Adam Mosseri shared the first in a series of posts focused on showing how Instagram algorithms work, and how they influence the content users to see. So this is how Instagram decides what content to show you.
One of the concepts he clarifies is that there is no such thing as “the algorithm” that watches everything users do on Instagram. Rather, each section of Instagram has a different algorithm taking into account how users interact with that type of content.
For example, if you go to “Stories” or scroll through the Feed, it’s not because you’re interested in finding out what strangers are doing, but your purpose is to see what your friends or people you follow shared. And if you go to the “Explore” tab the reason is more than clear: to discover new content or accounts, beyond the people you follow. Sections with different interactions and types of searches. And yes, also different algorithms.
How do algorithms work in the Feed and Stories?
While we may think that the posts displayed in the Feed and Stories simply follow the order of recent updates, it involves many, many more factors.
Instagram has mentioned four specific criteria to exemplify how it works. On the one hand, it takes into account data about the post, and the user who posted it, to detect how interesting that content might be to us.
And on the other hand, it takes into account our activity and interaction history with that user to determine whether the content they share may be of interest to us. Once all this information is collected, they make a series of predictions about the level of interaction that certain content can generate based on our interests.
The more likely a publication is to meet these predictions, the higher the publication will be displayed. On the other hand, no one likes to see post after post from the same person, so Instagram takes this into account when organizing the feed.
How Instagram displays content in Explore?
The process performed by the algorithms in the “Explore” section is much more complex, since it is not based on the publications of the people you follow, but has to select content from strangers that may interest you taking into account a series of patterns.
A system that starts from your activity and your past interactions to establish what interests you. From there, a series of connections are established to show you publications with the theme that interests you, as well as other related ones based on the accounts that follow users who share your tastes.
Once they have a base of content to show you, they have to establish which publications they will prioritize. And to do this, they follow a similar dynamic to the one we mentioned in Feed and Stories: they analyze the popularity of the post, our history of interaction with certain users, previous activity, etc.
So now you know why “Explore” can become so addictive and rob you of more time than you want. And of course, in addition to all these criteria, filters, and patterns, there are Instagram’s policies that moderate the content displayed in its main sections.
In short, Instagram says it uses a complex system of algorithms to have a context of the publications that may interest you, but the way you use the social network is the one that creates the basis for defining what content is shown or not.