Instagram switching to relevance algorithm – what it means for you

unnamed8Instagram announced that it is changing the way it presents content in our feeds from reverse chronological order to ‘presumed relevance’. According to the company’s press release:

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.


What this change means for Instagram users

The experience of using Instagram will feel more and more like Facebook, and less and less like Twitter.
It means that, unless you keep changing your settings to ‘News feed – Most recent’, you will see more and more of the content that you react to (e.g., via likes, comments and shares), and less and less of everything else. Here is an example from Facebook:

fb recent

Relevance sorting makes the site more ‘sticky’, as evidenced by increased time spent on the site. However, it decreases serendipity and the likelihood that you will be exposed to new ideas.


What this change means for brands

It is no longer enough for someone to follow your account for them to see your content. If you want to be sure that customers see your post, you need to focus on display advertising, and pay for your content to be boosted.


If you want to increase your chances of organic reach, then you need to:

  • Pay close attention to your analytics (you should, anyway), to understand what content most resonates with your audience – both topic and format.
  • Post content tailored to the users’ interests, over and above the reasons why they buy your product. If you don’t know what they are (from market research, for instance), you can ask (e.g., via polls).

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 09.55.31


(source: YouGov)

  • Keep your feed fresh (i.e., new content). This means both upping the frequency of your posts, and post at a time when your target is most likely to be accessing the platform. As Instagram is optimised for mobile access, people check it more or less throughout the day – but you may still need to consider specific constraints, such as time zones, rush hours, and so on.
  • Create content that ‘moves’. That is, content is likely to generate a reaction. Questions are good for this – for instance, favourite flavours of ice-cream. However, as customers are (most likely) accessing Instagram on their mobile handsets, ask for simple actions such as ‘liking’, typing ‘one word’ answers, replying with an emoji, or tagging a friend. For instance, see the post below from Stemettes.If you want content to be ‘regrammed’, or users to tag friends, then remember that people are more likely to share content that makes them look good.

IG Stemettes

  • Understand what type of content the platform is prioritising. For instance, I used to recommend the use of photographs on Facebook, but that changed when Facebook launched video auto-play and started prioritising video content.


Whether you pay or play, it will be more expensive for brands to get attention on Instagram.
What content makes you ‘tick’?


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