PSA: Instagram’s New Algorithm Explained!

Instagram’s new algorithm has just dropped and in a historical new move, they have actually decided to communicate with us how it works!

Last time Instagram released a major update to their algorithm, it turned into a bit of a sh!t-storm for them, with many popular content creators and influencers threatening to jump ship to a different platform. The reason for that was because Instagram had changed the feed from being reverse-chronological (so the newest stuff at the top), to being heavily determined by the amount of engagement (likes, tags, comments) that the post had received.

This resulted in a bad user-experience in a lot of cases – yes, it meant that we as business page admins had to put in a bit more effort and create content more thoughtfully in order to get better reach – but it also meant that people were still seeing Christmas-related posts and content well into January 2018. It also spawned the rise of spammy ‘Instagram Pods’ where people tried to fake some of the engagement on their posts to try and increase their reach.

So with such a problem-prone algorithm, it is no surprise that Instagram have been quick to release a new update and that this time, they have tried to get ahead of the PR storm by telling us exactly how it works.

Introducing the New and Improved Instagram Algorithm:

So when I was researching for this blog post, the number one thing that stood out to me, and the general theme that I am picking up on here, is that Instagram is going to become a very very personalised experience for users. As we covered in our last article about social media trends in 2018, the general theme of 2018 in regards to social media is ‘engagement’. However, on Instagram, they have taken it one step further and turned it into ‘personal engagement’.

What I mean by this is that the new Insta algorithm uses a lot of computer learning to determine what content you will see in your feed. The six ranking factors listed below are all in relation to how the user interacts with the Instagram app and the content within it. It takes factors such as how they engage with content, how often they use the app, the general content themes within the accounts that they follow and how long they spend on the app to determine how content is ordered and displayed within their own personal Instagram feed.

So without further ado, the main factors that will effect how your content is ranked in Instagram are as follows:

  1. Interest: Instagram uses computer learning to determine how interesting they think you will find a particular post. It looks at a number of elements – such as whether you are more or less likely to watch videos in Instagram, the keywords in the caption, whether you have interacted much with this account in the past etc – to determine how interesting they think you will find a particular post and then rank it accordingly.
  2. Timeliness: They are bringing back an element of the chronological feed, ensuring that fresher content is pushed to the top and that you aren’t seeing posts from weeks ago (unless you keep scrolling for like an hour or only follow a handful of accounts).
  3. Relationship: This is an interesting concept; Instagram is going to try and use it’s computer learning prowess to determine who your friends and family are and then show you their content first. There is a bit of confusion as to how this is going to work and whether it is going to effect business accounts or not. For example, if I constantly post ‘I love you sis’ on Oprah’s posts is Instagram going to think she is my sister? If so, excuse me while I go and make Oprah my sister from another mister.
  4. Usage Frequency: This relates to how often the user opens the Instagram app. If they only open it once or twice a week then their feed will look more like a ‘highlights reel’, while if they are in there a few times a day then it will be ordered more chronologically to make sure they aren’t continuously seeing the same content over and over again.
  5. Following: How many accounts the user follows will also determine how much of your content they see. If they are following 1,000 accounts and only logging in once or twice a week, then they are only going to see a small percentage of all of the possible options. If they only follow 20 accounts and they log in daily then they are likely to see 100% of the content options.
  6. Usage Time: Similar to usage frequency, this one looks at the average time of the user’s Instagram sessions. Are they scrolling for a couple of minutes while waiting in line at the coffee shop or are they dedicating their entire 30 minute commute to work each morning on the app?

What does this mean for business INSTAGRAM pages?

It is too early to tell exactly how these changes are going to effect your content and reach, but what I can tell you is that it is going to be more important than ever to make sure that you are using Instagram to create ‘friends’ not ‘followers’. The more that each individual user engages with your content, the more likely your posts and content will be to appear in their feeds – and the best way to get them to engage with your content is by engaging with their content first.

It also means that business account admins are going to need to have a really good understanding of who their followers are and how they use the app. Having a smaller niche audience that gobble up everything you post is going to be a lot easier to manage than having a massive, broad audience filled with people from different demographics with different usage behaviours.

These feeds are going to be really really individual – two people could follow the exact same accounts, but their feeds could look completely different because one of them only logs in twice a week and consumes predominantly video content, while the other one is in there twice a day and favours still images.

Want More?

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