Instagram Shares New Explainer on How its Feed, Reels and Stories Algorithms Work

Instagram chief Adam Mosseri recently published an overview explaining how Instagram’s ranking algorithms work. The goal is to help users better understand how to optimize their content performance and reach on Instagram’s main feed, Stories, and Reels. Mosseri’s explanation serves as a way to be more open and transparent about how Instagram’s algorithmic ranking functions and to dispel rumors about IG reach. Mosseri previously provided a similar explainer of Instagram’s system in 2021.

Different Algorithms for Different App Components

Mosseri started by clarifying that Instagram does not have a singular algorithm that oversees users‘ activities on the app. Instead, each app component, such as the feed, stories, explore, and reels, has its algorithm, tailored to how people use it. Instagram designed the algorithms to customize the user experience and allow users to tailor their experience using the app’s features and controls.

Feed Algorithm Overview

The main feed has become increasingly filled with AI recommendations. Instagram now inserts AI-based recommendations into users‘ feeds. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted in April that around 40% of the content displayed in users‘ main IG feeds is now fueled by AI, so what’s shown in this section is often recommendations from accounts that Instagram thinks users might like, alongside updates from people and profiles users have chosen to follow. Instagram considers recent posts shared by the accounts users follow and the posts from accounts they don’t follow, think they might be interested in based on a variety of factors, including what and whom users have followed, liked, or engaged with recently. Instagram personalizes the experience to try to balance content from accounts users follow with content from accounts they don’t follow but might be interested in.

Key Ranking Factors

There are four key factors that Instagram considers in ranking users‘ main Instagram feeds. The first is users‘ activity; posts users have liked, shared, saved, or commented on, help Instagram understand what users might be interested in. The second is information about the post, which includes signals about how popular a post is, the number of likes, and how quickly people are liking, commenting, sharing, and saving a post – and more mundane information about the content itself, like when it was posted and what location, if any, was attached to it. The third factor is the information about the person who posted, which includes signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks. The last factor is users‘ history of interacting with someone. This gives Instagram a sense of how interested in seeing posts from a particular person users are. Instagram also weighs the content format more heavily in recent times. So, if Instagram notices that users prefer photos, Instagram shows them more photos. Instagram aims to avoid showing too many posts from the same person/profile in a row, or too many suggested posts back to back, and the algorithm will also prioritize original content.

Stories Algorithm Overview

The Stories display is ranked based on the content shared by accounts that users follow. Instagram doesn’t show AI-based recommendations for Stories at present. Instagram’s system ranks Stories and decides which Stories to display in which order, along the top bar of the app, based on the viewing and engagement history and the users‘ relationship with the author and overall connection. Instagram tries to predict how likely users are to tap into a story or reply to a Story and ranks the display accordingly.

Explore Algorithm Overview

Instagram’s Explore page is based on overall popularity, how users have interacted with similar posts in the past, and whether they’ve engaged with the creator previously.

Reels Algorithm Overview

Reels are more influenced by entertainment, and how likely users are to find a Reel engaging. Instagram looks at users‘ activity to understand what content might be relevant to them. Instagram considers information about the reel, such as the audio track or the visuals in the video, and popularity signals such as the number of followers or level of engagement to find compelling content from a wide array of people and give everyone a chance to find their audience. Instagram also notes that Reels, which are watermarked or captured in low resolution, will get less reach as a result. Reels with muted audio, contain borders, or are mostly text, will also get downranked.

Takeaway

It is essential to understand that different app components on Instagram have specific algorithms tailored to the engagement factors Instagram wants to amplify based on what drives the most user activity. To maximize performance on the platform, it is necessary to understand the factors that help Instagram rank content and optimize accordingly. Social media experts who speak of „the algorithm“ should clarify which algorithm they are referring to, as Instagram has several algorithms working together within the app.

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