06 July

Instagram's algorithm explained

It seems a long time ago now when our Instagram feeds were in simple reverse-chronological order. All seemed well, but according to Instagram themselves, users were missing 70% of all posts, and 50% of their friends’ posts.

In July 2016, the app dropped the reverse-chronological ordering in favour of a relevancy based algorithm, and whilst user feedback seemed to be mostly negative at the time, Instagram claims that it’s users now see 90% of their friends posts, as well as spending more time within the app overall.

Up until now, the factors used within the algorithm had been a closely guarded secret, but Instagram have now revealed a bit more about what goes into deciding what posts you see first on your feed.

The algorithm relies on machine learning, taking your past behaviour on the app into account to create a feed that is unique to you, so even if you follow the exact same accounts as another person, your feeds will appear entirely different.

Here are the three core ‘signals’ are used to decide what appears at the top of your feed:

  • Interest: this is how much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post. So if in the past you’ve engaged heavily on posts about dogs by liking or commenting, you’re more likely to see similar themed posts towards the top of your feed.
  • Recency: a slight remnant of the old reverse-chronological feed still remains, with Instagram giving prioritisation towards new posts over posts that are a few days old.
  • Relationship: this part of the algorithm takes the user posting into account and the relationship you’ve had in the past with them on the app. You may routinely like and comment on your best friends Instagram posts, which the app will recognise and assume you have a close relationship, and ultimately floating that user’s posts towards the top of your feed.

The algorithm, in theory, should mean you see more post from people you care about, and posts you’re more likely to engage with. And then on the other side of the coin, the posts you upload, whether to a personal or business account should be shown to those more likely to engage with your content.