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    The Instagram Algorithm - Decoding and Understanding

    The Instagram Algorithm - Decoding and Understanding

    Users were dissatisfied when Instagram launched its new feed algorithm, replacing the previous popular chronological feed system. The height of frustration can be well estimated from the fact that a petition, which called for the reversal of this change, earned around 70,000 signatories in merely 24 hours. People were angry, and they were curious at the same time. Users speculated on the basis on which the algorithm functioned. From these hypotheses stemmed several myths, which circulated within the public for around two years, before Instagram finally broke its silence and answered much anticipated questions. Following are three primary and then three secondary key factors which determine what individuals see on their feeds. Along with them are tips on how businesses may improve their interactions with targeted audiences: 

    1. Interest

    This is an important discriminator between various posts. As the algorithm has several posts to choose from, it relies on the information it collected from you. The data is basically how you had reacted/interacted with similar posts in the past. If you liked something similar, the algorithm is programmed to make sure that you see more stuff like that on your feed. To be precise, this factor is all about engagement with the audience. 

    Tip: If you want your posts to be reaching many people, you need to make them more engaging and more compelling. Using the right colours and captions most often attract people. And as mentioned earlier, more the people like your posts, more they would see from you. 

    2. Recency

    One thing that was clarified by Instagram was that the feed-system was not made exactly reverse chronological. While you may not see posts entirely based on when they were uploaded, recency is still a factor which plays its part. “Newer posts” are still “more likely” to appear. 

    Tip: This part requires some testing. What businesses may want to do is to see at what time users interact with their posts the most. That is the hour when businesses should be uploading their posts. 

    3. Relationship

    While it may sound absurd, it is true that the Instagram algorithm tries to sense your relationship with the people you follow. You are more likely to see posts by your best friend than your casual friend, primarily because you and your best friend more frequently like, comment and share each other’s posts. With this, the program judges your closeness with people and attempts to show more of their posts to you. 

    Tip: Businesses may use Instagram Insights to see what types of posts are generally liked more by the public. Then based on this information, they may alter their posts and present them in fashions which are more likeable. 

    4. Frequency of Usage

    Instagram has the ability to monitor how often its users come online. If you are in a habit of checking your feed around 5-6 times a day, it is highly likely that you come across more recent posts, as compared to a person who checks their app only once a day. 

    5. Number of People a User Follows

    This is something simple. If you follow only a handful of people on Instagram, the algorithm would not have much information about you, and therefore it would not have the ability to determine what kind of posts you like, or with whom you have a stronger relationship. Thus, you may find updates from almost all of the people from your following list. On the other hand, if you follow a lot of people, then since the program would have collected considerable data from you, it is much more probable that you would find yourself looking at the things shared by only a handful of people. 

    6. Number of Hours Spent Online

    This part basically deals with how long a person stays active on their social media. If you generally stay online for a short amount of time, the algorithm would record this information. So the next time you come online, the program would prioritize the posts, and show you the ones which are the most important first.

    As aforementioned, several myths had also sprung up and had confused users regarding several Instagram practices. The social medium authorities debunked many of those when they spoke about the new algorithm. Below are some of the popular misconceptions and the rectifications Instagram made to these popular theories:



    1. Shadowban is a Thing And it Gets You Banned

    Rumors suggested that using extensive and repetitive hashtags would partially block your Instagram account. What’s worse is that the banned person would not even be aware of his status given that no notification is released upon banning. However, during the press conference that the social media platform conducted, it was clarified that one gets to see each and every post, provided they scroll enough. It is still important that one uses hashtags sensibly and authentically though. It is also encouraged that one must use hashtags which are relevant to one’s posts. 

    2. Posting Frequently Leads Your Account Getting Down-ranked

    It was believed that posting things frequently would lead your account getting down-ranked by authorities. This hypothesis was also declared a fallacy. The status of an account has nothing to do with the number of posts published in a given time. But it also does not necessary that if someone updates multiple posts in a go, his/her statuses would be presented in order. Rather, it is more probable that posts are interrupted by other feed. This can be avoided by consolidating multiple pictures into one post, or by adding them as stories. 

    3. Videos Rank Higher in Terms of Popularity

    This point stems from an aforementioned factor. It was considered that posting videos would boost your content’s placement. This is not true, however. It depends on the audience one is targeting, and can only be determined by testing. If your viewers prefer video based content, it would be better if you post videos more often, as they would get up-voted with greater probability. Posting videos in the case where users show an inclination toward pictures would not help.

    4. Using Instagram Stories, Boomerangs and Live Videos Would Boost Content Placement

    This is related to the previous point. It again depends upon the targeted users. If they prefer to see boomerangs, then and only then would posting boomerangs would increase interaction of audience with your content. Otherwise, it would only do as much to decrease it overall. Same goes for Instagram stories and live videos. Businesses should shrewdly choose what to post according to their followers. 

    5. Chronological Feed Might Make a Comeback!

    It was rumored that the algorithm system might be replaced by the favourite chronological feed. However, this was refuted by none other than Instagram itself, which declared that the latter has gone for good. 

    6. Verified and Business Accounts Rank Higher!

    According to d’Avignon, all accounts are ranked “same”. None is given preference over the other. However, business accounts do have access to several other features normal users are deprived of. Therefore, if you wish to employ analytics, you might want to consider switching your profile to a business account.

    The question still, however, persists- how to make the algorithm work in your favour? With the program’s functionality decoded, and all the widespread myths debunked, it is quite easy to actually understand how to increase engagement with other users via content. Following are some tips which clarify things further: 

    1. Engagement is The Key

    This is something which cannot be stressed upon enough. It is always good to know the audience you are targeting as a business. It should also be understood that not all people appreciate a certain kind of content. Therefore, engagement through understanding is better. If users are spammed with feed which they do not like, they would not positively interact with it, down-ranking the content in the process. It is always a good idea to use Instagram Insights to build audience personas and location information to determine the right time to post. This would ensure that the targeted audience receives the right content at the time they are most likely to view it. 

    2. Interact With Your Followers

    Followers generally like to know that their reactions, their appreciations, their comments and messages are not being fed into a void. It is advised that people managing social media channels of businesses take out time to personally interact with people who are liking/commenting on their posts. Being social never hurts! It would only lead to people valuing your content more. 

    3. Captions Should Encourage Engagement

    Captions of posts should be compelling, attractive, and most importantly, engaging. They should encourage healthy conversations to spring. One way is to ask the audience for their experiences, and then participating in their discussions in the comments section. Reiterating and emphasizing on how amazing your product is the least helpful. Instead, focus on getting your audience do that for you. Positive reviews are always good! 

    4. The Post Should Clearly Tell What The Post is About

    This is where hashtags come to use. You must use hashtags which are relevant to your content, and should announce what it is going to be about. Misleading or useless tags add to the clutter and much less appreciated. 

    5. Tell Your Followers to Turn On Their Notifications

    Instagram has this feature where one may enable notifications to their favorite accounts, so that whenever the latter posts, the fans are alerted. This way, the followers can ensure that they never miss another update. Businesses could occasionally and casually remind their followers in a light way to turn on their notifications. But this must be done with caution as spamming followers is not a good idea.

    Source : https://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2018/06/how-the-instagram-algorithm-works.html

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