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How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2018

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How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2018

Instagram announced its move to an algorithm-based feed in March 2016. Since then, users have been trying to figure out precisely what signals the Instagram algorithm uses to order posts in your feed.

Luckily, the mystery has been solved. Instagram spilt the beans on how the algorithm works in June 2018.

Speaking to a group of reporters in San Francisco, Instagram staffers explained the details of the Instagram feed algorithm and shut down some rumours while they were at it.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Instagram algorithm change for 2018.

How the 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 brand.

When Instagram introduced the algorithm, people were not happy. A 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 more actively.”

In fact, Instagram now says users see 90 per cent of the posts from their friends and family, compared to 50 per cent 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 primary signals the Instagram algorithm uses to rank the posts in your feed.


This is the algorithm’s guess on how much you will care about each post in your feed. It’s based on how you’ve interacted with similar posts in the past, and may also be based on the content of the post itself.

What this means for brands: Engagement is key here. When users engage with your content, they signal to 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.

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 feed [so] your feed will feel fresher, and you won’t miss the moments you care about.”

What this means for brands: Figure out the best time to post on Instagram for your brand to make sure your posts are “recent” when your followers are online. This will require some testing and digging into Instagram insights.

3. Relationship

Going beyond whether you follow someone, this factor analyses the depth of your relationship with the person or brand based on how often you tend to engage with their posts. If you usually 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 helps ensure that you see content from people you have close relationships with even if those people do not have enough followers of their own to get a substantial amount of likes and comments.

Read more on Hootsuite blog

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