Instagram Is Updating its Ranking Algorithm to Put More Focus on Original Content

This could cause some headaches for social media managers and content creators on Instagram, at least in the initial stages of implementation.

Today, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has announced that Instagram is making update to the way that it ranks content, in order to put more focus on original work.

As per Mosseri:

“If you create something from scratch, you should get more credit than if you are resharing something that you found from someone else. [As such] we’re going to do more to try and value original content more, particularly compared to reposted content.”

So what does that mean, exactly?

Does that mean that if you post content from other platforms that you’ll cop a reach penalty on IG?

Does that mean that if a bigger profile re-posts your original content, that you could be penalized as a result?

It’s kind of complex, and Mosseri didn’t seem entirely confident that Instagram would be able to get it right.

In response to various questions on Twitter, Mosseri explained that:

  • Content edited outside of Instagram, then uploaded to the app, won’t be penalized under this change. As per Mosseri: “The idea is if you made it, it’s original. It’s okay if you edited it outside of Instagram and then bring it in via the gallery.” As you may recall, Instagram announced last year that content re-shared from other apps which included visible watermarks would be downranked, which was specifically focused on re-shares of TikTok content to Reels. Content with visible logos or watermarks will still be penalized under that policy, in Reels at least, but outside of that, the change is not designed to stop people sharing content edited outside of IG itself.
  • Posting history is a factor. Mosseri notes that content aggregators are the focus of this update, and Instagram will be able to refer to an account’s posting history as one way of determining this. “If the account is an aggregator, we’ll more likely be able to detect that it’s not original.” So if you’re re-posting a lot of stuff from other accounts, you’ll likely see a reach decline. Posting trending memes has been a simple way to boost engagement up till now, but maybe, that will no longer be the case.
  • Instagram’s original content ranking is a work in progress. Mosseri admits that Instagram can’t know for sure if content is original or not. “We build classifiers to predict how *likely* something is to be original, but that’s not knowing. We look at things like who’s in the video, and if we’ve seen the video before.” So maybe, if you’re sharing content from other sources, there’ll be different people in all of your uploads, and that could be a signal, while Instagram’s algorithm will also look for replicated posts. How will Instagram know which account is the originator, and which is the replicator? Time posted could be one factor, but Mosseri notes that “if it’s someone pretending to be the original creator, which is less likely but could happen, it’ll be hard for us to know.”

In essence, the aim is to reduce the dominance of aggregator sites, and give more credit to original creators. That, ideally, will see fewer content farms or re-posters dominating the Explore feed, while Instagram is also now pushing more recommended posts into your main feed also, and these too should be more original moving forward.

But the system is not perfect, and no doubt some accounts will suffer unjust penalties as a result. But again, Mosseri notes that Instagram will continue to evolve its detection processes over time to better determine where content comes from, and who posted the original, in order to help amplify the true creators, as opposed to letting bigger, farm accounts take all of the engagement.

It could have a big impact, considering the amount of aggregator accounts in the app, or it could be minimal. It’s hard to say right now, but the basic principle will be to continue posting original content to the app – and if you are re-posting, maybe it’s time to lessen your reliance on that content.

For brands, that could also have implications for UGC, and re-using customer posts and updates, if they’re also posting them on their own profiles. UGC can be a great social proof option, and a good way to engage with your community, and really, it will come down to measuring the impacts of the change versus the benefits of posting.

As always, it’s all about experimentation, and seeing how the update shifts the needle in the app over time.