Instagram Reels algorithm: I investigated user complaints, and here's what I found
If you’re an Instagram user, you probably know what Reels are. They are short-form videos that let you create and share fun and engaging content using effects, filters, music, and editing tools. They are similar to TikTok videos but have some unique features and advantages that make them stand out. Based on the user’s feed, stories, reels, and the explore page, the Instagram Reels algorithm decides which Reels are shown to them.
But do you know how the Instagram Reels algorithm works? How does it decide which Reels to show you and which ones to hide? And most importantly, has it really worsened over the last year or shows irrelevant content? If the answer to the last question is ‘Yes’, then you’re in the right place.
I spend a lot of time on Instagram making engaging content and interacting with my friends. But lately, I’ve noticed that there have been drastic changes in the algorithms. I see irrelevant and repeated content. These are also some of the issues that many Instagram users have been asking and debating on various social media platforms.
Here’s what users say about Instagram Reels Algorithm
I wanted to get to the root of it and find out what Instagram users were saying about the issue of Instagram algorithm on Reddit. Undoubtedly, there were multitudes of opinions and biases, so I picked the most repetitive complaints and issues. So, let’s get started.
1. It ignores small accounts
This has been one of the major concerns for a number of users with small accounts. They claim that Instagram Reels algorithm is “heavily rigged against small accounts”. Some argue that the algorithm works in a way that gives reasonable reach to new users in a few reels. It functions more as a consolidation for new users in an effort to retain them on the site. However, the engagement fades out soon after.
2. A ploy for users to get them to pay for reach
Due to Instagram’s alleged changes to its algorithm, users now assume that the platform wants them to pay to gain views or reach. They believe that Instagram prioritizes creators or users who pay them for engagement. Otherwise, some users with considerable followers struggle to get even 50 views. But there are some people who complain that even after getting verified, their algorithm is broken.
3. Possibility of Shadowban
The alleged broken algorithm has instilled the fear of Shadowban in users’ minds. I came across multiple reports where users expressed dissatisfaction over decreased views and engagement. Therefore, it has led them to believe that they have been shadowbanned. The fact that users typically don’t receive a notice regarding the ban is even more annoying.
But you may find out whether your account has been shadowbanned by adding a random hashtag to the comment section of one of your posts. Then click the hashtag to see if your post appears. Generally, accounts that are shadowbanned are not visible in Hashtags, Search, or Explore page.
4. Irrelevant and repeated Reels or videos
The Instagram Reels algorithm is broken in a way that it now shows a lot of irrelevant and repeated content. Sometimes, Reels continue to show up on their Explore page or feed even after users have selected the ‘Not interested’ option. Some claim that even on their Explore page, they see accounts with massive followers and hardly see the accounts that they follow.
What does Instagram say about the Reels algorithm?
After going through users’ claims, I decided to read the official terms of Instagram on Algorithm. Here’s what I found based on various official posts from Meta as well as Instagram:
Meta Transparency Center
According to Meta’s Transparency Center, Instagram Reels Chaining uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to estimate what users are most likely to be interested in and engaged with. It allows the system to automatically choose which reels appear and in what order.
Instagram Reels Chaining is the process of displaying a sequence of reels to users based on user preferences or relationships between the reels. Additionally, it seeks to offer consumers a customized, varied experience that facilitates the discovery of fresh material and producers.
The AI system that powers this procedure ranks and suggests reels based on a variety of inputs and models. The first step is to define the set of items to rate, which consists of every Instagram reel except advertisements. To rate them, the algorithm takes into account data from the reels, the producers, the user’s past actions, and their activity. Some of the most important factors include popularity, diversity, information about the reel, information about the creator, the user’s activity on Instagram, and their history of interacting with similar reels.
As a result, Instagram Reels Chaining’s AI engine adjusts to shifts in user behavior, feedback, and content trends. In order to enhance its accuracy and performance, the system is continuously learning from fresh data and experimentation. Moreover, users’ likes, comments, shares, and saves are all taken into account when it comes to improving its ranking and suggestions.
