Instagram recently made its algorithm smarter and explained to TechCrunch how the algorithm works. The headline: Instagram uses machine learning to make its feed more personal to its users. This change is good news for brands on Instagram that enjoy high levels of engagement and inspire passion. The news is bad for brands that rely on one-way messages.
By applying machine learning, the Instagram algorithm literally learns from the behavior of its users to serve up more relevant content on their feeds instead of sharing content in chronological order. If you tend to like posts about cats from the cat lovers in your Instagram universe, Instagram shares more cats. If you tend to like posts from country music star Chris Stapleton’s account, you’re going to get more Chris Stapleton posts higher up in your feed. Meanwhile, accounts you follow passively without liking very much appear lower in your feed.
Here’s how Josh Constine of TechCrunch summarized the three main factors that determine what appears more prominently in your Instagram feed:
“Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.
Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.”
This change is especially great news for media/entertainment brands, such as accounts that support musicians and movie releases, which tend to create stronger, more loyal fan followings than brands in other businesses. Selena Gomez, who enjoys 138 million followers, is going to become an even more dominant force. Media brands such as National Geographic, and sports brands such as FC Barcelona and the NBA, which also enjoy millions of followers, are also likely enjoying an uptick in popularity.
But you don’t have to be a sports or media brand to capitalize on Instagram’s algorithm. The key is to create engagement by posting great visual content and by getting fans involved with your page. It’s also important to post often, for as TechCrunch noted, Instagram is placing a higher priority on more timely content.
The algorithm change may also convince more brands to work through personal influencers with large followings given the increased focus on content from accounts where Instagram perceives a closer relationship with followers.
It’s absolutely a bad idea to post content just to keep the lights on. Instagram is pushing less interesting content out of the way in favor of brands and people who work harder to make Instagram more interesting, including the use of tools such as looping Boomerangs and engaging written calls to action to go with your visuals.
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