In a recent meeting with a group of tech journalists, Instagram went into specific detail about its algorithm—how their system works and how users benefit.
Since Instagram is now a Facebook property, it is not unexpected that the three main elements of the platform’s algorithm are similar to the main elements of Facebook’s algorithm. Those elements are:
- Interest. How much a user has engaged with similar content is considered when determining how much that user will be interested in an individual post. Instagram looks at the amount of engagement with video and image posts with each individual user. The platform also considers the actual amount of visual content in posts. Instagram’s image recognition tools are continuing to evolve, so that actual visual content of posts is evaluated.
- Timeliness. The date of publication is looked at. Due to complaints from Instagram users about too many older posts showing up in their feeds, Instagram recently rolled out an update to address this concern.
- Relationship with post creator. The amount of engagement with the post’s creator in the past, including comments and likes on each others’ posts, direct messages and being tagged on posts, is considered.
The image recognition piece is expected to help Instagram’s Explore layout. This feature organizes content into topic channels, so images can also be organized this way. Thus, Instagram will be able to highlight visual content of interest to users.
Other points that were brought out in the meeting with tech journalists included:
- Instagram’s feed will not be going back to a chronological time line any time soon, if ever.
- Although it may seem contradictory, Instagram’s algorithm does not favor visual posts – the user’s behavior determines what shows up in his/her feed.
- Users do not get penalized for posting too often, but the posts of an individual who posts frequently may become interspersed with other posts to prevent long streams of content from the same user.
- There is no preference given to personal or business accounts - they are ranked equally.
- With this algorithm, users now see 90% of posts from their friends, as opposed to only 50% of friends’ posts and 70% of posts from accounts they follow under the previous chronological post feed.