Instagram blog post
In one of the blog posts, Instagram explains how the algorithms and ranking factors impact what users see and what content they interact with. It states that Instagram employs a number of algorithms, each with a distinct function, rather than a single algorithm to oversee everything. The social media site also makes use of technology to tailor the user experience according to their top priorities.
In the same post, Instagram talks about ranking and how they rank Feed and Stories, Explore, and Reels. But we’ll focus on Reels for now. Instagram frequently prioritizes what could amuse users when ranking Reels. They get input from people asking if a reel is funny or entertaining, and they utilize that information to make better forecasts. Instagram’s primary forecasts concern the likelihood that viewers would stick with a video all the way through. The primary signals that are employed, ranked in order of significance, are:
Moreover, Instagram follows the same Recommendation Guidelines that apply to Explore when they rank reels. For example, if a reel has watermarks or poor quality, is primarily text, or concentrates on political topics, it is not recommended.
What does Instagram say about Shadowbanning?
In the first section of this article, we saw how users believe that they get Shadowbanned on Instagram fairly often. On this, Adam Mosseri says that many users refer to certain circumstances they encounter on Instagram as “shadowbanning”. He acknowledged that Instagram has never always been clear about silencing accounts, therefore people draw their own conclusions, and this causes them to feel misinformed or victimized. In light of it, Mosseri states that the team is making great efforts to enhance transparency and communication since they don’t want it to occur.
Expanding on the issue, the CEO says that some users think that having less likes or comments on their pictures equates to “shadowbanning”. Therefore, they are unable to ensure that users’ posts will constantly reach the same amount of people. However, they acknowledged that they could strive to make fewer errors and fix them quickly when they do, in addition to giving a more thorough description of how the systems work.
Current reports blaming the algorithm
Despite Instagram’s best efforts to keep its algorithm transparent, users continue to hold the social media platform accountable for their declining reach and engagement. I’ve seen numerous reports in the last few days from users who are upset about a sharp decline in their Reels views. Some have also reported that Instagram has started showing them reels that they are not interested in.
Some users also express frustration that their reels are getting less views or engagement than similar reels from other creators, especially those who use TikTok videos or watermarks. They feel that the algorithm is unfair or biased, and that it favors certain types of content or creators over others.
Reports even indicate that some users are getting suggestions for Reels from irrelevant languages, or niches, which do not match their preferences. They wonder if their hashtag or keyword search is incorrect, or if the algorithm is displaying inappropriate stuff for them.
Using both official sources and user report, I was able to gather some helpful tips on how to properly handle Instagram’s algorithm. You can check out some of them below:
Influence what you see
You have a great deal of control over what you see and don’t see on Instagram. Engaging with the profiles and posts that interest you will enhance your experience. But there are other ways to control what you see as well. For this, you can see the screenshot attached below.
I also came across a Redditor (curioustreez) who claims to have figured out the Instagram algorithm. Of course, it’s a lofty claim, and I can’t vouch for it. But given the traction on their post, I strongly felt I should share it here. The redditor offers some insights on how to post Reels frequently to expand account, boost engagement and reach. Some of the things to keep in mind are:
- Posting consistently and at the same time
- Not scheduling posts on Instagram or meta business suite
- Posting Reels
- 6-8 seconds Reels
- Shares and watch time are important
- Deleting and reposting on the same day can harm the algorithm
I hope that these tips and tricks help you use Instagram Reels algorithm to your advantage. If you have some more tips to share, please let me know in the comments sections below.
I believe that the Instagram Algorithm is not a fixed or transparent formula. But it is a dynamic and adaptive system that changes based on various factors, such as user behavior, engagement, and relevance. Sometimes, it may favor content that is created with your existing audience in mind, rather than hopping on trends that can loosen your community. So, one should always focus on building a loyal and engaged fan base that resonates with their brand.
And let’s not forget that Instagram Algorithm is not your enemy, but rather a tool that can help you grow your account if you understand how it works.
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