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The truth about the 2024 Instagram algorithm

Instagram News Jul 5, 2024
The truth about the 2024 Instagram algorithm

The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, recently came clean about the 2024 Instagram algorithm in an interview on the hugely popular YouTube channel Colin and Samir. Here are the 5 hottest takeaways you need to know about to truly succeed on Instagram this year.

1. Video is the most important media type

It’s hard to ignore the tidal wave of video content taking over social media. You’ll find short-form video engulfing screens on almost every popular social media app currently available. On Instagram, short-form video clips are known as reels and there’s a good reason for their invasion. Contrary to popular belief, the Instagram algorithm isn’t pushing a particular media type. Instead, the algorithm is simply serving up to users what they want to see. It is responding to the content people are engaging with most and what they are sending to their friends.

More than half the amount of time spent on Instagram is video - Adam Mosseri
Quote from Adam Mosseri taken from an interview with Colin and Samir

In most countries, video is taking the lion’s share of attention spent on Instagram, with users spending more than half the amount of time on the app perusing video content. “There’s a huge amount of demand,” Adam Mosseri stated as he explained, “video is a huge part of what we do now,” but it’s not any kind of video that works well on Instagram. Short-form video works well because users respond well to it and this encourages the algorithm to serve up more, however long-form video doesn’t get the same response. If you want to do well on Instagram, stick to short-form video content. There’s a huge amount of opportunity to jump on the demand for it.

Adam Mosseri went on to explain that this is only the beginning of the wave of popularity of video content stating,“Video has not fully saturated yet. I think that you’re going to see mobile video continue to grow, probably primarily driven by short-form video, but what you’re really seeing, I think, is mobile video eating into TV’s market share.” As younger generations spend more time on the internet and less time in front of traditional TV, video’s new home is the internet. With social media driving conversation, cultural trends and viral sensations, make sure you incorporate video content into your Instagram strategy.

Make sure you optimise your video content and add captions. Adam Mosseri explained that roughly half the watch time on Instagram videos is spent with the sound off, so, “captions are so important,” and they should be positioned properly in the frame without having to expand the video.

Captions are so important - Adam Mosseri
Quote from Adam Mosseri taken from an interview with Colin and Samir

2. Prioritise tracking shares

The most important Instagram metrics to track have long been up for debate, but Adam Mosseri has lifted the veil on the main metric driving positive signals to the algorithm… and it might be one that surprises you. While likes, comments and watch time all still matter, they’re not as important as shares. The Instagram CEO stated, “One of the most important things to look at if you’re trying to evaluate how your videos (or anything’s) doing on Instagram is definitely the sends. I would look at sends per reach.” He followed this up later with, “In general sends matters the most, I think, across the board.”

One of the most important things to look at... is definitely the sends - Adam Mosseri
Quote from Adam Mosseri taken from an interview with Colin and Samir

A send, more commonly known as a share, is when a user shares a piece of content with someone else. By clicking on the share icon, a piece of content can be shared directly with someone else through the in-built messaging service on Instagram, or the user can share the content to their Instagram Stories, another social media app or messaging app. They can also share the content via copying the link or tapping ‘Share to...’ to open a whole host of additional sharing options. 

During the interview, Samir said that when a piece of content is successful, “we see that the shares go up… and that suggests that its success is determined by someone watching it and needing to send it to a friend to connect,” to which Adam Mosseri said, “Yes.” The reason Instagram focuses on the shares metric is that, “it tends to drive the most value for the overall community,” Adam Mosseri said, “We find over and over again that that ends up being the healthiest thing to value in the ranking models.” It’s all about driving the most value for the overall community. It’s all about connecting people with their friends.

Adam Mosseri suggested looking at shares and looking at reach and dividing these two metrics. You can access graphs for both these metrics and so many more with Minter.io - the social media analytics tool dedicated to helping you understand the metrics and content driving the highest amount of value for you on social media. 

3. Followers and non-followers are treated differently

One thing Adam Mosseri made clear in the interview with Colin and Samir is that the 2024 Instagram algorithm treats connected and unconnected accounts very differently. He explained that an important thing to take a look at is the percentage of your reach that was connected versus unconnected i.e. what percentage of your reach came from accounts that follow you versus what percentage of your reach came from accounts that don’t follow you.

