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What is “the Instagram algorithm”?

Instagram has come out at said there is a misconception about “The Algorithm.” They have said that they don’t have one all-powerful algorithm that oversees and controls what people do and don’t see on the app. 

They do however use what they’ve called a “variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes”, each with its purpose. 

They’ve done this because they want to make the most of your time when on the app. They feel that showing you the personalized content will make your experience even better. 

For those of you that were on Instagram back in 2010, you may remember that Instagram was a single stream of photos in chronological order. 

They found as more people joined the platform, sharing more and more content, it was nearly impossible for most people to see everything, and could be missing out on the content they cared about. 

The data showed that by 2016, people were missing 70% of all their posts in Feed, including almost half of posts from their close connections. 

To combat this content overwhelm, they created a more personalized feed, which shared posts that were based on what you interacted with the most.

With every new feature release including the Feed, Stories, Explore, Reels – the need to deliver a custom-tailored experience grew. 

  1. They found that people tend to look for their closest friends in Stories,

  2. If they want to discover something new

So the algorithms will rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the feed and story algorithms. 

What they found was the Feed and Stories are where we want to see content from friends, family, and those we’re closest with.

To make it even easier, we’ve broken it down into steps.


Feed & Stories – it’s the most recent posts shared by the people you follow. (BTW ads are not considered in this, but the majority of the ads you see are shared by brands you follow or interact with.)

2. The post information (AKA Post Signals)

There are thousands of post signals! They include what time a post was shared, how often you like their posts when they come across your feed. 

The most important signals roughly in order of importance, are:

  • Information about the post.

  • How popular a post is – how many people have liked it

  • When it was posted

  • how long it is if it’s a video

  • The location, if any

  • Information about the person who posted.

  • How interesting you might find the person

  • If you’ve interacted with that person in the past few weeks.

Your activity

  • includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked.

  • Your history of interacting with someone.

This gives the algorithm a sense of how interested you are in seeing posts from a particular page. (For example, if you comment on each other’s posts.)
From there it makes an educated guess at how likely you are to interact with a post in different ways. 

There are roughly a dozen of these. 

In the Feed, the five interactions they look at are 

  1. how likely you are to use for a few seconds on a post

  2. comment on it

  3. like it

  4. save it, and

  5. tap on the profile photo

The algorithm is constantly learning how to better focus the content you’re served.

If there are a lot of reshares of the post in stories, it’s a signal that there is something of value in the post and now gives more weight to these kinds of posts. 


Another big focus is creating a safe space. That means if you’re sharing posts that are against the Community Guidelines and they find it, they take it down. 

If this happens repeatedly, they may prevent you from sharing or suspend your account altogether.

Have you ever heard of a shadowban? While it isn’t an official Instagram term, it certainly describes what happens when you don’t play along with the rules. 

Were you surprised by anything you learned in this article? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Get Social YEG


Get Social YEG