The Inside Scoop On Instagram (June 2021 Update)

“How does Instagram decide what shows up for me first?”

“Why do some of my posts get more views than others?”

“How does Instagram decide what to show me in Explore?”

If you’ve ever found yourself pondering questions like these, you’re in luck! Earlier this week, Instagram published a blog explaining all the frequently asked questions on how the app works behind-the-screen. Read on for a summary of the update!

The Infamous Instagram “Algorithm”

Each part of the App (Feed, Explore, Reels) each operates with its own algorithm and processes designed to make your Instagram experience personalized to you. But how are posts ranked for your viewing pleasure in each section? Let’s break it down.

Feed and Stories

This is where you see updates from your Friends list. Aside from the recentness of a post, and of course ad placements, posts in your Instagram Feed and in Stories are organized based on “signals” that Instagram gathers from both information about the post as well as your usage data. Here’s what Instagram considers the most important signals for your Feed and Stories:

1. Information about the post. These are signals both about how popular a post is – think how many people have liked it – and more mundane information about the content itself, like when it was posted, how long it is if it’s a video, and what location, if any, was attached to it.

2. Information about the person who posted. This helps us get a sense for how interesting the person might be to you, and includes signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks.

3. Your activity. This helps us understand what you might be interested in and includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked.

4. Your history of interacting with someone. This gives us a sense of how interested you are generally in seeing posts from a particular person. An example is whether or not you comment on each other’s posts.

From there, they rank incoming posts by how likely you are to engage with it – Like, comment, share, visit the user’s profile, etc. Factors such as breaking the Community Guidelines or repeated labels of misinformation also weigh on your posts’ ranking. This process is continuously updating so that it keeps up with your own evolving interests and preferences. One of Instagram’s recent upgrades to their Stories algorithm, however, is to no longer down-rank Stories reshared from posts versus original Stories.

Explore

This where you discover new content. Like your Feed, posts here are ranked based on your user data. Instagram looks at the posts you most engage with and shuffle similar content to the top. This includes brands near the location of posts you’ve Liked and of course your Instagram search history. However, the popularity of posts and the users behind them also heavily weigh in. The order of importance for Explore posts is:

  1. Information about the post.
  2. Your history of interacting with the person who posted.
  3. Your activity.
  4. Information about the person who posted.

Reels

Like Explore, Instagram’s Reels feature is designed with your preferences in mind, but especially what they predict will entertain you. Videos that they think you will watch all way through and engage with, from creators you may not follow, and that may inspire you to make a reel of your own. The order of signals they look at are:

  1. Your activity.
  2. Your history of interacting with the person who posted.
  3. Information about the reel.
  4. Information about the person who posted.

Be aware though, that the Recommendation Guidelines for Reels includes down-ranking reels with low resolution, reels that are watermarked, and reels that focus on political issues or are created by (or on behalf of) political figures, parties, or government officials.

The Notorious Instagram “Shadowban”

Many have accused Instagram of “shadowbanning” their content, meaning the app intentionally blocks or decreases the amount of views (and subsequent engagements) of one’s content. As Instagram explains, however, this practice is used far less than people think. Instagram admits that they haven’t always been clear why some content gets taken down when it happens, and sometimes make honest mistakes. They’re actively working on improving their system of communication with creators and promise more in-depth elaborations in the near future.

Influencing Instagram For You

In an app designed to center your individual experience, letting Instagram know what you want (or don’t want) to see is important. It’s also crucial to improving their ranking technology so that fewer mistakes are made. Here are three things that you can do to influence the content for your preferences:

1. Pick your Close Friends. You can select your close friends for Stories. This was designed as a way to let you share with just the people closest to you, but we will also prioritize these friends in both Feed and Stories.

2. Mute people you’re not interested in. You can mute an account if you’d like to stop seeing what they share, but are hesitant about unfollowing them entirely. This way, people don’t know you’ve muted them.

3. Mark recommended posts as “Not Interested.” Whenever you see a recommendation, whether it’s in Explore or in Feed, you can indicate you are “not interested” in that post. We will do our best not to show you similar recommendations in the future.

We are so thrilled that Instagram has decided to publish these transparency updates. As they come out with more behind-the-screen announcements, we’ll be sure to keep you posted here as well!

Read the full details of their June 8th update here. To learn how to take advantage of this knowledge for your Instagram marketing, please feel free to contact us!

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