Once upon a time, a time long past, there used to be chronological feed on Instagram. But then the platform took it away and replaced it with Facebook-like algorithmic feed. It wasn’t that long actually; it happened in March 2016. But during the time since Instagram’s launch and the appearance of algorithmic feed, regular folks as well as social media marketers got so used to the chronological order of posts that the big change seemed even bigger. In fact, a lot of people still don’t like this change and haven’t accepted it. They keep asking Instagram to bring back the chronological feed but what they need to realize is that this is just not going to happen.
Instagram has made it clear time and time again that algorithmic feed is here to stay. The company has tried to accommodate people in some ways to make the change easier to digest but it’s high time that people stop complaining and accept the platform for what it is today.
That is especially important for social media marketers in the sense that they need to utilize the platform as best as they can. That starts with learning how Instagram’s algorithm actually works so that they can design their social media strategy around that.
Let’s get into a little more detail. So, here is a simple breakdown of what Instagram’s algorithm is all about.
Engagement Is The Key:
This comes as no surprise actually. If you’ve had any experience with Facebook marketing, you know that your posts will get seen by more people if it gets engagement from the people who view it first. The more engagement it gets, the more reach it will have.
To explain it a little more, here is what you content goes through on Instagram:
- You post a photo or a video and it gets shown to a small percentage of your followers.
- Then it gets engagement from those followers if it is good. Instagram algorithm measures the time it takes for your post to get any engagement, the number of favorites, and comments.
- Then it will compare it to your other posts that you’ve posted at a similar time of day so that it can get a clear idea of whether or not your post actually is good.
- If it passes Instagram Al’s test, your post will be shown to a higher percentage of your followers and so on.
- It can even land on the Explorer Pages if it continues to perform better.
That’s when your post is getting good engagement. If it fails to gather the correct amount of engagement, it will be pushed down and even less of your followers will get to see it.
Okay, so we’ve established that engagement plays a big role in increasing your reach. But let’s take a look at what other factors determine that people will get to see your posts.
Instagram said in the post announcing the change:
“The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
Type of Content:
If Instagram algorithm determines that the content that you are posting is in league with your followers’ top interests and they will want to see it, it has a very high chance of getting in their feed.
The way that the algorithm decides what type of content people want to see is the level of engagement they have shown to other similar posts in the past. For example, if your post is about fashion and your followers have interacted with a lot of fashion related posts in the past, chances are you will reach their feed as well.
Yes, Instagram is not going back to chronological feed. But, it still positions posts that are recently posted over days old posts. The way this works is that Instagram creates your feed based on the content that has been posted in between your last and current Instagram visit because new posts get published very often. Especially, if you follow a lot of Instagram accounts.
Recently, Instagram introduced a new feature called ‘You’re all caught up’ which pops up when people have viewed all the posts by the accounts and hashtags they follow that have been posted in the last 4 days. That also shows that time does play an important part in Instagram’s feed still.
Your Relationship With Your Followers:
It doesn’t mean that you must be biologically or otherwise related to your followers, no. It means your follower/brand relationship. Your content will be shown to those followers who have interacted with your posts regularly in the past. The most interaction they have with you, the more chances there are that you will land in their feed. Even if people search for your brand generally, it will count as interaction.
There are additional factors that play a role as well and those include how often a person opens Instagram which we’ve already discussed that Instagram will sort out your feed based on the posts you haven’t seen since your last visit.
Another factor is the number of accounts a person follows. As you can probably guess that if a person follows hundreds and thousands of accounts, they will likely see only one or two posts by most of those accounts. The less accounts they follow, the more chances your content has to reach them.