In March 2016, the powers that be at Instagram decided to implement an algorithm which they believed would help users with the exponential growth of photos and videos that were being shared, with the aim of helping organise content more effectively. They stated that users on average were missing 70% of their feeds.
“To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.
The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimising the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”
The algorithm was meet with mixed reviews – mostly negative and some undesirable effects. A chronological feed requires little-to-no guesswork (all you have to worry about is posting when your audience is most active), algorithm-based feeds can be influenced by a variety of different factors, for example, how long people spend viewing your posts or the “genre” or type of content people engage with.
And while Instagram has continued to justify this change as a way to show people more content that they’re interested in, some have speculated a more calculated motive — that it’s a way to force mores businesses to boost their Instagram posts or implement instagram ads.
However, in March 2019 Instagram announced a makeover to the algorithm:
“Based on your feedback, we’re also making changes to ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in feed. With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about. So if your best friend shares a selfie from her vacation in Australia, it will be waiting for you when you wake up.”
The first change is the addition of “New Posts” button that allows users to manually refresh their feeds. This addition came as a result of users complaining that their feeds would refresh unexpectedly when scrolling.
Although the chronological feed is not back, the new change means that the very old content doesn’t constantly get bumped up in people’s feeds. It prioritises newer content.
The second change is much more important. According to the announcement, the new Instagram algorithm is now going to give more weight to when something is posted, and will prevent old posts from showing high up in your feed.
There are a number of facts that influence the algorithm, including how much engagement a post gets and how long people spend viewing a post.
With the recent change, Instagram has essentially shifted the importance (or weight) of these factors so that the time that people post has more influence on what appears on your feed.
As a result, if you want to have a work-around the Instagram algorithm in 2019, you need to optimise your posting time for when the majority of your followers are online.
It also means that businesses may need to post more frequently. Since older posts aren’t going to appear anymore, businesses will need to create fresh content more often in order to be seen on their followers’ feeds.