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How the New Instagram Algorithm Works in 2018

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Instagram announced its move to an algorithm based feed in March 2016. Since then, users have been trying work out exactly what signals the algorithm used to order posts in your feed.

Luckily, Instagram finally revealed how the algorithm works in June 2018.

Here’s everything you need to know:


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How the New Instagram Algorithm Works: 3 Key Factors

For the first six years of its life, Instagram was a simple reverse-chronological feed of posts from the accounts each user followed. When you logged in to Instagram, you’d see the most recent posts first. It didn’t matter if they were from your best friend or your favourite artist.

When Instagram recently introduced the algorithm, people were not happy. A Change.org petition called “Keep Instagram chronological” gained 70,000 signatures in just 24 hours, but Instagram says that since the algorithm was implemented, people have been liking and commenting on more photos, and “generally engaging with the community in a more active way.”

In fact, Instagram now says users see 90 percent of the posts from their friends and family, compared to 50 percent before the Instagram feed algorithm was introduced.

The algorithm uses a few key signals to make sure that happens and combines them using machine learning so that no two feeds are exactly the same. If you follow the same accounts as someone else, but you interact with the content in different ways, the Instagram algorithm will make different predictions about what content you want to see.

That means your feed is always unique to you.


Here are the three main signals the Instagram algorithm uses to rank the posts in your feed: 

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1. Interest

This is Instagram's guess on how much you will care about each post in your feed. It’s based on how you’ve previously interacted with similar posts and also based on the content of the post itself.

What does this mean for brands?

Engagement is key. 

When users engage with your content, they signal the algorithm that they want to see more of your posts.

Share engaging visuals paired with compelling captions that encourage followers to interact. Put the most important words up front to draw followers in and encourage them to keep reading.

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2. Recency

Instagram may no longer be fully reverse-chronological, but the algorithm takes into account that people want to see timely posts each time they log in.

In fact, Instagram announced in March 2018 that it was updating the algorithm “to ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in the feed (so) your feed will feel fresher, and you won’t miss the moments you care about.”

What does this mean for brands?

Look into your Instagram insights to work out the best time to post on Instagram for your followers to make sure your posts are ‘recent’.

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3. Relationship

Going beyond whether you follow someone, this factor analyzes the depth of your relationship with the person or brand based on how often you tend to engage with their posts. If you often like and comment on someone’s posts, or you’re often tagged in them, you’ll see more of that person’s content in your feed.

This ensures you see the most relevant content from people you have close relationships with, even if those people don’t have enough followers of their own to get receive a substantial amount of comments and likes.

For example, your mom’s posts will never get as many likes as Kendall Jenner’s (thank goodness). But since you probably like and comment on your mom’s posts often, and you may tag each other in your photos, the Instagram algorithm understands that you want to see what she is posting, even if no one else is engaging with her content.

(Recode reports that the Instagram algorithm may also use some information from Facebook to determine relationships.)

What does this mean for brands?

It’s imperative to develop ongoing relationships with your followers. Consistent engagement is more valuable than sporadic engagement, so know what your followers want to see—and engage with—and give them more of that content.

Use Instagram Insights to track which posts perform best and then model that content to craft a profile that inspires a loyal and active following.


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Secondary Signals

The three main signals above form the core of the Instagram algorithm, but it incorporates some secondary factors as well:

  • Frequency: If you open Instagram multiple times per day, you’ll always see quite recent posts. If you only open the app once a week, you could see posts that are a few days old.
  • Following: If you only follow a few people, the algorithm doesn’t have much content to work with, so you might see more of each person’s posts. If you follow thousands of people, you might not see posts from everyone, and you won’t see too many posts from any one person.
  • Usage: How you use the app sends signals about how much content the algorithm should surface. If you tend to only look at the app for a few moments, the algorithm will top-load your feed with priority content.

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Summary: How to Make the Instagram Algorithm Work in Your Favour

You now understand what the algorithm is—and what it does.

Here’s how you can start putting that knowledge to work:

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1. Create Great Content

If you consistently deliver quality content that aligns with your followers’ expectations of your brand, you’ll encourage engagement that boosts those interest and relationship signals.

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2. Know Your Followers

Engagement is key to success in an algorithm-based world. But it’s important to remember that not every audience will find the same things engaging.
That means you have to know your specific audience and understand what is most appealing to them, and what kinds of photos and captions are most likely to inspire them to interact with your posts.

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3. Be Engaged

If you want followers to interact with your posts, giving you an important boost in the interest and relationship algorithm categories, you can’t treat Instagram as simply a broadcast medium. It’s a social network, so you’ve got to get social. There’s no reason for followers to like or comment on your posts if those signals of appreciation seem to get lost in the void.

To discuss how UNBXD could assist you with your social media marketing needs, get in touch with a member of our team today.

Thanks for reading.

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