our desire for recognizable contributions and encouraging reactions from our friends was finally recognized. Instagram now, two years later, clarifies the new algorithm and why our friendships have been saved.
Friendship is relevant, interaction just as well
Instagram claims to reinvent the wheel; no more unnecessary junk in your feed, but relevant posts with familiar headlines. How is this relevance assessed? The company plays an open card and reveals the so-called ‘ranking criteria’ that determine what you see when you scroll through your feed. The media channel says that with the new algorithm in use, the more than 800 million users of the platform now see 90% of the posts of their friends – and with 55 million new photos every day it is so nice that Instagram does the selective work already done for you.
But do we really only see pictures of our friends? Or is your feed sometimes full of cat movies because you too can not resist the clumsiness of young kittens?
The new Instagram algorithm measures friendship through interaction. This means that a tag, a comment or like on a photo is considered a sign of friendship; you show appreciation for another user and based on machine learning based on your Instagram behavior it is determined whether this person or this account may be included in your feed. So yes, that amount of cat movies has a plausible explanation.
Ranking criteria for a personal feed
Your personalized feed is not only based on your level of interaction, other components play with it. The following three factors determine what you will see in your feed:
- Interest – machine learning is also of great importance here; based on your behavior about similar posts, an assessment is made of what content you find interesting, what you want to see and which posts are connected to your search behavior.
- Recentness – how recently a post has been placed remains, as also was the case in Instagram’s previous algorithm, contributing to the position in your feed. The latest contributions are displayed earlier than posts that have been online for a week.
- Relation – here it gets interesting; Instagram bases your ‘relationship’ with another account based on the extent to which you interact with the account in question. Likes, comments, shares and tags are seen by the algorithm as building material for a good friendship and thus determine what you get to see. Whether this interaction is actually with your friends, and not with an arbitrary account that happened to have an interesting photo, can not be properly estimated by Instagram.
There must be a side note with the new algorithm and the Claim from Instagram that you see your friends coming by. The new algorithm is no guarantee for an optimal feed.
Damage control through extra behavioral measurements
In order to avoid the pitfalls as much as possible, the algorithm also uses three additional factors based on user behavior in addition to the three main criteria. Instagram also measures the following:
- Usage frequency – the new Instagram algorithm keeps track of how often you open Instagram. It will then try to show the best posts since your last visit in your feed. That way you will still see contributions from friends, even though these contributions may not be considered as recent.
- Next – the accounts you follow – and especially the number – also determine for a large part what you see in your feed. If you follow many different channels, you reduce the chance of seeing the posts of your real friends. Instagram needs to draw information from a broader segment, making contributions that you might prefer to see being snowed under.
- General use – additionally the algorithm also looks at your general Instagram usage. How long do you scroll through your feed on average and how much time do you spend on the platform in total per day? Based on this data, the algorithm ensures that during a short session you will see the best posts that make your feed personal.
Because the operation of the new algorithm has been kept secret for a while, the conspiracies quickly developed into big conspiracy theories. In the explanation of the new algorithm, Instagram also addressed the many questions that, until recently, had been haunted by many users. For example, the suspicion that the algorithm would conceal posts is being disproved and it also appears that users who regularly use the popular story or live functions are not given priority. But when you often watch the stories of certain users, you increase your engagement with these accounts and you get to see more contributions from them – so good stories can still contribute to a wider reach.
The platform also explains that for the time being it is not possible to recover the old – reverse chronological – algorithm as a user. With this they want to prevent Instagram from becoming too complex. The photo-video balance you see in your feed also depends on the new algorithm; if you never stop scrolling to watch a video, you will also see fewer videos over time.
That Instagram would downrank or ‘shadow ban’ certain users because too often posts or too many hashtags are added to messages, according to the company is also not true. Increasing the range of certain accounts is also not done. So both personal and company accounts have the same right to a good feed position.
The secret is out and with it the criticism
The consequences of the new algorithm are great. Of course Instagram has great importance with satisfied users and therefore tried to get as many of them as possible, but there is criticism. Account managers who earn their money on Instagram (think of influencers) are dependent on an algorithm with which they continue to reach their thousands of followers. Some of these Instagram earners have indicated that they have seen their range decrease after the introduction of the new algorithm. Perfection is thus not yet achieved for everyone.
But with more than 800 million users we may not expect that either. With this information you can now influence your own feed, so experiment on it separately.