Instagram Head Adam Mosseri recently posted an article to the platform’s blog giving us some detailed insights into how the app’s multiple algorithms surface content for users. In an effort to increase transparency, this post is the first time we’ve been given this level of detail, and it’s a very interesting read.

We thoroughly recommend reading the whole article, but it boils down to a few keys points for marketers, and we’ll break it down based on the different content types:

Feeds and Stories

Feeds and Stories are seen as the primary places where people go to see content from friends and family, and as such, these posts are given more weight. As such, the vast majority of posts seen here are from people you follow, rather than organic brand posts.

From there, Instagram uses thousands of ‘Signals’, or bits of info about the posts, to help rank them and present what they predict to be the most interesting content to you first.

The most important signals, roughly in order of importance are:

  • Information about the post.
    This includes post popularity, when it was posted etc.
  • Information about the poster.
    Signals here include how many times you’ve interacted with the poster in the past few weeks.
  • Your activity.
    Includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked and helps IG understand what you might be interested in.
  • Your history of interacting with someone.
    This helps give a sense of how interested you’d be in seeing a particular person’s post.

There’s much more to this, but these are the key takeaways we saw for this section of the app.

Explore

Explore is designed to surface new content to users, and as such the content is very different from that in Feeds and Stories.

The first step again is defining a set of posts to rank. If you’ve gone on a recent liking spree for a particular user, IG may look at who else likes that same content, and what other accounts they follow and look for similarities. Again, once they have a group of content a user might be interested in, they then go on to order them based on how interested they predict you will be in each one.

The most important signals, roughly in order of importance are:

  • Information about the post.
    Signals such as how popular a post is, how quickly other people are engaging with it etc. These engagement signals matter MUCH more in Explore than in Feeds or Stories, so break out your best creative to make a splash here.
  • Your history of interacting with the person who posted.
    You’ve probably never heard of most of the people posting in Explore, but if you have interacted with them before that’s a decent signal you’d be interested in seeing their content again.
  • Your activity.
    This includes content you’ve interacted with from Explore in the past.
  • Info about the person who posted.
    Signals here include how many times people have interacted with the poster, especially looking for a wide range of people interacting, showcasing a broad appeal to their content.

Reels

The focus of Reels is entertainment. So again, most of the accounts in Reels are people you won’t be following. The process is very similar to the other content areas, except with a focus on entertaining content.
To gather the initial content pool, Instagram will survey people and ask them if they found particular Reels funny or entertaining. There’s also a mention that Reels have a focus on surfacing smaller creators that are making entertaining content.

The most important signals are, roughly in order of importance are:

  • Your activity.
    Things like Reels you’ve liked or otherwise engaged with recently, and helps Instagram understand what you like.
  • Your history of interacting with the poster.
    Once again, most content will be from people you aren’t already following, but if you have interacted with their content it gives more understanding to the content you might like.
  • Information about the Reel.
    This is info about the video itself such as the audio track, popularity, and other info about the video itself.
  • Information about the person who posted.
    Popularity plays a role here, with compelling content sourced from a wide array of creators to try and give everyone a chance to find their audience.

There’s more depth in the original article about Shadowbanning (spoiler, it doesn’t exist, so they say), and also tips on how to influence what you see. However, this article is long enough already, so click here to read the original.

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