Social Media Algorithm: Facts & Myths

Reading Time: 13 minutes

“My posts are not getting any reach because of the algorithm” Do you hear people say this often? There are many myths running around in the social media eco-system and we’re here to debunk them all plus list some factual information. So all our curious cats, aspiring digital marketers, and content creators, you might want to read ahead.

To start off, let’s discuss the factual information that stands true for all platforms.

All types of accounts are treated equally whether Personal or Business.

Social media platforms don’t discriminate between a business and a personal profile, equal amounts of attention are given to all profiles. It highly depends on the relevancy score, which determines the results of the posts.

The timing of the post is most important.

When it comes to Instagram’s algorithms, timeliness (i.e. when a post was shared) is important.

However, it is not the only signal — “the feed is roughly, but not strictly, chronological,” explains Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram.

The Feed Algorithm Also Considers the Likelihood of Five “Important” Interactions.

Mosseri also disclosed which interactions are “critical” to the Instagram algorithm during the Live.

– Time spent: Are you going to spend time on the post?

– Like: How likely are you to like the post?

– Comment: How likely are you to comment on the post?

– Save: How likely are you to save the post?

– Tap on Profile: How likely are you to tap on the profile after seeing the post?

The Feed Algorithm Calculates Ranking Based on Four Key Factors

– Information about the post itself: Is it a photo or a video? What subject is it about? Does it have a lot of likes?

– Information about the poster: Are they a friend? Do they post often?

– Your activity: Do you tend to watch a lot of videos? What content do you typically engage with?

– Your interaction history: Do you like or comment on a lot of the poster’s posts?

There are multiple algorithms working across the platforms.

The Instagram algorithm is frequently described as a single idea, but in reality, there are several algorithms at work. While each algorithm is slightly different for each experience, they all work on the same principle: to deliver content that users are most likely to find interesting.

To all the content creators who’ve reached here, We’ll briefly list a few myths that run around in the space so you don’t let those affect the quality of the content you produce.

– The most popular catchphrase now “The quality of content is good, it’s clearly the algorithm” 

You should not plan your content strategy based on this myth. If your content is not getting the reach and engagement you have forecasted, then there is clearly something wrong with the strategy. Take a step back and relook at your content clusters, objectives, creatives, copies, post time, etc.

– To grow the account, would need to post more.

Although it is great if you can keep up a heavy content momentum, it usually does not depend on the number of posts. Though you need to keep up with a minimum number of posts to stay at the top of your target’s mind, you don’t have to burn out trying to come up with out-of-the-box posts every day of the month. Through trial and error, you will find the optimal number of posts that gives you the most engagement without burning a hole in your pocket.

– Instagram controls who among my followers can see my posts and who cannot.

Unless your posts violate the app’s Community Guidelines, Instagram doesn’t control the reach of your posts. You can however decide who should see your posts through the latest visibility settings. 

Post reach usually depends on:

Activity: Who follows you and what posts they have liked, saved, or commented on.

Connections: The history of your followers engagement with your account and similar accounts on Instagram.

Popularity: How popular the post is, how others are interacting with the post, and when or where it was posted.

Account: How many times people have interacted with your account in the past few weeks.

– Instagram is shadowbanning accounts or specific posts.

As mentioned above, Instagram will not give serve posts to more people if the topic is sensitive and goes against its community guidelines. So if you think you are being shadow-banned then you need to cross-check with content guidelines to see what’s happening.

– Instagram punishes people for using a third-party post scheduler.

This is just a rumour, there is so far no solid proof that Instagram actually pushes back on the third-party scheduler. Strategy is the king here. So we recommend giving a thorough check on your content and creatives before you look at other far-fetched factors.

– Switching to a business account hurts the reach.

Earlier this year, Instagram announced that there is no difference between personal and business profiles when it comes to feeding presence, so changing between them will have no effect on reach. However, certain observations can be true. Like, people generally like to interact more with other people rather than businesses so yes that can be a factor. The other thing is, Instagram might prefer businesses to run ads rather than organic, and for this reason, the platform might give a preference to organic reach of personal accounts that business. But then again, these are not proven facts.

At the end of the day, myths are created by people from anecdotal insights and therefore cannot be generalized.  Fortunately enough, founders and developers of these platforms regularly put relevant information to educate the users and the creators.

To conclude: Well-thought content can never be ignored, so keep pushing out more organic content every day.