Mirko Bonmassar
July 15, 2023

Instagram Unveils the Secrets Behind Its Ranking Algorithm

Instagram's algorithm prioritises personalisation across Feed, Stories, and Explore. Understanding it is key for content creators' reach.

In a bid to demystify the inner workings of its platform, Instagram has recently shed light on how its ranking algorithm operates. The social media giant has taken a step towards transparency, aiming to help users, particularly creators, understand how their content is surfaced across the platform.

Instagram's Ranking: A Variety of Algorithms at Play

Contrary to popular belief, Instagram doesn't rely on a singular algorithm to determine what users see on their feed. Instead, it employs a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with a unique purpose. The ultimate goal? To make the most of users' time by personalizing their experience.

Each part of the app – Feed, Stories, Explore, Reels, Search, and more – uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it. For instance, users tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, use Explore to discover new content and creators, and seek entertainment in Reels. Instagram ranks things differently in these different parts of the app, and has added features and controls like Close Friends, Favorites, and Following so users can further customize their experience.

The Intricacies of Instagram's Ranking System

The ranking system of Instagram is a complex one, designed to cater to the diverse interests and behaviors of its users. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach; instead, it's a dynamic system that evolves with user behavior. For example, if you frequently engage with a certain type of content or a specific user, Instagram's algorithm will take note and prioritize similar content in your feed.

This level of personalization is what makes Instagram's user experience unique. It's not just about showing the most popular posts; it's about showing the right posts to the right users at the right time. This is where the power of Instagram's ranking algorithm truly shines.

How Instagram Ranks Your Feed

Your Instagram Feed is a personalized home base within the app, designed to help you catch up with friends, family, and interests. This means your feed will have a mix of content from the accounts you’ve chosen to follow, recommended content from accounts Instagram thinks you’ll enjoy, and ads.

The ranking process begins by defining the set of things to rank. For the Feed, Instagram considers recent posts shared by the people you follow, as well as posts from accounts you don’t already follow that it thinks you might be interested in. It determines what you might be interested in based on a variety of factors, including what and whom you’ve followed, liked, or engaged with recently.

Next, Instagram takes all the information it has about what was posted, the people who made those posts, and your preferences. It also considers other factors like format, so if it notices you prefer photos, it’ll show you more photos. These are known as “signals,” and there are thousands of them. They include everything from when a post was shared to whether you’re using a phone or the web to how often you like videos.

The Impact of Instagram's Ranking on User Experience

The way Instagram ranks content has a significant impact on the user experience. By prioritizing content that aligns with a user's interests and behavior, Instagram ensures that users are always presented with content that is relevant and engaging. This personalized approach to content ranking is what sets Instagram apart from other social media platforms.

Moreover, Instagram's ranking algorithm also plays a crucial role in content discovery. By surfacing content from accounts that a user might be interested in, Instagram helps users discover new content creators and communities. This not only enhances the user experience but also provides opportunities for content creators to reach new audiences.

Instagram's Efforts Towards Transparency

In an effort to be more transparent about ranking, Instagram recently shared its guidelines for what types of content it moves lower in Feed and Stories. This type of content includes posts its systems predict likely violate its Community Guidelines, content rated by third-party fact checkers (or accounts that repeatedly post this content), and posts it thinks you are likely to report. These guidelines are a part of Instagram's commitment to fostering a safer community and responding to people’s direct feedback.

The Implications for Content Creators

For content creators, understanding Instagram's ranking algorithm is crucial. It can help them tailor their content strategy to maximize their reach and engagement on the platform. By understanding how Instagram ranks content, creators can make informed decisions about what type of content to post, when to post it, and how to engage with their audience.

Moreover, Instagram's move towards transparency can also help creators build trust with their audience. By understanding how Instagram ranks content, creators can better explain to their followers why they might see certain posts in their feed. This can lead to more open and honest conversations about the content creation process, which can ultimately strengthen the relationship between creators and their audience.

The Bottom Line

Instagram's move towards transparency is a welcome one, particularly for creators who are keen to understand how their content is surfaced. By shedding light on its ranking process, Instagram is helping users maximize their experience on the platform. As the social media landscape continues to evolve, it's clear that Instagram is committed to adapting and improving its platform to meet the needs of its users.

Final Thoughts

Instagram's ranking algorithm is a complex system that plays a crucial role in shaping the user experience. By prioritising personalisation and relevance, Instagram ensures that users are always presented with content that aligns with their interests and behavior.

As Instagram continues to evolve and improve its ranking algorithm, it's important for users and creators to stay informed. By understanding how Instagram ranks content, they can make the most of their experience on the platform.

So, whether you're a casual user looking to understand why you see certain posts in your feed, or a content creator looking to maximize your reach, understanding Instagram's ranking algorithm is crucial. And with Instagram's move towards transparency, this understanding is now more accessible than ever.