It feels like social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are always altering their rules. It’s because they are.
Staying informed about the newest Instagram updates is crucial, regardless of your personal opinion, as it allows you to better grasp their potential impact on the content you share for both yourself and your clients’ brands.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, discussed how the Instagram algorithm works in 2023. He addressed some key worries and explained how Instagram is working to create meaningful connections and interactions in the app.
He emphasized that Instagram does not have a single algorithm that controls what people view on the app. “Instead, the platform uses a set of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each serving a specific purpose. Notably, every component of the Instagram app—such as Feed, Stories, Explore, Reels, and Search, has its own unique algorithm for ranking posts.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the newest Instagram updates in regards to how it ranks content and how to increase your Instagram visibility across the platform.
Instagram Feed Ranking Explained
“Why has my Instagram Feed changed…AGAIN?”
We’ve got the answer.
The intent behind your Feed is to catch you up on the very best of what’s happening with your friends, family, and interests. In your Feed you will see a mixture of content from those you are following and from brands and creators that Instagram has identified as being of potential interest to you.
But how exactly does Instagram determine what you might be interested in?
Mosseri broke down the four key “signals” that Instagram is looking at when ranking your Instagram Feed:
- Your activity. This includes posts you’ve liked, shared, saved, or commented on and helps Instagram better understand what formats, and types of content you might be interested in.
- Information about the post. To keep it simple, these are signals about the popularity of a post. This is taking into consideration everything from how many people have liked a specific post, to how quickly they are engaging, sharing, and saving it. This also includes “more mundane information about the content itself, like when it was posted, and what location, if any, was attached to it”.
- Information about the person who posted. This is Instagram’s way of gauging how interesting a person might be to you and includes signals like how many times you’ve interacted with an individual over the past day and week.
- Your history of interacting with someone. Broken down, this is how interested you are in seeing posts from a particular person. Mosseri gives the example of whether or not you comment on each other’s posts.
Nothing too surprising here outside of the fact that Instagram is starting to weigh post format more heavily when suggesting things to your Feed.
When deciding which posts to show in your Feed, Instagram makes a set of predictions based on how likely you are to:
- Spend time looking at a post
- Comment on a post
- Like a post
- Share a post
- Visit that individual’s profile
The more likely you are to take one of these actions, the higher up in your Feed the content will be.
Not convinced your content is being ranked correctly? Control your Instagram Feed with favorites and following controls.
Also worth noting, in an effort to be more transparent about rankings, Instagram shared their guidelines for what types of content they move lower in Feed and Stories which includes content that goes against their community guidelines, fact-checked misinformation, and content based on what you previously reported.
You can take a look at the complete ‘Guidelines for Content Lowered in Feed and Stories on Instagram’ here.
Instagram Story Ranking Explained
Stories serve as a means to share everyday moments and foster closer connections with the people and topics that matter to you.
Just like with the Feed, the process of ranking stories involves identifying all potential stories, excluding ads, shared by the accounts you follow, and analyzing “signals” or information they already know about you and your interests:
- Viewing history. This looks at how often you view an account’s stories so Instagram can better prioritize content from accounts they think you absolutely wouldn’t want to miss.
- Interaction history. This looks at how often you reply to and like stories from a specific author.
- Closeness. This is diving into the relationship and connection between you and the author and “how likely you are to be connected as friends or family”.
From here Instagram goes on to make a set of predictions based on “how likely you are to tap into a story, reply to a story or move on to the next story – to determine which stories will be shown higher in your stories tray.”
Instagram Reels Ranking Explained
Reels are designed to help you discover new content and ultimately, entertain you. Most of the content, Instagram suggested Reels, you’re served are from accounts you don’t already follow and are determined based on what you interact with, what other people interact with, and what those people with similar interests seem to also be interested in that can be served to you.
Again, when it comes to ranking, Instagram makes a set of predictions based on signals, in order of importance:
- Your activity. This includes Reels you’ve liked, shared, saved, or commented on and engaged with recently to help determine what content might be relevant to you.
- Your history of interacting with the person who posted. It’s likely you’ve never interacted with many of the Reels authors you’re viewing content from, but if you have, this gives Instagram an idea of the categories you may be interested in more broadly and if you would be interested in more content by the same or similar authors.
- Information about the reel. These are signals about the video’s content, and encompassing elements like the audio, visuals, and overall popularity of the video.
- Information about the person who posted. Mosseri puts it best when he says these are “popularity signals such as number of followers or level of engagement to help find compelling content from a wide array of people and give everyone a chance to find their audience”.
Then, comes the predictions. Mosseri shared, “The most important predictions we make are how likely you are to reshare a reel, watch a reel all the way through, like it, and go to the audio page (a proxy for whether or not you might be inspired to make your own reel.)”
Instagram Explore Page Algorithm Explained
Explore is a recommendation surface to help you discover new things from accounts you aren’t already familiar with.
The most important actions Instagram uses to predict in Explore include how likely you are to like, save, and share. The most important signals they look at, in order of importance, are:
- Information about the post. This is looking at how popular a post seems to be and is determined by how quickly people are liking and engaging with the content. Mosseri makes a point to say these signals matter much more in Explore than they do in Feed or in Stories.
- Your activity in Explore. This takes into consideration how you’ve engaged with posts in Explore in the past. If you interact with a particular type of content format or subject matter, Instagram will try to show you more content similar to that.
- Your history of interacting with the person who posted. As with Reels, it’s likely you’ve never interacted with many of the authors you’re viewing content from but if you have interacted with them in the past it gives Instagram a sense of how interested you might be in similar content or content from that specific author.
- Information about the person who posted. Mosseri shares that these are signals “like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks, to help find compelling content from a wide array of people.”
Instagram Addresses “Shadowbanning”
Shadowbanning is a term generally used to describe a situation where you feel you aren’t getting as much reach as you feel your account and posts deserve.
Now, here’s the kicker.
Instagram claims to “not suppress reach in order to get accounts to pay for ads” because it wouldn’t be beneficial to them or the business they are trying to create BUT there are some instances where they will reduce an accounts reach or remove a piece of content.
If you feel like your account is receiving a penalty, you can go to account status (profile – settings – account status) to see if Instagram has removed any photos of videos because of community guideline violations.
Under account status, you can also see your account recommendability status which is all your photos and videos eligible to show up in Explore or Reels where people are seeing things from accounts they don’t already follow. You can see why the status is the way it is and remove things or appeal them if necessary.
Lastly, you can view if your account is eligible to appear in surfaces like search and accounts you should follow and you can appeal any decisions there as well.
How To Increase Instagram Visibility and Reach
Unfortunately, much like with any social channel, there are no silver bullets when it comes to how to increase Instagram visibility and reach.
That’s not to say Mosseri didn’t share some nice tips for improving your reach:
- Experiment. Every audience is different so figure out what resonates with the people who follow your account.
- Check out your insights. Look for broader trends, what content tends to do well and less well, and evolve and iterate from there.
- Collaborate with other creators. When working with other creators, don’t forget to use the Collabs feature and Enhanced Tags for increased reach.
- Check your account status. Make sure your account is eligible to show up in Explore or Reels and if not, make the necessary edits so your profile can be recommended to non-followers as an official Instagram recommended account.
- Create original content. Instagram is getting better at understanding the difference between aggregators and creators and they are going to favor the creators who are consistently working at creating original pieces of content. Pro tip: Don’t shy away from the Remix tool to add your own vibe to a popular Reel.