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Instagram Algorithm Decoded: How It Works and How To Make It Work For You

Instagram Algorithm Decoded
June 15, 2021

Instagram Algorithm Decoded: How It Works and How To Make It Work For You

Jun 15, 2021
Devyani Paliwal
Devyani is an ACJ graduate with a bachelors in English Literature. A voracious reader since her school days, cinema aficionado and music enthusiast, she has been doing content writing for some time now.

As the user base of Instagram rapidly increases, so does the intrigue behind what it is about the platform that clicks with the audience to such a degree. We all know how addictive it can be. No one opens Instagram and is able to leave without just mindlessly scrolling for at least an hour.

So the question is, what sort of algorithm does the platform operate on? How does it filter the options for different people that make it so unputdownable? Today, we’ll be going over the operating process of the Instagram algorithm and understand how it functions the way it does better. 

Instagram

How the Instagram Algorithm Functions 

For all those who are constantly dazed by the ever-changing algorithms of the platform, we have good news for you. We have broken down how the algorithm works for its different aspects - Feed, Explore, and Reels - as it works differently for each one according to the interests of the user.

People expect different things from all of them. From their feed, they expect to see content related to their closest friends, while from the Explore page they have other expectations and like to be pleasantly surprised and ‘explore’ something entirely new. Coming back to how the algorithm works:

Instagram Algorith

Feed and Stories

According to the head of Instagram, what people do when it comes to the feed and stories, the app focuses on those posts from accounts that the user already follows. Based on the information provided, the account that published the post, and the preference of the user in question, certain 'signals' are put together by the app. 

These are given below in the order of significance:

  • Details about the post: The signals in this case refer to the popularity of the post. How many people have liked it, when it was published, duration (if it's a video), location (if that's given), and so on.
  • Details about the account: Who posted the post is also important because it helps the app determine whether the user finds that person interesting. This is achieved based on the amount of interaction between the two in the past few weeks.

Feed and Stories

  • User activity: The movement of the user in question is naturally vital since it lets the app know what they like, based on the type of content they have liked.
  • Interaction history: Based on the user's interaction with different accounts, the app can understand whose posts they are really interested in seeing and those are prioritized. This is gathered from information such as whether or not the user is commenting on their posts and vice versa.  

Instagram tries not to show too many posts from the same person consecutively as it can be off-putting. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram said, 

“In Feed, the five interactions we look at most closely are how likely you are to spend a few seconds on a post, comment on it, like it, save it, and tap on the profile photo. The more likely you are to take an action, and the more heavily we weigh that action, the higher up you'll see the post.”

He further said that these parameters are also constantly changing, in order to give the users a better experience. 

Explore Page 

This page has sprinkles of everything that might seem interesting to the user, as determined by the app. Based on the kind of posts you've liked, commented on, and saved, the Explore page is put together. 

Explore Page

Source: Zoho

After finding the photos or videos that you like, they are then put in an order which is decided based on the ranking system used for Feed and Stories. Talking about the process, Mosseri also shared,

“The best way to guess how interested you are in something is to predict how likely you are to do something with the post. The most important actions we predict in Explore include likes, saves, and shares.”

Reels 

This algorithm works on similar lines as that of the one used for the Explore page. Since Reels are meant for the entertainments of the users, they are primarily from accounts that the user doesn't follow to give them a fresh variety. 

After getting to know their preferences, the Reels are then arranged in an order that will most suit the users. As in, the ones they are most likely to find interesting are shown first and so on. 

Reels

Source: TechCrunch

Commenting on the whole curiosity around the algorithm used by Instagram and how to understand it better, Mosseri had explained, “Instagram doesn't have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don't see on the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”

How To Make it Work For You?

Now that you have understood to some extent how the algorithm works, you need to learn how to leverage it as well. It can be done in the following ways:

1. Using the algorithm

Instead of trying to beat it, understand it and use it to your advantage. With each new feature that the platform adds, a certain prime location advantage is given to it, such as the recent allocation of Reels to the center of the menu bar. Incorporate the new features in your content but don’t overdo it.

2. Posting diverse content

Don't just stick to posting single-image posts. Mix it up. Use Reels or carousel posts or something else to break the monotony. This is important in breaking the algorithm. 

Diverse Content

3. Focusing on authentic engagement 

Instead of searching for algorithm hack tips that will help you in achieving just short-term goals, focus your energy on developing your connection with the audience so that you can reap its benefits in the long run. 

Final Thoughts 

All the different algorithms of Instagram work in tandem to provide the best experience to its global user base. So as long as you're creating quality content and working on engaging your audience, you should be fine. 

For more such content, don’t forget to go over our Blog section. Further, you can also check out the various digital marketing courses that we offer and take your first step towards becoming a digital marketer. 

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