In June 2021 Instagram published a statement to explain how it ranks posts on the social network, both in Feed and Explore and in the Reels section. All decisions about what appears first or whether it will be displayed to some users is up to the various algorithms (not just one) of the platform. Understand how posts are suggested on Instagram.
Why the switch to suggest and rank posts?
Instagram explained that since 2010, when the social network was launched, the only function was to be a chronological photo feed. With the passage of time and user adoption, it became “impossible for most people to keep track of everything, leaving aside publications they cared about.”
In 2016, algorithms started to take action to suggest posts based on user interests. According to Instagram, each area of the application works with its own algorithm, ranking posts based on user behavior. But how?
Feed posts: close people first
For the social network, Feed and Stories are the home of posts from people close to you, such as friends and family. At first, recent publications appear first. Then come what Instagram calls “signals,” features that help the algorithms deliver the most like-like content.
These signs include:
- Post information: popularity (number of likes) and metadata such as time and date of publication, location, duration (in case of video) and everything else added to the post;
- Details of the person who posted: to identify whether the person is relevant to the user who will see that post, this includes signs of how much these two people have interacted over the past few weeks;
- User Activity: includes data on identified likes and how many posts the user has liked;
- The history of interaction with someone: defines the user’s interest in another person’s publications, this is measured from the interaction, such as the exchange of comments in each one’s publication, for example.
There are dozens of signs that help Instagram identify the relevance of a post in a given User’s Feed. In addition to the above factors, five other considerations that the social network lists as important are: the probability of the user spending a few seconds on a post, liking, commenting, saving and touching the profile photo. O how likely is one of these actions, more weight she will have and therefore it will appear more often.
However, there are exceptions
As much as Instagram knows how to identify when a user is relevant to another, there are exceptions, such as avoiding showing multiple posts from the same person in a sequence or those that have already been shared from Feed in Stories.
How Instagram’s Explore Tab Works
The Explore tab lists those posts from people not followed by the user, but who bring posts that might be interesting to consume. For this, the same signs that identify the value of a post to someone in Feed are applied on the Explore tab, with some differences.
There is a crossover of interests, the example cited by Instagram is a cooking account of a San Francisco chef that has received several likes by a user. The social network analyzes what other people who also like those culinary posts are enjoying seeing and then suggests it to the user. The so-called “related topics”.
After collecting a number of interesting posts, Instagram organizes them in Explore based on the same criteria used in Feed, by priority of taste and interaction history — also considering the behavior of similar users.
The biggest weight of this equation is how much people interact with posts in the Explore tab: how popular it is in views, likes, comments, shares and saves.
If the visitor to Explore “likes” content displayed there, by a creator, it is likely that this creator will reappear more often — remembering that this interaction is measured from the time and interaction in the publication, as well as the visit to the profile of the other person.
Instagram cites that Reels’ goal is to entertain the user (as if it weren’t in every other part of the social network), but the focus is to deliver content that makes the user watch until the end, especially from small creators.
The signs that a Reels works or not for a user remain similar to the others in Feed and Explore, with some differences present in the resource: it is indicative of interest if the user watched it until the end, liked it, shared and commented and went to page of the audio used.
What doesn’t make the list of recommendations
In Feed, despite having a priority on what is most displayed, they are still posts by people close to them, followed by users. In the Explore tab, it’s Instagram that determines what content is seen, so it’s out of the scope of recommendation for sensitive, health, finance, click-hunting, or fake news material. The rules for recommendations are outlined in Instagram’s guidelines.
On Reels, the same recommendation rules as Explore are valid, but it is also avoided to include posts with low image quality, watermark (as advertised it would be with TikTok videos reposted on Instagram), and of a political nature.
What can I do to change Instagram recommendations?
Instagram’s algorithms identify behaviors and interests, so this awareness is needed to be able to make any changes to what is recommended or prioritized in Feed. However, the social network said that there are some “touches” that the user can go through to try to change the way posts are delivered.
- Choose “Close friends”: will tell Instagram which people are important to the user;
- Mute people you want to see less: a path to keep going but no longer see someone else’s content;
- Mark Explore posts as “I’m not interested”: This tagging is done by holding a tap on a post in the Explore tab and selecting the option for Instagram to stop recommending the profile or topic.
It is not a defined overnight process, everything happens silently, it is built over time. The intention is that the suggestions and priorities are natural, only in this way Instagram retains the user on the platform.
With information: Instagram 1 and 2.