Instagram Algorithm Update Aimed at Boosting User Activity Social Media Marketing | September 12, 2014 | By Aaron Schoenberger

Since Instagram took the social media world by storm I’ve been researching the nifty social network to build a thorough understanding of its inner works, including the algorithm used to determine the order of content appearing under specific hashtags. Within the past 24-48 hours I’ve noticed a big change in Instagram’s algorithm and I’m pretty sure I know why.

Instagram’s algorithm was first created to show fresh content first, which keeps people on the hunt for new photos and videos as they continuously search hashtags to see what was recently posted. Yes there was a sprinkling of older posts, but not many.

The new algorithm that was rolled out aims to resurrect older content, spur engagements, and revive usage. Before if someone posted an image 24-hours ago it would basically be buried and wouldn’t receive a large number of recurring engagements because people simply couldn’t find it after a certain point. This pushed Instagram users to post more content so they are continuously being seen under relevant hashtags. But as Bob Dylan said: The Times They Are a-Changin’.

My research indicates a considerable change to Instagram’s algorithm aimed at reviving older content while blending it with fresh posts. As an example of just how extreme the algorithm change is, I searched for the hashtag #clothes that houses over 10,000,000 photos. Looking at the 10 most recent posts, I was amazed to see that none were from the past 60-seconds and most were from either minutes or days ago. Here’s a list of the timing for the top 10 posts appearing under the #clothes hashtag when I was conducting my experiment:

1) 9 min
2) 2 days
3) 2 days
4) 9 min
5) 1 hour
6) 4 days
7) 15 min
8) 4 hours
9) 15 min
10) 2 days

As you can see, a whopping 4 posts were from days ago, which is a drastic shift. Before you would almost never see older content appearing on the top of hashtags, especially those that receive a ton of traffic. And to see no posts from the past minute was even more surprising.

I believe Instagram updated their algorithm to boost usage on the social network, which makes total sense. Once people share photos or videos they’re hyperactive on Instagram for a short period of time while they receive likes, comments, and new followers. Shortly thereafter usage declines because the number of engagements and subsequent notifications decreases sharply. However, by kicking up older posts and blending them with new posts Instagram has the ability to spur engagements on older content that will ultimately pull users back to Instagram by generating totally unexpected engagements and notifications.

I am going to continue researching the new algorithm on Instagram and will share more information as it comes to light. Until then, may the Instagram force be with you.

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