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Instagram Algorithm Finally Revealed! The 3 Things That Get You On Top

Instagram Algorithm Finally Revealed! The 3 Things That Get You On Top Blog Feature

Ramona Sukhraj

Managing Editor, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

June 9th, 2018 min read

Tech algorithms are a lot like The Wizard of Oz.

They’re great and powerful, and both feared and admired, but very few actually know what goes on behind their curtain.


This week, that all changed for one major social media player, when Instagram revealed the three biggest factors it takes into account when displaying posts in your newsfeed.

Since the popular app’s newsfeed went from chronological order to algorithmic in back in 2016, this secret formula has been closely guarded.

Here’s what we know now.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works

Like most social algorithms, Instagram claims to use data and machine learning to analyze your behavior on the app and create your personalized news feed.

(Yes, that means Instagram is tracking, storing, and using your data too!)

Supposedly, even if you follow the same exact accounts, no two newsfeed are alike, and Instagram ensures that by looking at these three factors:

1. Interest

This is exactly what it sounds like.

Instagram’s algorithm aims to show you things it thinks you are interested in seeing based on previous engagement/interactions, but it is unclear what that exactly includes.

Based on other platforms, this could mean your likes, comments, accounts you follow, or even hashtags you use.

Right now, it’s safe to assume anything, so, think twice about what your feed might look like tomorrow if you comment on that #babiesofinstagram post today. 

Hopefully, more on this will surface soon!

2. Recency

Now, the days of seeing every single ‘gram in real-time are long behind us, but the app did tweak its code recently to show more new posts, and with this week’s revelation, it’s clear time is still very much a factor.

Taking this into account, Instagram’s algorithm is much more likely to show you something posted in the past few days than something that was shared weeks ago.

This helps ensure that you’re always seeing fresh content and that there’s something to keep you coming back for.

3. Relationship

Last, but not least, the Instagram algorithm takes into account your interactions with specific accounts. In other words, who you engage with via follows, tags, comments, etc.

Last year, Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, made headlines (especially for marketers) when it announced that its algorithm would start deprioritizing posts from brand pages in favor of more posts from friends and family.

This factor is likely in the same effort.

On the other hand, however, my guess is these interactions are also used to serve up relevant ads and a good deal of the content in the “explore” tab. So, rest easy, Instagram advertisers.

Anything Else?

Aside from these three things, according to Mashable, Instagram also pays attention to how often you open the app, for how long, and how many people you follow.

This is all done to optimize your experience and ensure you’re not seeing the same person’s posts all the time, especially if you follow a large number of accounts.

So, Why Should You Care?

Well, as a user, Instagram wants you to know that its algorithm exists to create what they believe to be a better experience for you; focused on showing more content you will enjoy and less noise.

Despite criticism, the company isn’t backing down on its algorithm use, but it is responsive to feedback.

From a marketing standpoint, these these elements shouldn’t come as a surprise.

All three are pretty standard things that any of us would use to tailor content or experiences or segment audiences.

Knowing this definitively, however, helps us better understand what we’re working with when invest in Instagram advertising. It also makes a strong case for working Instagram influencers into your strategy, if relevant.

What are your thoughts on the Instagram algorithm? Does it hit the mark? Is there something missing? Let us know in the comments below!

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