Instagram has revealed its Algorithm!

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Instagram has revealed its Algorithm!

Have you ever wondered “How does Instagram decide what content to show me first?” or “Why are some posts viewed more and others less?” or even “On what basis does Instagram decide which content to show me in the Explorer?”

I'm sure you've asked yourself this at least once. And you've surely searched far and wide for someone to explain it to you. Most likely you have also read our guide to try to understand how the Instagram algorithm works.

Obviously these were theories not confirmed by Instagram… until now!

Because Instagram just released an article explaining exactly how they decide to display content.

Well, come in and let's go!

How the Instagram algorithm works


Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram, American style that's cool) begins by clarifying what “The Algorithm” is:

“Instagram it does not have a single Algorithm which decides what to show you and what not within the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifications and processes, each with its own purpose.”

Nothing new, but a nice confirmation. Instagram has made official what we assumed, that is, that for every user there is aunique experience within the app, therefore personalized based on the traces it leaves.

The reason for this customization arises from the fact that with the increase in users on the platform people missed 70% of the posts within the Feed, including those of the profiles they interacted with the most. This is why they built the Feed based on the posts we show the most interest in abandoning the chronological one.

So how do they make these decisions?

Each part of the application works differently. Instagram divides the functioning of the algorithms into three macro areas.

Instagram algorithm

Instagram Feed and Stories algorithm

What they've learned is that within the Feed and Stories users want to see the contents of the people they are closest to (family, friends, favorite influencers etc…).

First they select the recent content of the people you follow, excluding sponsored ones (you know that writing: have you seen all the posts from the last 3 days? If the answer is no it's because you probably follow too many people).

Then they are taken information relating to the content: who posted, what they posted, and your preferences, that is the traces” that you left. For example, how you use the application and how often you like that type of content and format.

The most important information (therefore that which has the greatest weight) is:

  1. Content information: they are signals of how popular the post is (how many likes it received) and “more mundane information” about the content including when it was posted, how long it lasts (if it's a video), geolocation and whether anyone was tagged.
  2. Information about the person who posted it: This type of information allows Instagram to understand how much that profile might interest you, and includes information such as how often people have interacted with that profile in previous weeks.
  3. Your business: helps you understand what you might be interested in and includes signals including how often you like that genre of content.
  4. Your history of interacting with someone: this information lets Instagram understand how interested you are in seeing posts from a particular profile. For example: if you comment on every post on that profile, it will be shown to you much more often.

The tracks that have the most weight and therefore allow Instagram to understand how interested you are in the posts of a specific profile are:

How many seconds do you spend on the post, comments, likes, saves and taps on the profile of the photo.

The more often you perform these actions and the more weight they have for the algorithm, the more you will see that profile's post higher up in the Feed.

There are exceptions: for example they try to avoid showing too many posts from the same profile in a row.

Another interesting thing is that initially they gave less weight to stories in which a post was shared because users preferred original content. However, following the social events that characterized the last year, they realized that people shared many posts about the most important events and expected their stories to have more visibility. Why they decided to take a step back and restore visibility to stories containing posts shared from the feed.

(Ps even if Instagram said it… it doesn't seem like it to me)

The last thing to know about the content you post is that if you share false information, your posts will not be deleted, but coverage will be limited. If you persist in posting these types of Instagram posts it will make it increasingly difficult to find any of your future content!

How the Instagram algorithm works

Instagram Explore page algorithm

The purpose of the Explore page is to help you discover new things by showing you what Instagram has discovered for you and think you might be interested.

The traces they take into account are: the posts you have liked, saved and commented on in the past.

But how do they decide which posts to show you?

They start from a profile that you interact with often, then they go and look what other people besides you often interact with him, they look for their interests and once identified they show them to you! If you interact with A and most people who interact with A also interact with B, then it's very likely that if I show you you will like B, so I'll show it to you!

Practically: imagine liking many @notjustanalytics posts, Instagram analyzes which other similar contents are liked by people like you who have interacted with the same @notjustanalytics posts. It turns out that these people are interested in @grace_theamazing. This way Instagram will show in your explore Grace's posts why it thinks you might be interested in it, given that people with the same interests as you are.

The most important actions for the Explorer are: the chance that you like, save and share the post.

The tracks in order of importance are:

  1. Post information: how popular the post seems, so how many people and how quickly like, comment, share and save the post.
  2. Your interactions with the person who posted: If you don't follow a profile, but have liked it or saved some of its content in the past, Instagram will be more likely to show it to you in Explore.
  3. Your business: They show you posts similar to those you've liked, saved, or commented on, while also considering how you've interacted with posts in Explore in the past.
  4. Information about the person who posted: The number of interactions that profile has recently received in the last few weeks.

As in this section posts from people you don't follow are shown, posts have much more stringent rules. This means that if a content does not comply with the “Recommendations Guidelines” it will not show in Explore. This also includes potentially sensitive content such as that promoting tobacco or e-cigarettes.

Instagram Algorithm

Instagram Reels algorithm

The purpose of Reels is to entertain you. So let you spend as much time as possible on the platform by discovering new profiles.

For this reason you will see much more content than people you don't follow.

The first Reels that will be shown to you are the ones that Instagram thinks you might like and then sorts them based on how much interest you showed in that first part of the test.

So the main focus is to keep you in the Reels for as long as possible.

The actions that have the most weight are: if you watch it all the way through, if you like it, if you comment showing enjoyment and if you go to the Audio page.

The most important signals are:

  1. Your business: which Reels you have liked, commented on or interacted with recently.
  2. Your past interactions with the person who posted: the Reel is as if it were made for someone who doesn't know you, so liking gives Instagram the chance to understand how interesting that content may be.
  3. Reel Information: these are signals about the content within the video such as the audio track, the quality of the video based on pixels and entire frames, as well as popularity.
  4. Information about the person who posted: the popularity of a profile allows Instagram to find interesting content to offer to more and more people.

Reels follow the same recommendations as the Explore page and, what's more, they come penalized videos in low resolution, with watermarks (like the TikTok symbol for example) or that talk about politics.

Instagram algorithm: how it works


Mosseri also explains how it comes used improperly the term shadowban as an explanation for the different performances that the contents have.

“We recognize that we don't always do enough to explain why we penalize content when we do, what's recommended and what's not, and how Instagram works overall.”

But a drop in likes or comments is not always attributable to the “shadowban”. Indeed, Instagram cannot always show content to the same number of people (and he certainly can't force them to like or comment). However, Mosseri promises that they will try to be more transparent about why they hide certain types of content and how Instagram itself works.

Notifications will arrive in the App which will warn you about the reasons why a content is obscured, explaining how and why it is against the Recommendation Guidelines.

Instagram algorithm

How can you influence the content you see on Instagram?

To use Instagram in such a way as to influence what it offers you, and not see what you are not interested in, you simply have to interact more with the profiles and posts you like. Specifically you can:

  1. List of close friends: Create your close friends list in Stories. The list was designed as a tool for sharing specific content with a limited list of people, but it is also used to prioritize these people both in the Feed and in Stories.
  2. Mute profiles you are not interested in. This way you will no longer see his contents without unfollowing him.
  3. Report posts as “Not interesting”. By selecting the posts you are not interested in in this way on the Explore page, you will help Instagram better understand which posts really interest you.

Understanding how content distribution works on the platform also helps us understand how to create content.

In the meantime:

Here you can find the original article from which this was translated

Here you will find the guide on how to exploit the algorithm to your advantage (written a year ago… and confirmed by this article).

See you soon!

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