Exploring Instagram's Algorithm
Learning how Instagram learns about its users.
Instagram is self-identifies as:
“Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into memory to keep around forever. We’re building Instagram to allow you to experience moments in your friends’ lives through pictures as they happen. We imagine the world more connected through photos.”
Recently, this summer Instagram spurred a controversy over how users view photographs. Rather, than images appearing in the order, they were posted a user will now see “posts you’re likely to care about most will appear higher in your feed.” These deeply upset many users, as many of their posts, were no longer receiving as many “likes.” Instagram owned by Facebook, made this change and did not allow end-users any option. Twitter, rolled out a similar algorithm though provided their end-users with a viewing choice. The ability to not have an option deeply angered many in the Instagram community.
Stole it, and made it better!
Oscar Wilde believed that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” But, Instagram innovated the same idea as Snapchat just making it simpler.
In addition to changing the Instagram feed to showing stories you most care about, Instagram now has a “Stories” section. Using the same exact feature as Snapchat does with its software, though making it more user-friendly by just labeling it “My Story.” Instagram opened its market back up to millennial and teen users and allowed less experienced users a better understanding of the feature.
Discover your story and yourself!
Instagram wants its users to create their story by saving all of their “fun and quirky” moments. Though, when understanding how a teenage audience uses Instagram, others were are better able to determine how some users rise to the “Top.” The top one to have the highest engagement. Just like Facebook, this is seen in a few ways, how to become the most discovered, the most popular in a list of 11 or more likes, and to have posts that others care about the most.
If you want to become, popular or highly discovered, be sure to like a post by someone who has many followers. And, ask them to like you back (Lb). If you get a Lb your name is spread and others who like you or follow you back. Ls’s are perfect examples of being popular by association. Once you become part of the in-crowd, you become more engaging. To help with this, start using hashtags more, especially hashtags that are trending. More people will view your image with a trending hashtag that is broad. Once you get more likes and use more tags, you are a user with a high engagement profile.
Once you have established that you are the cream of the crop, a “high engager,” you will become a user with moments that other care about and you will now be seen.
Like other social media software, the algorithm is secret. Though, surprisingly upon further investigation, the way it measures data is not as complicated as expected. Instagram is owned by Facebook, and the two connect seamlessly, though it seems that the more popular you are, the more other users engage with you. Therefore, Instagram rewards users who engage with their platform, when you choose to explore.
Instagram seems to monitor its users by other profiles that are visited. Therefore, it is a win-win cycle. Instagram can receive more information by who you like, visit, and the tags associated with this cycle.
Course: Harvard University, Design Survivor, Designing for Desirability.
*Please note, the following challenge was a short term design & research experiment.