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Instagram on How Its Algorithms Work

Instagram reveals how content is ranked in user's feed
Instagram explains how content ranks in feeds

Social media giant Instagram revealed details on how its algorithm works and how content is ranked for users in the different sections of the app.

The Instagram Algorithm

According to Mosseri, the Instagram algorithm does not rank all content equally. A different algorithm is used for each part of the app Feed, Explore, Reels, & Stories. Using these categories, the content is ranked according to how people use it.

How The Feed & Stories Algorithms Work

Following people on Twitter and Facebook provides the user with a ranked list of recent posts they have shared with the person. Displaying the content in order is determined by thousands of signals. According to Mosseri, these are the most important signals across the main feed and stories carousel.

Information about the post: This includes how popular it is, how many likes it has when it was posted, where it was posted from, and other general details.

Information about the content creator: This includes how much engagement the creator has received in the past few weeks.

User activity: Includes signals from the user’s recent activity on Instagram, such as how many posts they’ve liked.

A user’s history of interacting with the content creator: An example is whether the user and the content creator have commented on each other’s posts.

From there, the algorithms try to predict how likely a user is to interact with a post.

The more likely a user is to take a engage with a post, the higher the post will rank.

For feed posts, Instagram looks at how likely a user is to:

Spend a few seconds on a post

Comment on a post

Like a post

Save a post

Tap on the profile photo associated with the post

There are some cases where the algorithm considers other factors. For example, the Instagram feed will avoid showing too many posts in a row from the same person.

How the Instagram Explore Algorithm Works

The Instagram Explore algorithm ranks content in a separate feed from accounts that a user doesn’t already follow.

It works similarly to the main feed algorithm by gathering signals from posts a user has liked, saved, or commented on in the past.

Mosseri explains how those signals are used to find relevant content from accounts that a user isn’t directly connected with

As per Instagram

“Let’s say you’ve recently liked several photos from San Francisco’s dumpling chef Cathay. We then look at who else likes Cathay’s photos, and then what other accounts those people are interested in. Maybe people who like Cathay are also into the SF dim sum spot @dragonbeaux.

In that case, the next time you open Explore, we might show you a photo or video from @dragonbeaux. In practice, this means that if you’re interested in dumplings you might see posts about related topics, like gyoza and dim sum, without us necessarily understanding what each post is about.”

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