In an effort to address misconceptions and provide more transparency, Instagram recently released an updated post explaining how its ranking system works.
The platform uses a number of algorithms, classifiers, and processes to personalise user experiences across different parts of the app, such as Feed, Stories, Explore, Reels, and Search. Each section has its own algorithm tailored to user behavior and preferences.
Instagram’s personalised home base, displays content from accounts users follow, recommended content, and ads. The ranking algorithm considers factors like user activity (likes, shares, comments, and saves), information about the post (popularity and content details), and information about the person who posted (engagement and interaction history). The algorithm uses these signals to make predictions about user preferences and prioritise posts accordingly.
(images courtesy of Meta)
Similarly, the ranking of Stories is based on factors like viewing history, engagement history, and closeness to the author. The algorithm predicts user behavior (tap, reply, move on) to determine which stories are shown higher in the Stories tray. The same Community Guidelines and content ranking rules apply to Stories.
This is designed to help users discover new content. The algorithm selects posts based on past activity and orders them by user interest. Signals such as post popularity, user activity, interaction history, and the person who posted are taken into account to rank Explore content.
Is focused on entertainment, and follows a similar process to Explore. The algorithm determines the relevance and value of reels based on user activity, interaction with the person who posted, and information about the reel.
To allow users to influence their experience, Instagram provides various customization options. Users can personalise their Feed and Stories by adding accounts to their Favorites, customising the feed display, selecting Close Friends for Stories, muting accounts, and unfollowing accounts. They can also adjust the Sensitive Content Control and provide feedback through surveys or indicating their preferences for recommended content.
Why is this important?
Through this updated explanation, Instagram aims to demystify its ranking system, offer more control to users, and curate a more personalised experience on the platform.
In terms of other social media platforms, they have traditionally always been reticent to reveal their own operational techniques and have offered varying degrees of transparency about their own particular algorithms.
For example, Twitter, under Elon Musk, is now open-sourced and sits on Git Hub. Whilst TikTok has historically played its cards close, more recently it has posted various aspects and hints about its own ranking process, as too have YouTube.
But in contrast to what Instagram has just announced, the rest have certainly been minimal in terms of openly declaring their ranking process and why.
Instagram continues to emphasise its commitment to user safety and community guidelines, which apply to all parts of the app. Content that violates these guidelines is removed, and accounts repeatedly violating the guidelines face restrictions or suspensions.
You can read the full breakdown of how Instagram describes its ranking process here