In a surprise move, the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, shared in a blog post how the Instagram algorithm works.

In the post, he wants to answer questions like: “How does Instagram decide what shows up for me first?”; “Why do some of my posts get more views than others?”; and “How does Instagram decide what to show me in Explore?”

Mosseri says that the main “misconception” is about the Instagram algorithm, which is actually “a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”

Each part of the app – Feed, Explore, Reels – uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it. People tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, but they want to discover something entirely new in Explore. We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them. 

About Instagram Feed and Stories, the head of the app says Instagram focuses on posts from people you follow. With the information about what was posted, the people who made those posts, and user’s preference, the app find “signals.” These are the signals that Instagram uses in order of importance:

  • Information about the post. These are signals both about how popular a post is – think how many people have liked it – and more mundane information about the content itself, like when it was posted, how long it is if it’s a video, and what location, if any, was attached to it. 
  • Information about the person who posted. This helps us get a sense of how interesting the person might be to you, and includes signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks. 
  • Your activity. This helps us understand what you might be interested in and includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked. 
  • Your history of interacting with someone. This gives us a sense of how interested you are generally in seeing posts from a particular person. An example is whether or not you comment on each other’s posts.

Adam Mosseri says Instagram tries to avoid showing too many posts from the same person in a row. Another example is about Stories that were reshared from Feed:

Until recently, we valued these Stories less, because we’ve heard consistently that people are more interested in seeing original Stories. But we see a swell of reshared posts in big moments – everything from the World Cup to social unrest – and in these moments people were expecting their Stories to reach more people than they did, so we stopped.

In the post, Mosseri also explains what Instagram uses to rank posts on the Explore page and in the Reels section. To better “train” the algorithms, here are a few tips:

  • Pick your Close Friends;
  • Mute people you’re not interested in;
  • Mark recommended posts as “Not Interested.”

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About the Author

José Adorno

Brazilian tech Journalist. Author at 9to5Mac. Previously at tv globo, the main TV broadcaster in Latin America.

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