With innovative concepts and a highly advanced, powerful algorithm, Instagram has successfully managed to keep most of its users hooked to their phones like never before. It has kept us scrolling through content from every part of the world all day and night. Irrespective of whether you are a creator or consumer of content on Instagram, it is crucial to know how its algorithm works as it will allow you to reap maximum benefits from the platform. So, to help you with the same, in this write-up, we shall discuss the Instagram algorithm in detail. But first, let’s address some fundamental questions.
What is an algorithm on Instagram?
The Instagram algorithm is a high-tech system that plans and executes all the activities on the platform. This advanced system decides which post appears on our feed based on our engagement in content. Similarly, it also studies every post’s engagement level and decides which one should be pushed to various users’ explore pages. This algorithm is the heart and soul of Instagram as it looks over every single user’s content distribution and content consumption patterns and likewise sketches the future visibility of content.
How is the algorithm developed?
The Instagram algorithm was developed by a 21-year-old codder named Iddris Sandu and has been extremely successful in doing so. This algorithm is crafted around the concept of Artificial Intelligence which is capable of curating the ideal explore page for every single user. At the same time, it can detect bots and update the analytics of every user. The Instagram algorithm was developed after studying the pattern of content consumption and creation of humans with the intention of creating a system that ensures that every user enjoys the most and stays active on Instagram for a long time.
Well, now that we know what an Instagram algorithm means, how it was developed, and with what intention, let’s find out how it works and what are its latest features.
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
Instagram makes use of a system based on machine learning which studies the behavioral pattern of each user and crafts a unique feed for every profile that exists on the platform. This means that even if two different Instagram users follow the same individuals and pages, their explore page would still have other feeds based on which type of content they engage the most with. There are some predetermined aspects that the algorithm studies to create a unique, personalized experience for each user.
Now, there are three primary factors that the Instagram algorithm considers while curating the content that an individual encounters on his/her feed. The hierarchy of these factors keeps changing from time to time. Back in 2020, the chronological order was: Relationship- Interest- Timeliness (frequency, duration, and following). However, in 2021, this sequence has changed a bit. Let’s find out how this sequence has been tweaked and what exactly does each factor mean in a practical sense.
Which factors does the algorithm consider in 2021?
On Instagram, the following factors are examined in the same chronological sequence:
From being the second priority in 2020’s algorithm arrangement, in the current year, interest has become the most influential factor. Interest does not mean the accounts you follow or the pages you are interested in. Interest refers to the type of content that you majorly engage with when it appears on your feed. The genre or niche of content that you tend to like, comment, save and share from the sea of posts you see every day. Based on such interest, the algorithm studies your behavioral pattern and stores it in its memory. Likewise, a similar type of content will appear on your feed.
For instance, if you tend to engage with content related to baking, the algorithm will remember that as your point of interest and suggest posts relevant to that, such as baking recipes, cooking videos, food blogs, and so on. It will try its best to satisfy your curiosity to know more about that activity. In this way, the algorithm attempts to bridge the gap between a content consumer of particular interest and the creator who posts that kind of content. Ultimately, it is a win-win situation for both parties.
Under this factor, the algorithm tries to understand the interests of the people you engage with. It examines what kind of posts you receive from your followers and how do you engage with them in simpler terms. It looks over your daily interactions with friends and family and the interests that they share with you. To understand this, it refers to the stories and live videos that you interact with, the people who DM (direct message) you regularly, the pages and personalities you look for in the search box, and the people you know and connect with in real life. This helps the algorithm to know your preferred community’s interests.
For instance, if you engage with one of your friends’ Instagram stories about a music artist, the algorithm will push the content of a similar music genre on your profile. Similarly, Instagram calculates your relationship with the people you follow by examining how you engage with their content, and likewise, similar posts will appear on your feed. Earlier, the relationship factor would be considered the top priority, but now it has been lowered to the second most important one.
In this, the algorithm examines the time at which the post was uploaded, and it pushes the most recent ones at the top. This is because Instagram wants its users to enjoy the latest and most interesting posts first. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to post content when most of your followers are online. By finding out a personalized timing to post as per your audiences’ preferred timing, you can stand a chance to get the algorithm in your support and receive maximum viewership and engagement. And to determine this timing, you may use the analytics tool of your profile.
For instance, if your target audience includes adults and working individuals, the chances are that most of them would be active on Instagram post 6 pm or so. According to that, you may schedule your posts such that when many of your followers are using Instagram, the algorithm naturally pushes your content at the time, and it receives maximum engagement. Timeliness is the third most important feature that Instagram’s algorithm considers.
Apart from the three factors mentioned above, the following ones are also examined for crafting an ideal experience for all the users:
Instagram analyzes the frequency at which you open the app. If you tend to visit Instagram too frequently, you’ll see the posts in the chronology of its posting time so that the most recent posts are at the top. But if you visit Instagram once in a while, the chronology would be as per your interests.
In this, the algorithm examines the number of people you follow. If you follow many people, you would not see all of their posts, but only the ones you engage the most with. But if you follow a selected few people, you will see all the posts.
The session time of your Instagram usage is also an essential criterion for the algorithm. If you spend more time on the app, you may run out of content on your main page. At such times, the algorithm starts pushing “suggested posts” on your page as per your interests.
Understanding the algorithm is key to gaining maximum benefits on Instagram as it will help you frame excellent content strategies for your audience. Similarly, even content consumers can develop a more precise judgment of the app they spend so much of their time on.