Another day, another announcement of a social media algorithm update.
Sigh — it seems like just when you finally have things figured out, a new tweak or update swoops in and switches things up. New trends are always emerging on the platform.
Such is the case with Instagram, who recently announced they were making some changes to give users “more control over your feed and ensure the posts you see are timely.”
Don’t start tearing your hair out quite yet. We know that these seemingly endless algorithm shifts can be frustrating. But, in many cases, they can also mean great things for your brand’s social presence.
And, in even better news: Shortly after announcing these algorithm updates, the almost always mysterious Instagram pulled back the curtain on their algorithm to give a group of reporters some insight into exactly how the algorithm ranks posts in users’ feeds.
So, before you start huffing and puffing into a paper bag at the mention of yet another change, let’s dig into what we know so far about Instagram’s recently announced algorithm update — and what it means for your brand’s Instagram account.
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What You Need to Know About Instagram’s New Algorithm
Wait…What’s Behind These New Algorithm Updates?
It’s tempting to think that social networks make these frequent algorithm shifts just to make your life difficult. But, there’s usually deeper roots to those changes.
In this case in particular, as The New York Times mentions, Instagram is making changes in response to user feedback and is aiming to address some frequent complaints that they hear from users, including:
- Automatically being bounced to the top of their feeds
- Seeing the same posts in their feeds for days and days
Rest assured that these changes aren’t just arbitrary. They’re introduced in an effort to make Instagram more user-friendly for everybody — including you!
So, what changes are happening? There are a few that you should be aware of.
Change #1: Users Won’t Get Flung to the Top of Their Feeds Anymore
Social media users often aren’t shy about airing their grievances. And, chances are, you’ve had this same complaint when perusing your own Instagram feed: You’d be in the middle of scrolling, and then automatically be bounced back to the top of your feed without warning.
It’s annoying right? So, Instagram decided to do something to address it.
“We’ve heard it can feel unexpected when your feed refreshes and automatically bumps you to the top,” Instagram said in their release about the recent update.
As a result, the first piece of the puzzle in Instagram’s recent updates is the testing of a “New Posts” button. This button will give users the option to decide when they want to refresh their feeds — rather than being brought back to the top of their feeds without warning.
When it seems that social media platforms make so many decisions about what users want to see and when they want to see it, this button is a simple way to give users a little more control over their own feeds.
Change #2: Newer Posts Are More Likely to Appear First
The other thing you should know? Instagram is updating its algorithm so that newer posts will be more likely to appear toward the top of the feed.
When breaking down its feed-ranking criteria for that group of reporters, Instagram pointed to three main components: recency, interest, and relationship. This is the recency piece of the puzzle.
No, this doesn’t mean that the platform is returning to a strictly chronological feed. However, Instagram is attempting to strike a balance so that you actually see newer posts. Prioritization will be given to fresh content, as opposed to photos that are a week old.
“With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about,” Instagram said in the release, “So if your best friend shares a selfie from her vacation in Australia, it will be waiting for you when you wake up.”
Change #3: Users Will See Content They’re Most Interested In
Let’s turn our attention to interest, which Instagram said is an important factor when figuring out where a post will rank.
While recency does matter, Instagram is also trying to give equal consideration to content that users will actually engage with. The platform will give higher ranking to the posts that they predict will matter more to you.
How exactly do they figure that out? Well, it’s “determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post,” explains an article for TechCrunch.
So, if a user has a history of high engagement with photos of dogs, for example, Instagram is potentially smart enough to bump other pooch-related photos up in a user’s feed.
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Change #4: Relationship Will Carry Some Weight
Finally, there’s the relationship piece of the algorithm.
The gist of this is relatively simple: If you’ve proven that you’re close with a specific account (perhaps you’ve commented on many of their posts or have been tagged in their photos!), new posts from that account will appear higher in your feed.
Those users who repeatedly engage with your own brand’s Instagram account? There’s a good chance that your posts will be given priority in their feeds.
What Does This All Mean For You?
That’s it — those are the four major things you can expect to see change on Instagram. So, what exactly does this mean for your brand’s own Instagram presence?
First and foremost, with things like interest and relationship confirmed as carrying some serious weight in Instagram’s algorithm, getting engagement from your followers is more important than ever. The more engagement you get, the better your chances that those users will actually see the new content you work so hard on.
Here’s another major thing: With the introduction of a more timely feed, the times you post on Instagram will carry more weight.
With Instagram’s 2016 announcement that the feed would be completely sorted using an algorithm that assessed what you would deem the “best” photos in your feed, timing carried far less importance.
But, now that Instagram has stated that recency matters and newer posts are more likely to bubble to the top of user’s feeds, timing is something that you need to be concerned with again.
Our best advice: Begin diving into your Instagram analytics to see at what times your audience is most engaged with your content, and then develop a plan to post at those specific times.
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