Instagram decided in 2016 to show the posts you saw of people you followed no longer in chronological order, but to switch to an algorithm. They did so because the average Instagram user missed about 50 to 70 percent of their friends’ posts. The switch to the algorithm has not fallen anywhere in the world, but according to Instagram it helps: the 800 million users now see about 90 percent of the posts of their friends and they spend more time in the app.
What we did not know is how that algorithm works, but Instagram has collected a number of journalists and explained the whole process. Why? Nobody knows that, but it is probably an attempt to create transparency around the company that is part of Facebook.
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
Instagram uses machine learning to make your feed completely yours. Even if you would follow exactly the same persons as someone else, you would get another feed because your interaction with those accounts would be different than another person. There are three factors that determine what you see in your feed: how recently a post was created, what your relationship is to that person and how much interest Instagram thinks you are going to have in the post. The first speaks fairly automatically, but the other two factors are a bit hazier.
Your interest is determined by the topics in which you have expressed interest, how you reacted to similar content in the past and even because the machine ‘reads’ what is in the post itself. Relationship is more about the people you interact with the most on Instagram. So if you leave a lot of comments to certain people or tag them often, they also come along more often.
There are also other factors that play a role. If you open Instagram often, there is a greater chance that you will see a lot of posts, but the less often you open the app, the more filtered. So if you only look once a day you get a more limited feed than if you watch more often. It will not be a coincidence that Instagram says this, because they benefit if you look as often as possible.
If you use the app for longer you also get to see more, of course: then the algorithm digs deeper and you get to see more things that are older, for example, or people who do not see you very often. If you follow a lot of people, the app also makes an attempt to give you an assortment of your followers, so you do not see the same people all the time just because they post a lot.
The Instagram team also responded to a lot of questions and theories people have come up with themselves, or patterns they think they see. What is not true?
- Instagram currently does not want to go back to the chronological feed
- No posts are hidden, if you scroll long enough you come across everything
- The algorithm has no preference for video or photos – it looks at where you most looks at
- You do not get higher in the list if you use Stories, Live or other features
- You will not be lowered in the list if you place a lot of content, but there will be something else in between
- It does not matter if you have a personal or business account for your reach
- ‘Shadow Banks’ is not a thing. Your content is not hidden if you use too many hashtags or do other things that people do not like
With all this information, Instagram hopes to make it clear to users what the algorithm does and does not do. That is important, because now more and more people are trying to make something of their Instagram feed and the service is becoming increasingly popular (especially at the expense of Facebook), it must be ensured that people have a good feeling about Instagram.
Anyway, it is so nice to get some explanation about how it all works in the background and Instagram has also said to journalists that this will not be the last time . It is therefore all PR, but as long as they do not lie about the technology behind the social media app, that is not bad.