Before Instagram ditched it’s reverse chronological feed back in July of 2016, users were missing 70% of all post and 50% of their friend’s post. After implementing their algorithm Instagram saying that it’s 800 million-plus users are now seeing 90% of their friends post and spending more time on the app.
Instagram sat down with TechCrunch to discuss how their algorithm actually works. No social media company has ever been this transparent about how the content on their platform is displayed to their users.
Instagram’s Feed Ranking Criteria
Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. Even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.
Instagram announced three main factors determine what you see in your Instagram feed:
- Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing 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.
Beyond the three main factors, there are three additional signals that influence rankings:
- 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’s team also responded to TechCrunch many of the most common questions and conspiracy theories about how its feed works. TechCrunch said they could not verify the accuracy of these claims, but this is what Instagram’s team told TechCrunch:
- Instagram is not at this time considering an option to see the old reverse chronological feed because it doesn’t want to add more complexity (users might forget what feed they’re set to), but it is listening to users who dislike the algorithm.
- Instagram does not hide posts in the feed, and you’ll see everything posted by everyone you follow if you keep scrolling.
- Feed ranking does not favor 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 favor 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 behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
- Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.
- Shadowbanning is not a real thing, and Instagram says it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.