CEO Adam Mosseri shares secrets to how the Instagram algorithm works

Jun 2, 2023, 7:40 AM UTC
5 mins read
CEO Adam Mosseri shares secrets to how the Instagram algorithm works
Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram, speaks during a Samsung event in San Francisco on Feb. 20, 2019. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri recently provided an in-depth explanation of how the Instagram algorithm works for various features on the platform, including Stories, Feeds, Reels, and Explore [Search]. In a new video and blog post, Mosseri shed light on the multiple algorithms and processes at play that aims to deliver a personalized experience for each Instagram user.

The primary goal of employing algorithms on Instagram is to cater to the diverse interests of individual users. By ranking content, Instagram strives to present users with posts, stories, and reels that align with their preferences. This personalized approach aims to keep users engaged with the platform for longer durations.

When it comes to ranking Stories, the first thing users see upon opening the app is a row of the latest Stories from accounts they follow. Instagram analyzes all of these Stories from the past 24 hours to determine the order in which they appear. The platform predicts the Stories that users are most likely to interact with, whether it’s opening, replying, reacting, or liking. To make these predictions, Instagram considers signals such as the frequency of viewing Stories from a specific account, the level of interaction with those Stories, and the frequency of messaging with a particular account. By leveraging these personalized proxies, signals, and predictions, Instagram aims to prioritize Stories from the accounts that users care about the most.

Moving on to the Feed, Instagram curates a mix of content from accounts users follow and other accounts that might pique their interest. The ranking of content in the Feed relies on signals like the likelihood of users commenting, liking, or sharing a post, tapping on a profile, and spending time on a post. The platform takes into account the user’s history of interactions, the post’s popularity, information about the author, and the frequency of interactions with the author. Users have the ability to shape their Feed by designating favorite accounts, which will prioritize posts from those accounts. Additionally, users can switch to the Following Feed, which displays posts from accounts they follow in chronological order.

As for Reels, Instagram aims to entertain users by primarily serving Reels from accounts they don’t follow. The platform examines the Reels users have interacted with in the past, as well as Reels liked by users with similar preferences. By analyzing the user’s Reel history, information about the Reel and its author, and the frequency of interactions with the author, Instagram predicts the Reels that users are most likely to watch till the end, share with friends, or visit the audio page for content creation purposes. These predictions contribute to the creation of an immersive and enjoyable Reels tab.

Similarly, Instagram Explore [Search] endeavors to present the best content from accounts users don’t follow, allowing them to discover new interests on the platform. To determine the posts users are likely to appreciate, save, or share, Instagram relies on signals such as post popularity, user interests, author information, and frequency of interactions with the author.

In addition to discussing the ranking mechanisms across Instagram, Mosseri addressed the issue of shadowbanning and dispelled a popular myth associated with it. Some creators believe they have been shadowbanned when their content doesn’t receive the expected reach. However, Mosseri clarified that Instagram doesn’t intentionally reduce the reach of accounts to push them towards paid advertising. Instead, the platform’s primary focus is to connect users with captivating content, thereby increasing time spent on the app and advertising revenue. To assist users, Instagram introduced an Account Status section that provides insights into any factors that may limit an account’s visibility on the platform.

Mosseri concluded the video by sharing valuable tips for growing one’s Instagram audience and reach. He emphasized the importance of experimentation to identify content that resonates with the target audience, utilizing Insights to uncover trends for improving content quality and engagement, collaborating with popular creators in the same niche to reach new audiences, and reviewing Account Status to ensure compliance with Community Guidelines and remove any visibility limitations. Furthermore, Mosseri encouraged creators to prioritize original content creation rather than aggregating content from others.

By offering transparency into the functioning of the Instagram algorithm, Adam Mosseri aims to empower users and creators to make informed decisions about their content strategies. Understanding how ranking works across different Instagram features can help individuals optimize their presence on the platform, enhance audience engagement, and ultimately grow their Instagram following.

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