Understanding the NEW Instagram Algorithm

It’s here!  The NEW Instagram algorithm is finally here and I am going to help you understand how it works so that you can get the most out of your feed and the most out of your posts.

Did you know?

Your Instagram feed is hyper-personalized to you, your interests, and what you like?  It isn’t just based on who and what you follow. The algorithm takes into consideration what you get jazzed about on Instagram.  Instagram relies on “machine learning” meaning that, it learns and makes predictions about what you will interact with based on your past behavior, therfore, creating a unique feed just for you!  That being said, it is NO surprise that cute shih tzus, fun nail designs, home decor, and entrepreneur posts are at the top of my feed and also show up in my explore page. It might also explain the fact that when the royal wedding was taking place a few weeks ago, I was interacting with accounts that were covering the royal wedding which has now caused my explore page to be a little too “royal-rich.”  Gotta make an adjustment to that! 😉

Being able to control what you see in your explore feed and newsfeed is what I love most about Instagram and the new algorithm.  You have more control of what content lands in your newsfeeds (explore and the regular newsfeed) because the algorithm is all about you and your current interests.

The main goals Instagram is trying to hit when it comes to your insta-feed is to help you see content from your “friends and family” first.  People can now expect to see 90% of posts from their friends and family rather than the 50% they saw when the algorithm was a “chronological” feed.

The question then becomes, how does Instagram determine what it is you are seeing in your feed?

I have the answer…

Here is how the NEW algorithm works…

Basically, Instagram tries to predict which photos and videos are the most important and valuable to you.  To do this, they score 3 areas:

  1. Interest
  2. Timeliness
  3. Relationship  

These are the 3 most critical scores in the Instagram algorithm.  If you are a business who is trying to maximize your reach on Instagram, you are going to want to pay close attention and learn how you can leverage the new algorithm for your business.

Let’s dive into the top 3 areas of the algorithm…

Area #1 – INTEREST

This is a key area!  Instagram will make an overall prediction about how much you will care about a particular post.  The more Instagram thinks you will give it some love, the higher that post will appear in your feed.  They base this prediction on past behavior made on similar posts.

Going back to my royal wedding example,  since I showed some interest in the royal couple a few weeks back, now my explore page is filled with the happy pair.  That will cause my feed to be more “royal” on both my explore page and my newsfeed. Here’s why…If I follow someone who was also interested in the royal wedding and posts about it, chances are, I am going to see that post at the top of my regular newsfeed because we both have the same interest.  In order for me to change what Instagram thinks is important to me, a good place for me to start is in my explore page. If I am tired of seeing images of the royal couple, all I need to do is “tell” Instagram that I am no longer interested by searching for new types of content and to stop interacting with anything royal.  Once I start searching and interacting with new posts, my explore page changes drastically and so does my regular news feed. Why? Since I show less interest in everything “royal” Instagram is now putting more weight on non-royal content in both places.

Area #2 – TIMELINESS

Instagram will do some legwork for you.  It will measure up photos based on how long ago certain images were posted.  Instagram will work to show you the most recent posts and images of the type of content you are most interested in.  It’s a great way to make sure you are seeing the most current and useful information or news from the people you follow.

Area #3 – RELATIONSHIP

This area of the algorithm will play a huge factor in whether or not you will see someone’s posts first or not in your Insta-feed.  For example, if you comment, like and engage with certain posts, Instagram will pay attention to that and help you see the author’s posts at the top of your feed.  

If you feel as though you are missing out on posts from some of your favorite accounts, make sure Instagram knows which are your favorites.  Start liking and commenting on these posts to send up flags that you don’t want to miss the content that these accounts are putting out. Another way not to miss a single post from your favorite content creators is to turn on notifications for your favorite accounts.  Once your notifications are turned on for these accounts, you will get notified when the account puts out new content.

Those are the top 3 factors that impact your Instagram feed.

Other factors that make a difference are…

  • Frequency & Usage:  How often do you open and use the Instagram app?
    • If you are a frequent “Grammer” your feed may look more chronological since Instagram attempts to serve you the best, most relevant posts based on the algorithm since your last visit
    • If you don’t “Gram” that much, your feed will be more about what Instagram predicts about what you want to see
    • The more you “Gram,” the more algorithm details Instagram has to work with, giving you the most relevant information
    • If you only use Instagram for a few minutes per day, expect to only see the highlights
  • Who You Follow:  If you tend to follow a lot of people on Instagram, Instagram will be able to make lots of selections when it comes to showing you content.  This also means that you may not see all the content from all the accounts you follow (see Area #3 above)

What does this mean for businesses?  More than ever, you need to make sure your content is content that your audience craves.  Check out your analytics (only available to business accounts) to see which posts your audience reacts to and create more of that type of content.  Most of all, create content that will encourage your audience to engage with your posts through comments, tagging, and liking. This is what drives the algorithm

Instagram Algorithm Myths & Truths:

  • TRUTH:  The chronological feed is not coming back
  • MYTH:  Business profiles get less reach than personal profiles.  Not true! Instagram treats personal and business profiles the same when it comes to the new algorithm
  • TRUTH:  Using other Instagram features like Instagram stories does not affect your regular newsfeed algorithm score.  The only reason why an Instagram story may do better than a newsfeed post is purely because of the prime real estate it takes up.  Instagram Stories is the first thing people see when they open their news feed. AND…stories create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).  Those stories only hang around for 24 hours and then, POOF! They’re gone. (Hint for businesses: Put your best “sense of urgency” content in Instagram stories)
  • MYTH:  Video performs better than images due to the Instagram algorithm scoring system.  Nope! This may have been true in the past but now since the algorithm is based more on how people react to and engage with content, it doesn’t matter whether you use a static image or a video for your Instagram content

Bottom line, when it comes to social media, no matter what platform you are on, create content that is valuable and encourages engagement.  The more engagement, the better your social media accounts will perform.

Happy Gramming!

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