instagram, algorithms and (unhappy) influencers

Inez Zimakowski
Inez Zimakowski
November 12, 2020 . 2min read

Hi sisters!

If you recognised that phrase you might already be familiar with Instagram’s latest algorithm change and the impact its had on creators, as make-up guru James Charles weighed in on the platform’s organic reach and engagement drop, and boy did he let them have it.

So, what’s actually happened?

Essentially, if you weren’t double-tapping a particular creator’s content for a little while, they might have disappeared from your newsfeed entirely.

Several years ago Instagram changed from a chronological newsfeed to a ‘most-interacted-with’ newsfeed, and earlier this year made further changes to integrate more Explore page content into the main newsfeed, by pushing related content and topics, and of course ads, over the pages you’re following. This meant de-prioritising creator content that you don’t regularly interact with. Essentially, if you weren’t double-tapping a particular creator’s content for a little while, they might have disappeared from your newsfeed entirely.

In 2020, there are six key factors that influence Instagram’s content ranking algorithm:

1. Interest - is this a topic/creator the user regularly interacts with?
2. Relationship - accounts you’ve categorised as ‘friends and family’ are prioritised
3. Recency — newer posts are favoured over older content
4. Frequency – this is based on how often a user opens Instagram, the best posts since the user’s last session will be displayed first
5. Following - how many accounts a user follows, the more accounts a user follows, the more likely it is that they won’t see content regularly from all of them
6. Usage - how much time a user spends per session

Why is this an issue for influencers?

Instagram influencers have traditionally made their money by selling ad spots to brands and leveraged their audience to do so. An influencer with 4 million followers can command a much higher ratecard than one with 1 million followers. Back in ye olden days these numbers never had to be substantiated, until Instagram introduced creator/business profiled and reach figures were available for all. This change forced creators to prove their reach and engagement levels, not just estimate reach based on follower size.

With creator reach dropping, in some cases by up to 75%, many influencers big and small have been placed in an awkward position. They can no longer bank on their organic reach to bring in sponsors, and from the perspective of brands, it looks as though their engagement rates have plummeted astronomically. Except that isn’t necessarily the case. Reach has dropped, and engagement volume with it, but as long as their engagement rates are steady, a simple ratecard change might be the only thing needed to keep them in business. Of course, business won’t be as good.

Should Instagram change its algorithm to favour creator content?

Probably not. At the end of the day, while creators bring users to and keep users on the platform, Instagram makes the majority of its money through advertisers. Brand deals with creators are typically posted on the creator’s page organically, and sometimes used as ad content by brands, but by and large they have little direct financial benefit for Instagram. More importantly, the new algorithm is designed to make a user’s newsfeed as relevant to them as possible. Is it always right? No, but as it evolves it should improve.

What should you do if your favourite creators have disappeared from your feed?

This one’s easy – just head over to their profile, spend some time scrolling through, like their posts, maybe drop a couple of comments here and there. Before you know it, their content will be popping up in your feed again. Simple!

Image credit: @benwhitephotography

Inez Zimakowski

Inez Zimakowski

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