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What Instagram Didn’t Want You To Know About The Algorithm Update

What Instagram Didn't Want You To Know About The Algorithm Update
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The Big Smoke reveals key insights from a secret Instagram meeting and explored how the latest algorithm update affects small content creators. 


We recently published a blog diving into the idea that hashtags are dead, and uncovering whether that notion was fact or fiction. In that piece, we mentioned the Instagram algorithm update and a secret meeting held with the Instagram content team in New York.

Since then, the most common responses we’ve received were questions about what the algorithm update entails and what exactly was discussed at that secret meeting. Well, don’t worry – we’ll cover all that, what this means for your business, and what Instagram didn’t want you to know.

What we know 

Adam Mosseri (CEO of Instagram) announced that Instagram was changing the way they make recommendations on what to watch in order to promote smaller creators. He explained that previously Instagram used to show your content to a small percentage of your audience. If they liked it, Instagram would then show it to more followers and maybe some other people interested in your content topic.

As of the announcement, the algorithm has changed so that every single post has an opportunity to reach a wider audience. Practically speaking, this means that when you post a reel, it is shown to non-followers right away (in conjunction with your followers), giving you a better chance at “going viral” or getting that wider reach as a small creator. This will work as a funnel that gets wider and wider.

A practical example 

If you are a stand-up comedian and you post a funny bit, it will be shown to non-followers who are fans of stand-up. If it does well, then it might be shown to people who are interested in comedy more broadly. If that does well, then it will be shared with people who like funny content on Instagram in general.

It will get wider and wider until it stops testing well.

What this means for your business

If you are a small creator, you now have a chance to grow your account without relying on your audience directly sharing your content. This will be a good opportunity for businesses to revamp their socials and let the algorithm update work for them.

What we don’t know

While this is great news, there is still some information we don’t know. Mosseri stated that this new algorithm is designed to help out small creators, but there has yet to be a definition of what a small creator is with respect to the number of followers.

Additionally, there was a definitive timeline given. While Instagram announced that the algorithm has already changed, they also stated that they would be rolling this out more and more over the coming weeks and months. Thus, there is no confirmation that this is affecting all accounts just yet. 

The secret meeting 

Now let’s address the secret meeting. Instagram’s content team, along with Mosseri, had a closed meeting in NYC with some influencers where they provided tips on what can help and hurt your reach. As expected, they spoke of general public knowledge such as uploading in high resolution, making original content, and avoiding content with third-party watermarks. But there was one point on what can hurt your distribution that surprised a lot of people.

Instagram’s team stated that posting reels over 90 seconds can hurt your distribution. This came as a shock to many people as Instagram had been experimenting with longer reel lengths up to 3 minutes (and even 15 in a beta test). They did not make this 90-second penalty public, but someone was able to take a quick snap during the meeting. 

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