Instagram's change how will it impact on businesses?
For some time, we have all been guessing how Instagram actually works, with some of us, using data to justify our estimations.
However, now Instagram has finally explained the inner-workings of its algorithm-based feed. It was two years ago that the photo-sharing platform shifted to a machine-learning approach from reverse chronological order, keeping it in line with its current owners Facebook. Of course, many do not like change and complained about the change, yet Instagram stayed with the change and is now sharing how its algorithm ranking works.
Similar to Facebook, the algorithm uses the past behaviour of its user to generate a personalized feed, thus it is claimed a better experience for the user. To simplify matters three criteria, influence your feed: interest, recency, and relationship.
Interest, looks at your previous behaviour on a particular post and the content of said post, the more you like and comment on a particular subject, the more of that subject it will show you. It could mean that hash tagging becomes less important to the viewer and more so to the algorithm, depending on how it identifies the content of posts.
Recency, relates to the time frame of your shared post. What users will see are recent posts, say a few minutes or days ago, and not something shared weeks before.
Relationship is based on the user’s prior interaction with the account posting the content. If you have been commenting on posts or being tagged in photos, you will see more of them in your feed. For business users it is now even more vital to keep your audience engaging with your content.
Alas it is not that simple, the above looks at the core criteria, the algorithm also looks these additional patterns when considering ranking and feed content: frequency, following, and usage.
If the user opens the app frequently, Instagram will refresh the feed based on the above factors for relevant content. If a user follows several accounts, Instagram will try to diversify feed content, so they won't miss out on posts of interest. Lastly, your average time spent on the app increases the likelihood that you’ll only see the most relevant content. Browsing for more prolonged periods allows you to explore a wider variety of feed content. This makes knowing your target markets browsing behaviour vital when it comes to your business keeping on their screens and engaged, and keeping them browsing through your content for longer, IGTV could be the answer.
Instagram claims it does not hide content on purpose nor downrank users with successive, separate posts or due to other behaviours. Instagram also stated that it does not prioritize business accounts over personal ones.
Make use of Stories, Live, and other features of the app, but don’t expect higher feed ranking since Instagram is not playing favourites.
To summarise for those that will just skip to this part.
Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behaviour on similar content and potentially machine vision analysing the actual content of the post.
Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.
Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.
Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors, so you might see less of any specific person.
Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.
Instagram myth busting
Feed ranking does not favour the photo or video format universally, but people’s feeds are tuned based on what kind of content they engage with, so if you never stop to watch videos you might see fewer of them.
Instagram’s feed doesn’t favour users who use Stories, Live, or other special features of the app.
Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviours, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
As more users and businesses join Instagram and post more often, but feed browsing time stays stable per user, the average post will get drowned out and receive fewer views. People will inevitably complain that Instagram is trying to force them to buy ads, but it’s a natural and inevitable consequence of increasingly popular algorithmic feeds.