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Debunking the Top 5 Myths About the Instagram Algorithm

The Instagram Algorithm has morphed into everyone’s favorite conspiracy theory. Brands and influencers the world over will spout the truth as they believe it to be, often based on rumor and speculation. Later, one of Instagram’s few official third-party partners, has recently addressed the truth about the top five IG algorithm rumors.

IG Rumor #1: Is the Instagram Algorithm Hiding Your Posts?

We have seen it all before, and at one point it was practically viral: brands and artists claiming that the new algorithm limited their posts to only reaching 7% of their followers.

So, does the Instagram algorithm really limit your posts to only 7%? Are 93% of your followers missing out on your posts?

Plain and simple, this Instagram rumor is NOT true!

In fact, these posts became such a viral epidemic that it forced Instagram to release a statement on the issue.

In a series of tweets, Instagram explained that “what shows up first in your feed is determined by what posts and accounts you engage with the most, as well as other contributing factors such as the timeliness of posts, how often you use Instagram, how many people you follow, etc.”

And just in case you were still concerned, they reassured users that “We [Instagram] have not made any recent changes to feed ranking, and we never hide posts from people you’re following – if you keep scrolling, you will see them all. Again, your feed is personalized to you and evolves over time based on how you use Instagram.”

So no, Instagram is not limiting the reach of your posts to only 7%.

While this may not convince the most skeptical of social media users, it is worth noting that the real culprit may just lie in the overwhelming population on Instagram. In May of 2016 when Business Accounts were first launched, Instagram had 500 million monthly active users. Now that number sits at over 1 billion. That is a lot of competition vying for the same screen space that you are.

IG Rumor #2: Do Instagram Comments Have to be More Than 3 Words?

According to the Instagram rumors, the algorithm only recognizes comments that are in words, (and not emojis) and the comments need to be longer than 3 or 4 words to “count” towards improving your engagement.

This is not true.

Simply put, there is no evidence that words are weighted heavier than emojis in the Instagram algorithm. Similarly, Instagram has never mentioned, nor given us reason to question, that your comments must be a minimum number of words.

This rumor came out of Instagram comment pods, who were concerned that if comments weren’t long enough, that the algorithm would somehow pick them up as spam. This isn’t true, though a healthy collection of comments can be beneficial to improving overall engagement, there does not appear to be any data to support that length has anything to do with increasing engagement.

RELATED: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Market Your Work as a Photographer or Retoucher

Most of the comments we receive on the @retouchingacademy feed inspiration posts are either very short or consist of emojis only, yet that does not slow down the algorithm in showing impactful images to our followers. Here’s a good example:


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IG Rumor #3: Will Liking and Commenting on Someone’s Posts Show Me More Content From Them?

Yes — this one is true!

Who you engage with (by liking and commenting) contributes to what posts appear higher up in your Instagram feed.

The Instagram algorithm uses your relationships and how you interact with accounts to determine what content to show you first. So if you’re liking a lot of content from one account, or regularly returning to like one profile’s posts, Instagram will recognize you have an interest in this account and will place their content higher on your feed next time they post something new.

Getting into the science, according to Instagram, “Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. Even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.”

Simply put, if you want to see more content from a specific account in your feed, make sure you’re regularly engaging with them!

In a very similar way to how Facebook now just shows you the content you want to see versus what’s out there, Instagram has followed suit. The challenge here is that it’s made the social media platform feel like you’re in a vacuum, making the exploration of different accounts and hashtags more vital than before. But, the benefit, in their eyes, is that your feed is customized to you and your tastes.

If you want to learn more about exactly how the algorithm works, read the article here.

IG Rumor #4: Does Swiping Past Instagram Stories Negatively Impact Them in the Algorithm?

Here’s the thing: no one really knows how the Instagram Stories algorithm works.

We do know how Instagram ranks who views your story (spoiler alert: if your Instagram crush is near the top, it’s probably because you’re stalking them, and not the other way around), but Instagram has never publicly spoken on the record about the stories algorithm.

According to the Evening Standard, who attended an in-person Instagram event in London, Instagram did shed a little light about how the Instagram Stories algorithm works (that being said, this information has not been confirmed by Instagram).

“Stories has a different algorithm from the rest of your Instagram feed but it works in a similar way. It looks for the same signals, such as interest, relationship, and timeliness. It will also look at particular behaviors such as if you actively tap to watch a particular story instead of watching a feed of different stories. As well, it takes into account how many segments are watched in a story.”

So, it does sound like this Instagram rumor could be true.

So this one is somewhat inconclusive, in that the theory appears to hold some weight for some, while not being the case for others. In my personal experience, it only takes me watching a few stories from the same user for their stories to become front and center in the stories shown to me. Just engage with who you want to see, and hopefully, you’ll gain an organic following in the process.


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IG Rumor #5: Does Switching to an Instagram Business Profile Negatively Affect Your Account in the Algorithm?

Let’s jump right in with this one – the answer is NO!

Instagram was asked this question directly, and said that “Instagram does not give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.”

This Instagram rumor is one of my biggest pet peeves because there are so many benefits to switching to an Instagram business profile! Even if it *did* negatively affect performance (which it doesn’t), I still think the benefits of an Instagram business profile outweigh any negatives.

Plus, think about it: you need to have an Instagram business profile in order to run ads on Instagram. Instagram is an advertising platform – why would Instagram want to jeopardize potential customer growth by having their business profiles’ posts perform worse?

With ads on Instagram being a relatively new aspect of the platform, it has quickly generated over 15% of Facebook’s entire ad revenue stream. For it being so new, that’s nothing to sniff at, and you can rely on a company to follow the money. It doesn’t make sense for them to harm their paying customers, so the old rumor of personal vs. business in terms of engagement on an account should be laid to rest.

With that said, business accounts provide a wealth of benefits to artists and influencers. Detailed analytics alone can help you better interact with your followers, and the ability to use post-scheduling services like Later is one that cannot be underestimated. Posting content consistently is what most artists struggle with on Instagram, so sticking to a personal account would only further be shooting yourself in the foot. It is a wiser choice to give yourself more tools, so you can carve out your piece of the proverbial social media pie.

We hope these tips will help you manage your Instagram presence better, as it has now become one of the most impactful marketing tools to thousands of artists who use it right.


Source: Later | Featured Image: Shutterstock

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One thought on “Debunking the Top 5 Myths About the Instagram Algorithm

  1. Marta Banks says:

    Nice Post

    Very Help full this post

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