Users have been asking Instagram to get rid of the algorithm for years, and they finally listened. Instagram’s reverse-chronological, algorithm-free feed that we all know and love is back…well sort of. In January 2022, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri released a preview of what this new feed will look like. The new update allows users to choose how they view the content on their homepage by offering ‘Home’, ‘Favorites’, and ‘Following’ options, and the latter two will feature content in reverse chronological order.

However, there’s a catch. While the option to see your feed in a reverse chronological and recommendation-free format is there, your feed will default to the algorithm-defined ‘Home’ feed option unless you manually switch over to the new formats. This is a great PR move for Instagram – the options for users to choose how they see their content will be readily available, but unless people and businesses are aware of this change, most users may not utilize this option. Below we’re sharing what everyone needs to know about this new Instagram algorithm and how it will affect the PR industry. 

How the New Algorithm Works

Do you want to see only the content from your family, friends, or favorite accounts? With the new algorithm, the ‘Favorites’ feed option will allow users to selectively view accounts added to their ‘favorites’ list and the ‘Following’ option will allow users to only view content from users they follow. Both of these feed toggles will show content that is free from recommendations in reverse chronological order. 

The algorithm-defined ‘Home’ feed will continue to feature Instagram’s recommended content in an order defined by relevance, which typically gets users to spend more money and time in the app. It’s no surprise that Instagram monitors how users interact with the app in order to personalize the content seen on their feed. The channel notices when you frequently interact with certain accounts or certain types of content, and they will place relevant posts at the top of your feed. Recommended content is intertwined with advertisements and content from those users are following with the goal to keep users engaged and scrolling for as long as possible. 

These are the key signals the algorithm focuses on when generating what content you’ll see:

  • Information About the Post: If a post is recent, has a high engagement, or was posted from a relevant location, it will be more likely to make it to the top of your feed.
  • Information About the Creator: If you interact or visit a user’s page often, Instagram sees that person is interesting to you and will make sure you see their content first.
  • Your Activity: Do you love watching and interacting with cooking videos? Your interests will likely be among the top posts to make an appearance.
  • History of Interaction: Maybe your friends don’t post regularly, but when they do you always like and comment on their posts. The next time they share content, Instagram will make sure it’s at the top of your feed when you open the app. 

The new “Following” and “Favorites” tabs will not be subject to this algorithm. However, users will have to manually switch over to the ‘Following’ or ‘Favorites’ feed every time they open the app. Instagram knows that most people won’t bother to switch over to their preferred feed when they open the app, and they will continue to use the algorithm-defined default option that is the “Home” tab. How do they know this? Facebook released a similar feature back in 2020, but most users chose to view their feed in the default toggle.

How Will the New Algorithm – Or Lack Thereof – Affect the PR Industry?

If users choose to view their feed in the new ‘Following’ or ‘Favorites’ tabs, they won’t see any recommended content. This means your business’s posts may not get as much reach as they would in the algorithm-defined feed. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of tactics you can use to get visibility in this type of feed. For instance, you can try the following: 

  • Influencer Marketing: People usually follow their favorite celebrities or public figures on Instagram. If you use influencer marketing, this may be a way for your brand to get seen in the ‘Following’ tab.
  • Depth Over Breadth: In the ‘Following’ and ‘Favorites’ tabs, your brand may not get as much reach, but make sure to post frequent and engaging content for your audience that is following you to make sure they see you.

Fortunately for the PR Industry, users likely won’t take the time to click away from the default and algorithm-defined feed toggle. This will allow your accounts to get more visibility if you play into the algorithm. These tools are loved by the algorithm and will ensure your brand gets seen:

  • Utilize Reels: Reels is one of the newer Instagram features, and the platform promotes anything in this format! If you’re not familiar, Reels are short-form videos that you can set to music, similar to TikTok.  
  • Amp Up Interactive Content: Add polls, question stickers, and emoji sliders to your Stories for better engagement.
  • Use Hashtags: Hashtags help you reach past your existing audience to users who may be interested in your content. Plus they’re free.
  • Schedule Your Posts at Optimal Times: The algorithm favors recent posts, so posting at times when users are on the app increases the chances of your content being seen.

Sure users will have the option of viewing their content in an algorithm-free, reverse-chronological feed, but this likely won’t have as big of an impact as we think. Nevertheless, it is important PR pros are prepared for the various ways in which users may choose to view their feeds and how to increase exposure and engagements no matter what!