What is an algorithm?

An algorithm can be defined as a set of rules or calculations used to solve problems and deliver a result. Algorithms are used in social media to deliver content to the user. Not all social media platforms use algorithms, however, many have adopted news feeds that are delivered via an algorithm in recent years. Newsfeeds use algorithms to determine the content to show you based on your interests, activity and interactions on the platform. Currently, social media platforms that use an algorithm include Facebook and Instagram. Snapchat have also recently introduced an algorithm, to show you stories based on users you’ve interacted with most. Twitter’s news feed however still operates in chronological order, displaying content that was most recently posted first. It is also possible to show the newsfeeds into what is recommended for the users.

How Does The Instagram Algorithm Work?

Historically Instagram used to operate using a chronological feed, however, in July 2016 Instagram made the bold decision to switch to a news feed based on an algorithm. This was initially met with much negative reception, however since then Instagram have stated since the implementation of an algorithm, users are seeing 90% of their friends’ posts and spending a lot more time on the app. For a long, while users did not know how the algorithm worked, however very recently Instagram did reveal new information on how they factor the ranking of posts in the news feed.

Three key factors determine the ranking of posts:

  • Interest – How much Instagram thinks you want to see a post. This is based on past content you’ve viewed, liked and interacted with.
  • Recency – How recently the content was posted, prioritising timely posts over week-old posts.
  • Relationship – Your relationship with the user who posted the content. Users you’ve interacted with most in the form of comments, likes, tags and direct messages will appear higher in the news feed.

Furthermore, three secondary factors also determine the ranking of posts in the news feed.

  • Frequency – How often you open the app, as the algorithm with show you the best post since your last visit.
  • Following – The more people you follow the less frequent you’ll see multiple posts from the same people.
  • Usage – The time you spent in the app will also determine which posts Instagram choose to show you. The more time you spend in the app, the more variety of posts you will see.

Why Is The Instagram Algorithm Important?

For anyone who is wanting to be successful on Instagram, it is important for them to understand how the algorithm works, in order to get the best out of the content on the platform. Using the information mentioned above users can form an effective Instagram strategy in order to maximise potential engagement on the content. Many users have complained that the algorithm has had a negative impact on their overall engagement rates, hence why it’s important as a user on Instagram to understand the mechanics behind it and use the factors that affect the news feed rankings to get the most eyeballs on your content.

You can check out our blog post on 5 ways to increase engagement using the Instagram algorithm to learn more.

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