Recently there have been some big changes to the Instagram Top 9 Posts area, and I’m getting a couple of questions/concerns over and over again.
“I used to see my image in the Top 9, all the time! Now I never see myself. Ever. Anywhere! What’s going on?”
“I check the Top 9 every day, and it feels like they never change. I might see the same “top” posts for several days. Some are even weeks old. What gives?”
If you take one thing away from this article (video), I want you to remember this: it’s all about the user.
It’s all about the user.
It’s all about the user.
Who is it all about?
How Instagram Personalizes Your Experience
Instagram is trying to show each individual user the perfect content for them. Here are a few examples.
- I’ve recently started transitioning to a plant-based diet (vegan), so I went out and followed several vegan cooking accounts. There is this one account in particular that shares these amazing smoothie bowls every day. They are truly works of art. Amazing, beautiful… I would never have the patience to make them myself. But every day I see these amazing bowls and I like the photos. Well, now when I go in to my explore tab on Instagram… what do I see? Smoothie bowls everywhere. Not vegan Thai food, or creative ways to use quinoa, or posts about animal rights. Smoothie bowls… because Instagram is on to me!
- I’m also interested in fitness, specifically weight lifting and body building. I don’t do it. I just think about doing it. Or at least how I can get the results without doing it. I get tons of suggestions for other female bodybuilder accounts. Why? Because that’s who I follow. I don’t follow men, because I don’t want to look like that (but maybe I should follow some dude bodybuilders? Because there are worse things in life?!)
And have you been scrolling your feed and actually seen Instagram suggest some hashtags to you that you should follow? It’s scary how well Instagram knows me. Sometimes I feel like they know me better than I know myself. #goalsetting? #traveloregon? #mountainescapes? #bigskycountry? Yes, I do want to see some beautiful mountain escapes in my feed every day, thankyouverymuch.
Think about what you see (as a user) when you go to:
- The explore tab
- What hashtags you follow (even a given hashtag could have a variety of content associated with it. So think of what subcategories of content within a given hashtag that you like. For example, my affinity for smoothie bowls within the #plantbased category).
- What you see in the top 9 for a given hashtag.
These are all examples of how Instagram is working really hard to show you exactly what you want to see as a consumer when you log in.
You see what you engage with.
When You Don’t See Yourself in Instagram’s Top 9 Posts
Let’s talk more specifically now about the Top 9.
The TOP 9 is not an absolute top 9 anymore.
OLD: Here are 9 top posts for this hashtag that we’ve calculated via some complex algorithm.
NEW: Here are 9 top posts for this hashtag that we’ve calculated SPECIALLY FOR YOU via some complex algorithm.
YOUR INSTAGRAM BEHAVIOR INFLUENCES WHAT TOP 9 YOU SEE. Which means Top 9s are like snowflakes, no two are alike.
If you go searching for yourself, you might not find your posts. And why do you need to discover yourself anyway, right?
Images That Maintain Their Instagram Top 9 Post Position
So we’ve talked about why you might not be able to find yourself in the Top 9 anymore. But let’s talk about the other common concern I hear: The Top 9 can look a little stagnant, with some of the top images staying in the top 9 for days, or even weeks.
Back when the “Top Posts” area debuted, you were doing really well if you maintained your position for 24 hours.
Now, you might see a few of the same images up in the top 9 for a while. Why is this?
The short answer is: I don’t know. I’m not an Instagram engineer. All I can share is theories, and my theory is that Instagram is really stubborn about thinking they know what you want. Here are some examples of my Top 9 results for #plantbased over the span of a few days.
It’s like Instagram is yelling at me, “No, Molly, you REALLY do want to know more about those veggie burger patties. Just go follow them already!”
A Word on Algorithms
The nature of algorithms is that… You can’t figure them out. If you could figure it out, then everyone would do the things that they knew would get them to the top, which would make the algorithm completely useless. Algorithms are complicated and personalized on purpose, so you can’t game them. THAT’S THE POINT!
All these people are like, “what the heck?! Why can’t I figure it out?!” and I’m like… yep, sounds like it is doing it’s job then.
Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I get in to the top 9? Or how can I beat the algorithm?” Let’s trade it for questions like, “What do my customers/followers/fans need from me? How can I help them? How can I relate to them?”
The marketer with the serve-first mentality is the real winner here.
Just some food for thought… Vegan, of course!
Molly Marshall teaches small business owners and online entrepreneurs how to systematically and simply grow a profitable online presence through social media. Get your FREE Instagram Strategy Guide now!