Edelman Digital

Instagram Algorithm Implications


by and


We all knew it was coming. On Tuesday, Instagram announced the platform will begin using a newsfeed algorithm in the coming months that will present content based on the moments Instagram believes you will care about the most. This comes as no surprise after Facebook introduced an algorithm to focus on surfacing the best content for its users a few years ago.

Since Instagram’s inception, posts from the people you follow appeared in reverse-chronological order. However, because of the platform’s growth and daily volume of photos/videos shared, 70 percent of content in a feed is going unseen. Using data from Instagram and Facebook, this update will rearrange content in users’ timelines based on:

  • The likelihood you’ll be interested in the content (historical engagement)
  • Your relationship with the person posting(who you follow/follows you)
  • Timeliness of the post (sales, announcements, etc.)

Here are five implications for the upcoming Instagram algorithm update:

  1. Better user experience

    Rewarding the most engaging content by increasing its rank in the feed means users will always see the best, most relevant and meaningful content from friends, brands and publishers. This will also likely boost organic engagement on quality content since users will not have to scroll far to see it.

  2. Engagement is still king

    Engagement (likes and comments) has always been a primary performance metric on Instagram that helps identify and understand successful content. With organic reach decreasing and the most engaging content prioritized for users, it’s incredibly important to understand what drives engagement among our communities so we can maximize impact.

  3. Active community management

    Practicing organic reach/engagement techniques like appropriate hashtag usage and actively replying to comments and engaging with other Instagram accounts will be necessary to increase the volume of quality, meaningful social actions on your content piece. This, likely, would increase the likelihood of placement in the feed.

  4. Focus on content quality

    Brands and publishers have to bolster their content game in order to maintain healthy reach. Producing content that’s respectful to the platform and noticeable in the newsfeed, as well as understanding what content our communities want to see, is essential to achieving optimal engagement and relevance in feeds.

  5. Distribution as important as ever

    Similar to how Facebook has evolved, Instagram is taking steps to become a pay-to-play platform where paid support is necessary to reach your target and existing audiences. In addition to paid support, leveraging public figures, influencers and partners can help scale our message and maintain strong engagement.

Josh Lieberthal is a senior account executive with the Consumer practice in Chicago.
Matt Day is an account supervisor with the Digital practice in Chicago.

Image by Pabak Sarkar.
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