For many Instagram users, the platform's built-in algorithm is an unsolvable enigma. What does "Instagram algorithm" actually mean? Is IG really in charge of what we get to see in our newsfeeds?
One of the major highlights in 2022 is collaborations on Instagram. Collab posts on Instagram allow creators and brands to team up so posts can be visible on both timelines, and gives transparency that regular users of the app like to see.
As the Instagram algorithm continues to evolve based on user interaction and platform programming, we’ll continue to have updates for you so that you can improve how you use this tool to improve the performance of your brands and products.
What does the Instagram algorithm do?
What people see or don't see on Instagram isn't determined by a single, overarching "algorithm." Depending on the content type being viewed or created, the platform employs a variety of algorithms and processes to determine what users see, and what’s hidden.
When Instagram first launched in 2010, it only had a chronological news feed design. However, as more people joined Instagram, the company realized that scrollers were missing up to 70% of the posts in their feed. Instagram decided to fix this. Ranking feeds were introduced to ensure that users only saw content they were interested in.
A unique algorithm is used for each user's main Instagram feed, Explore, and Reels features. Instagram prioritizes the close connections of its users by focusing on their Stories, for example. Instagram, on the other hand, has crafted its Explore tab to feature content that is less well-known so content creators can get more visibility when they are just getting started.
The algorithm helps both creators and brands reach a wider audience by showing users collaborations on Instagram. When two accounts collaborate, the algorithm helps these posts be seen by the audiences of both collaborators.
Feeds and Stories are ranked according to Instagram's algorithm.
Instagram prioritizes content that comes from people you know in real life over content that comes from strangers. This is why content from influencers can make a big difference for your brand’s performance: users are interacting with individual people when they see this content, as opposed to posts coming only from the official brand account.
There are three parts to the Feeds and Stories algorithm:
- Priority is given to the recent posts by people you follow. You’ll see these first, and most often.
- Many different "signals" are examined by Instagram when it comes to posts (who posted, what time post was made, how often you interact with their content, etc.). The following are the most critical signals:
- Popularity and information about the content itself, such as the type of content, the time it was posted, etc.
- Information about the account: how often you interact with the content that the account posts.
- Your interests: what have you been searching and engaging with recently.
- Historical data: how often you interact with certain types of content or types of accounts.
- Instagram uses your interaction history to determine whether or not you're interested in a user's content. This data can include how long you look at a post on your screen, whether or not you like and save posts, and if you comment or share a user’s content.
Your predicted likelihood to engage with a post is taken into account by Instagram's algorithm. Based on how much time users have spent on a particular post, such as how many comments they've left or how many likes or saves they've made, these predictions can be made.
Ranking in the Explore feature
Even though all of the content in the Explore tab comes from accounts you don't follow, it follows the same algorithm model as Feeds and Stories.
Posts you've interacted with in the past are the first thing Instagram considers when curating content for your Explore tab. If you frequently interact with a certain jewelry maker or ceramic artist on Instagram, the algorithm will suggest other accounts like theirs to follow based on similar accounts that other users interact with.
Instagram considers how likely you are to engage with the content of accounts similar to those you already follow. This is what this algorithm looks at:
- Interaction metrics including likes, shares, saves, and comments.
- How often you engage with the account’s content.
- The types of posts in the Explore feature you’ve interacted with in the past.
- How popular the account and its posts have been in the last few weeks.
Ranking in Reels
Where Explore is focused on discovering new content creators, Reels is for entertainment by creators you already follow and typically like. Reels often suggests videos by creators with a smaller following so they can build visibility.
Reels rankings are based on how likely a viewer is to finish watching a reel, give it a like, or give a positive answer on a survey question that Instagram provides. Instagram also tracks visits to the audio page to see who has been inspired to create their own Reel.
Signals that are also important include:
- What reels have you engaged with recently?
- How often do you interact with a particular account?
- Data about the specific reel.
- How popular the account has been recently.
Instagram: New for 2022
- Link Stickers
In August 2021, Instagram's "swipe-up" feature was permanently replaced by Link stickers. Links to other websites can be accessed via Instagram link stickers, which are tappable icons for Instagram Stories. In order to generate leads, sales, and social commerce transactions, these links are essential.
In contrast to swipe-ups, link stickers are available to all Instagram users, regardless of follower count, regardless of whether they are verified or not. Link stickers on IG Stories can now be replied to, a feature that was previously unavailable on swipe-ups.
Your brand can now use affiliate links with any influencer, regardless of how many people follow them on social media. By tracking revenue and website traffic, link stickers make it easier to determine the effectiveness of an influencer/campaign.
Instagram post collabs allow you to collaborate with a different user on a single post. It then appears on both profiles, allowing you to expand your social media reach and engage with a wider audience.
Social media influencers list brand collaborations as a primary source of income in 2021. As a result, Instagram's new collaboration feature is an ideal tool for influencer marketing. Both parties benefit from this feature because it expands their reach, increases their interaction, and aids their respective audiences in discovering new content. And because users can see when two users collaborate, users get the benefit of transparency which improves the level of trust they’re willing to give to creators and brands.
Collab posts on Instagram are set to be a gamechanger for creators and brands, and collaborations can support much faster growth and audience interaction, so make sure to prioritize this tactic.
Focus on Reels
Reels, Instagram's answer to TikTok's short-form video format, was launched in 2020. The platform increased the maximum length of a Reel from 30 seconds to one minute in 2021. It's also added a self-timer and a variety of new editing features, including music and voiceover.
With the new "Montage" feature, Instagrammers can turn their Stories into Reel content in a matter of seconds. Reels is reportedly paying TikTok stars to post exclusively on the platform, which is promoting original content creation. As a result of this new feature, Instagram expects to see a rise in the popularity of short-form content, as well as a decrease in the popularity of long-form content.
Ads in Shops
In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic had an increasing impact worldwide, Instagram launched an in-app shopping feature to help struggling retailers. "To make it easier for people to discover and shop from brands when they're already in the mood to shop," the platform introduced in-shop ads in 2021.
Instagram in-shop ads are displayed as tiles on the home page of the Instagram Shop tab. To learn more about an item and see additional images and the seller's other products, customers can click through to the "product details" page.
What’s on deck?
- Feed options are changing.
Earlier this month, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri revealed that the platform is currently experimenting with changes to how users see their feeds. The new layout would allow users to switch between three different home screen views.
These options are:
Home: This is what Instagram has been showing users, which is the curated feed for each user based on what it thinks they'll be most interested in.
Favorites: A user's favorite accounts are shown in chronological order in this option, and these favorites are defined directly by the user.
Following: By popular demand and as promised by Mosseri late last year, this is the stream of posts by accounts the user follows in chronological order. This feature is now active and can be accessed by touching the “Instagram” header in the app.
As of right now, no specific date has been set for Instagram's three-feed feature to go live, but it's something to keep an eye out for in 2022.
This subscription service is currently being tested by Instagram with selected creators. It's possible for those content creators to use the service to set a monthly price for premium content and unlock a "subscribe" button on their website profile.
Subscribing gives users access to the following:
- Streams that are only available to subscribers which allow for a deeper level of interaction.
- Subscriber Stories can only be accessed by a user's most loyal and engaged fans.
- Subscriber badges help creators keep track of their most dedicated followers.
Brands in 2022 will have to make use of all the tools at their disposal if they want to be successful in engaging with customers and getting them excited about the products and services that they offer. Brands can reach a larger audience and deepen their relationships with current customers by taking advantage of Instagram's ongoing improvements and incorporating them into their influencer marketing strategy.