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Instagram Updates Feed Algorithm to Prioritize Original and Emerging Creators

After weeks of telling creators to “stop crying” about their reach and follower counts in the app, Instagram has today announced a major algorithm update which is designed to help ensure that original content posters get more traction, as opposed to those who repost their work, while also giving smaller accounts more opportunity.

Which aligns with Meta’s broader push to enhance its connection with creators, and it could also have an impact on some posting strategies, depending on exactly how it’s implemented.

The update consists of four key elements:

1. Removing aggregator accounts from recommendations

First off, Instagram is looking to disincentivize aggregator accounts, by removing them from its account and content recommendation displays.

As explained by IG:

“In the coming months, accounts that repeatedly (10 or more times in the last 30 days) post content from other Instagram users that they didn’t create or enhance in a material way will not be shown in surfaces where we recommend content.”

Which is a big move, considering the traction that aggregator accounts get in the app. Indeed, on every social app, aggregators often get huge reach and engagement, and it’ll be interesting to see how this change can both be enacted effectively, and the impact it might have on the broader IG ecosystem (i.e. will it impact overall engagement?).

Instagram says that detected aggregator accounts will become eligible for recommendations again after 30 days have passed since the last time they posted unoriginal content. Accounts will be able to check on this in their account status overview.

The only exception here will be publishers that have licensing agreements and/or explicit permissions from content creators.

2. Adding labels to reposted content

This could be the most interesting and significant element, with Instagram now looking to proactively redirect users towards the original creators of content in the app.

Instagram algorithm update

As you can see in these examples, now, when Instagram detects that you are the original creator of a post, it will look to drive more traffic to your upload, as opposed to reposts of the same.

That could provide a major boost for original creators, especially considering the amount of attention that re-posts get in the app. Viral content often gets a lot more distribution from re-usage, and if Instagram’s able to ensure that the original creator gets all of that attention, that could significantly boost creator traction and engagement.

It’ll be interesting to see how it works in practice, and how aggregators look to get around it.

But it could also be a major shift in the dynamics of IG.

3. Replacing reposts with original content in recommendations

Similar to the first point, Instagram will also now look to highlight more original content in recommendations, by switching out re-posts with the original.

When we find two or more identical pieces of content on Instagram, we will only recommend the original one. This means that the original content will directly replace the reposted content in recommendations.”

That’ll provide more motivation for people to post original content to the app, knowing that they’ll get priority, even if it’s re-posted and re-purposed by aggregator accounts.

Instagram does further clarify that this won’t apply if the re-post alters the original “in a significant way”:

“For instance, if it’s materially edited to become a meme, a parody compilation, narrated with a new voiceover or remixed to express a reaction.”

Instagram also says that it will only take this approach “when the original content is relatively new,” which could lessen the value of it over time.

4. Smaller creators will get more distribution

Finally, Instagram is looking to shine a spotlight on smaller, newer accounts, as opposed to prioritizing the biggest and most prominent creators.

Historically because of how we’ve ranked content, creators with large followings and aggregators of reposted content have gotten more reach in recommendations than smaller, original content creators. We think it’s important to correct this to give all creators a more equal chance of breaking through to new audiences.

Instagram’s new approach will see that all new content will get more initial reach, with the posts that see the most engagement in that initial test audience then getting more distribution.

Instagram algorithm update

Of course, we won’t know the value of this until it’s rolled out, but in theory, this could ensure that smaller IG accounts get more traction, by prioritizing them over the usual recommendations.

But that is also a risk.

Just last week, Meta reported that 50% of the content that Instagram users see in the app has been pushed to them via its AI-based recommendations process. That’s helped to drive more engagement in the app, and it’ll be interesting to see if Instagram’s overall engagement levels are impacted if it shifts away from highlighting the most engaging, interesting content, in favor of smaller creators.

I suspect that these recommendations will only take up a small amount of the content people are shown, minimizing the potential impact, but still, if Instagram moves away from showing the top performing posts, based on engagement, it could change the user experience, at least to some degree.

But it will make creators happy. At least in theory. More reach is better, and if Instagram’s system is able to accurately detect and recommend original posts, and showcase more voices, that could be a major win, on both the creator and user fronts.

But it’s a complex balance, which will be hard to get right.

If IG can get it, that could be big.  

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