Earlier this week, the social media giant Instagram created a splash when CEO Adam Mosseri shared a long piece on their blog page with the stated intention of “shedding more light on how Instagram works.” Up until now, the details of Instagram’s technology and processes have been highly guarded, and this move represents a huge shift towards greater transparency for its nearly 10 million users. Mosseri stated that this is just the first in a series of posts aimed at demystifying Instagram and dispelling the myths and conjecture that surround it.
The series will attempt to combat misconceptions and offer clarification on issues such as how Instagram decides which posts to show you first, why some posts receive more attention than others, and how Instagram decides what to show you in Explore.
First up, the post addresses the concept of “the algorithm”. Mosseri explains that a single, overarching algorithm does not exist, but rather “a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose,” work together to determine what content appears to a given Instagram user in each section of the app.
The post goes on to cover the specifics of how posts and stories are ranked in the Feed, Stories, Reels, and Explore sections of your Instagram account.
The algorithms use information about the post, the person who posted it, your activity, and your history of interacting with that particular person to decide what content is most likely to be of interest to you. While the algorithms themselves vary, it is these four variables that influence what you see in all four sections of the app.
The piece also touches on the issue of censorship or “shadowbanning” – the alleged practice of silencing users who post potentially controversial or offensive content by not displaying their posts to other users. Mosseri acknowledges this topic is complex and promises to go into greater depth in upcoming posts.
How To Influence What You See on Instagram
In its closing paragraphs, the piece offers useful information on how users can personalise their own Instagram experience. It mentions three specific actions users can take to influence what they see.
Firstly, you can select your “close friends” to decide whose Stories you see. This will also affect what appears in your Feed.
Secondly, you can mute users whose content you do not want to see. This action is not visible to the person you are muting but will stop their posts and stories appearing to you.
Thirdly, when a recommended post appears in your Stories or Feed, you can indicate that you are “not interested.” This provides the algorithm with explicit direction on what you do and don’t want to see, and it will avoid showing you similar content in the future.
More Information to Come Soon
Instagram has promised to provide further insights into how its content is ranked, moderated, and curated in future blog posts. They also stated a commitment to improving their ranking algorithms and making “fewer mistakes” going forward.
What This Means for the World of Digital Marketing
Instagram is one of the world’s most widely used social media platforms, and any inside information on how it works is big news for us at First Move Digital. Much of what the post describes is not exactly new information to us, merely confirming what we had already deduced from analysing the app’s behaviour. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have it put down in writing by the creators themselves.
We are also excited to see what else Instagram reveals in their coming posts and will be sure to pass on the key learnings to you via our own blog. Stay tuned for more news from Instagram in the coming weeks.