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How Does Instagram Marketing Work ?


How Instagram Works Let's admit it, it's hard to trust what you don't understand right?


We at ModernSolve want to do a better job of explaining how Instagram works. There are a lot of misconceptions out there, and we recognize that we can do more to help people understand what we do. We are shedding more light on how Instagram’s technology works and how it impacts the experiences that people have across the app. The post covers a range of key elements that can help to facilitate more understanding, and improve your planning in the app.


Here's a look at the key points.

First thing first, what is “the algorithm”?


Instagram first notes that its processes are not defined by a single algorithm, so the idea of 'the algorithm' as such is slightly flawed. One of the main misconceptions Instagram would like to clear up is the existence of “The Algorithm.” Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. They use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose. Instagram wants to make the most of your time, and they also believe that using technology to personalize your experience is the best way to do that.

When Instagram first launched in 2010, Instagram was a single stream of photos in chronological order. But as more people joined and more was shared, it became impossible for most people to see everything, let alone all the posts they cared about. By 2016, people were missing 70% of all their posts in Feed, including almost half of posts from their close connections. So, Instagram developed and introduced a Feed that ranked posts based on what you care about most.


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. Instagram ranks things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them.

Instagram explains that, like Facebook, it implemented an algorithm because the flow of content became too much for each user to navigate.


Key Signals


Instagram says that its algorithms all use key signals, with those signals varying dependent on each element. Instagram notes that there are "thousands" of signals that its systems can draw from, but for the most part, the main indicators across Feed and Stories.


These are the general algorithm identifiers, similar to Facebook's News Feed, with the key elements being what types of posts you engage with and your relationship to the creator of each


If you engage with video more often, you'll see more video, if the post is getting a lot of engagement, you're more likely to see it, if you tap Like on a certain post, that's a strong indicator of interest, etc.


Worth noting here that these elements apply to both the main feed and your Stories, so if you're looking to maximize reach in these surfaces, these are the key elements that you need to focus on.


How Instagram rank Feed and Stories ?


Over the years Instagram learned that Feed and Stories are places where people want to see content from their friends, family, and those they are closest to. With any ranking algorithm, how it works can be broken down into steps. Instagram starts by defining the set of things they plan to rank in the first place. With Feed and with Stories this is relatively simple; it’s all the recent posts shared by the people you follow. There are a few exceptions, like ads, but the vast majority of what you see is shared by those you follow.


Next Instagram take all the information we have about what was posted, the people who made those posts, and your preferences. We call these “signals”, and there are thousands of them. They include everything from what time a post was shared to whether you’re using a phone or the web to how often you like videos. The most important signals across Feed and Stories, roughly in order of importance, are:

  • 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 Instagram get a sense for 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 Instagram 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 Instagram 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.

From there Instagram make a set of predictions. These are educated guesses at how likely you are to interact with a post in different ways. There is roughly a dozen of these. In Feed, the five interactions Instagram looks at most closely are how likely you are to spend a few seconds on a post, comment on it, like it, save it, and tap on the profile photo. The more likely you are to take an action, and the more heavily Instagram weigh that action, the higher up you’ll see the post. Instagram add and remove signals and predictions over time, working to get better at surfacing what you’re interested in.


Instagram always want to lean towards letting people express themselves, but when someone posts something that may jeopardize another person's safety, they step in. Instagram have Community Guidelines that apply not only to Feed and Stories, but to all of Instagram. Most of these rules are focused on keeping people safe. If you post something that goes against Instagram Community Guidelines and they find it, they take it down. If this happens repeatedly, they may prevent you from sharing, and eventually they might suspend your account. If you think they made a mistake – and they do make mistakes – you can appeal it.


Another important case to call out is misinformation. If you post something that third-party fact checkers label as misinformation, they don’t take it down, but we do apply a label and show the post lower in Feed and Stories. If you’ve posted misinformation multiple times, Instagram may make all your content harder to find.


How you can influence what you see...


How you use Instagram heavily influences the things you see and don’t see. You help improve the experience simply by interacting with the profiles and posts you enjoy, but there are a few more explicit things you can do to influence what you see.


  • Pick your Close Friends. You can select your close friends for Stories. This was designed to let you share with just the people closest to you, but we will also prioritize these friends in both Feed and Stories.

  • Mute people you’re not interested in. You can mute an account if you’d like to stop seeing what they share but are hesitant about unfollowing them entirely. This way, people don't know you've muted them.

  • Mark recommended posts as “Not Interested.” Whenever you see a recommendation, whether it’s in Explore or in Feed, you can indicate you are “not interested” in that post. Instagram will do their best not to show you similar recommendations in the future

How Instagram rank Reels


Reels is designed to entertain you. Much like Explore, the majority of what you see is from accounts you don’t follow. So, Instagram go through a very similar process where they first source reels they think you might like, and then order them based on how interesting they think they are to you.


With Reels, though, Instagram specifically focused on what might entertain you. They survey people and ask whether they find a particular reel entertaining or funny and learn from the feedback to get better at working out what will entertain people, with an eye towards smaller creators. The most important predictions they make are how likely you are to watch a reel all the way through, like it, say it was entertaining or funny, and go to the audio page (a proxy for whether you might be inspired to make your own reel.) The most important signals, roughly in order of importance, are:

  • Your activity. Instagram look at things like which reels you’ve liked, commented on, and engaged with recently. These signals help them to understand what content might be relevant to you

  • Your history of interacting with the person who posted. Like in Explore, it’s likely the video was made by someone you’ve never heard of, but if you have interacted with them that gives Instagram a sense of how interested you might be in what they shared.

  • Information about the reel. These are signals about the content within the video such as the audio track, video understanding based on pixels and whole frames, as well as popularity.

  • Information about the person who posted. Instagram consider popularity to help find compelling content from a wide array of people and give everyone a chance to find their audience.

The same Recommendation Guidelines that apply to Explore apply to reels. Instagram therefore also avoid recommending reels for other reasons, such as low-resolution or watermarked reels, or reels that focus on political issues or that are made by political figures, parties, or government officials - or on their behalf.


Providing more context on how content is ranked, shown, and moderated on Instagram is only part of understanding how Instagram works. There is more we at ModernSolve can do to help you to shape your Instagram experience based on what you like.


Reach out to us info@modernsolve.co.za or visit www.modernsolve.co.za to book a call or free consultation with us!




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