A connected account is an account that follows you. Connected accounts are viewed as friends, family members, people who know each other and accounts that are familiar with one another. The 2024 Instagram algorithm recognises that people are likely to interact with content from people they know very differently to how they would interact with content from people they don’t know. As a result, connected accounts are more likely to be shown in a user’s feed and likes and comments are given more weight on content from connected accounts. Adam Mosseri said, “In feed we try to heavily preference content from accounts that you follow and accounts where you’ve got mutual follows.”

Content from an unconnected account is content that is recommended or found in the explore tab or the Reels tab. There’s a lot of opportunity for discovering niche interests from unconnected accounts through the recommendation system and this should help small accounts grow. 

You can view reach graphs split into followers and non-followers using Minter.io.

Explore metric data for your social media profiles using Minter.io
Instagram Stories reach graph split into followers and non-followers by Minter.io

4. Your follower count is still important

Many creators get frustrated that Instagram has changed significantly, particularly in the past 5 years, but this is due to people interacting with the app differently and their attention ending up in different places on the platform. However, this doesn’t mean that the main feed for followers is not a huge place to grow your reach. Adam Mosseri said, “Follower count is super important because you’re going to have a much better chance of reaching anybody who follows you than anyone who doesn’t follow you.” He went on to say, “There’s a really strong correlation between how many followers you have and how many people you reach. That said, they matter less today in a world where there is more time spent looking at recommendations than before.” 

The head of Instagram unveils the secrets of the Instagram algorithm in 2024
Quote from Adam Mosseri taken from an interview with Colin and Samir

Recommendations are driving more overall engagement which is good for both Instagram as a company and people who use Instagram but, “reach is more volatile because a larger percentage of your average reach will be through the recommendation system.” Therefore, your connected reach should be more stable than your unconnected reach. Focus on growing your following for more stable reach overall.

5. Act like a creator, not a brand

Brands and businesses on Instagram - listen up! Adam Mosseri stated, “We build features for creators; we don’t build features for publishers.” Instagram focuses on creators because, “we believe power is going to continue to shift from institutions to individuals across industries. We’ve seen this in sports. We’ve seen this in news. We’ve seen this in music. We’ve seen this in every vertical.” Just look at how Cristiano Ronaldo has significantly more Instagram followers than Portugal and AlNassr combined.

Adam Mosseri defines a creator as, “an individual that creates original content with some level of commercial intent,” which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re trying to make money but they’re trying to grow because they’re trying to achieve something on the platform. Publishers are described as, “brands, magazines, newspapers… they’re not individuals… and they definitely have commercial intent.”

Why the shift away from brands? Creators drive on average more engagement than publishers. “People want to see the world through the eyes of another individual that they relate to or that they look up to more than they want to consume content from a publisher that they feel is hyper processed and produced and designed for them.” 

What does this mean for brands and businesses on the platform? Well, Adam Mosseri acknowledges that many brands create fantastic content that is welcomed on the platform, however he recognises that users of Instagram, in general, prefer content from individuals. This is a trend that he sees continuing into the future. If you’re designing a content plan for Instagram, it would be wise to utilise this knowledge. Sometimes raw, real content trumps polished productions. Perhaps you might consider putting a face to the business. Notice how Adam Mosseri has his own Instagram account where he shares a lot of info about Instagram. That might not have been something we’d have seen from a CEO in previous years. Putting forward the faces behind a brand and its products is one way to humanise a brand and connect with customers in a way that works on this platform.

We build features for creators; we don't build features for publishers - Adam Mosseri
Quote from Adam Mosseri taken from an interview with Colin and Samir

It’ll come as no surprise that the way people use Instagram has changed dramatically over time. What was once a photo-sharing app filled with feeds of overly-saturated square images is now a multimedia social media platform, and with that has come the evolution of the features and the Instagram algorithm. Keep up to date with how your content is performing on this ever-growing app by using Minter.io - the social media analytics tool for businesses online.

Grow your business on Instagram with Minter.io.
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Sarah Rachel

Fan of tea, rock music and fluffy animals.