How Instagram Works in 2020 – Explaining the Latest Instagram Algorithm updates

So we all know that platforms from Google to Facebook and Instagram use algorithms to do things such as chose what website appears first when you Google, for example, “best restaurants near me” – to choosing what Instagram stories appear in your Instagram Feed.  Got it – so we all get that many search engines and social media services use algorithms to automate the indexing, sorting, and ranking of content.

But what happens when an application such as Instagram changes its algorithm, and what does that mean for its users? What does it mean for you? First – it’s clear that when Instagram changes its algorithm it effects all of its users – from top influencers to ecommerce brands, other businesses, and yes… you!

For your Grandmother, or a generally passive Instagram user, a change in the Instagram Algorithm probably doesn’t mean a whole lot, but for accounts, (such as businesses, brands, and Influencers) attempting to maximize their reach and Influence on the platform, an algorithm change is super-important!

So what is the best way for you and your brand or business to stay up to date with the Instagram algorithm? What’s the best way to track changes to the algorithm?  How can you make sure that you are doing all you can to be working with and not against the algorithm?

Don’t worry, if you’re asking these questions – we’ve got your covered!  Below you will find the latest info about the ever-elusive Instagram Algorithm.

The Instagram Algorithm Explained by Instagram:

In June 2018 Instagram Product Lead Julian Gutman gave a detailed presentation explaining how the Instagram Algorithm works to a group of journalists.  Basically, Instagram uses AI to learn from your past Instagram use-behavior to create a unique feed for you. Yes – a feed just for you.  Say you and your best friend follow the exact same accounts – your feeds will still be different.  You and your friend’s feeds will be different based on your different usage behaviors.  Your feed is uniquely created for you with the aim of increasing, and ultimately maximizing the amount of time you spend on Instagram.   The more time users spend on Instagram, the more advertising they can view (be shown).

Instagram Explains the Three Main Factors the Algorithm Uses to Make the Feed:

Instagram Product Lead Julian Gutman explained that the three main factors that determine what feed a user views are – Interest, Timelines, and Relationship:

  1. Interest: Instagram predicts how Interested a user will be on a post, based on past user behavior, and assigns a higher ranking to posts that are predicted to be of higher interest to the user.  It is possible that “machine vision” is used to analyze the actual content of the image.
  2. Timeliness:   More recent posts are assigned greater priority than older posts by the Instagram Algorithm.
  3. Relationship:  The Instagram Algorithm evaluates the amount, frequency and way in which the user’s account has engaged with other accounts.  A higher ranking is assigned to posts made by accounts with more interactions or a greater “relationship” in the past.

So, as told by Instagram executives, the three factors listed above, Interest, Timeliness, and Relationship, are the most important factors driving the Instagram feed algorithm.


Additional Signals that the Instagram Algorithm Uses to Determine the Feed:


In addition to the three main signals that Instagram uses it uses an additional three signals in the algorithm for ranking and determining a user’s feed. These three factors are:


  1. Frequency: How often an account uses the application is used to rank content in the feed.  Instagram uses this signal to rank all the content since a user’s last visit, and serve the user the most relevant content since the user last viewed the application.
  2. Following:  The more accounts that a user follows, the more potential content there is available to appear in the user’s feed.  This means that Instagram’s algorithm has a greater amount of available content to select from when generating the feed.  As a result, a user who follows more accounts generally will see fewer stories or posts from any specific user they follow.
  3. Usage:  How much time a user spends on Instagram is used in the algorithm to make certain that users who have shorter browsing sessions receive the most relevant content during that session.  So basically, if the user’s average time on the application is only 2 minutes, the app wants to make certain only the most relevant content is shown in this short window.

How Can I Use This Information of How the instagram algorithm works in 2020 ?


Great! Hopefully this article was useful in demystifying the Instagram algorithm, and explaining the core signals that the Algorithm uses to determine what feed the user receives.  Armed with this knowledge, business accounts (and personal accounts) can better fine tune their content and Instagram strategy to better connect with their target audience, optimize their reach, maintain their audience, increase engagement with their brand, and ultimately convert and win loyal customers.  If you are interested learning more about fine tuning your Instagram Strategy to better win and keep a loyal following CLICK HERE.

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