Instagram Chief Says Post Share Rates Are Now a Key Driver of Reach

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Looking for ways to increase your Instagram reach?

This may (or may not) help.

In response to a question posed in his most recent Q and A session on Instagram about how to expand your reach in the app, and the top considerations factored into the algorithm at present, IG chief Adam Mosseri provided this answer:

“More important than watch time or like and comment counts is send rates, [and] generally, I think the rate is more important than the count. So the number of sends per reach, the number of likes per reach, the number of comments per reach. But sends per reach correlate more, in my experience, with overall reach than anything else, because we are looking to help people discover content they want to connect with friends over, and so sends is a great proxy for that sort of connection over creativity.”

So the likelihood that people will explicitly share your post is seemingly the key focus of the IG algo at present, not watch time, nor other forms of engagement.

Though I don’t feel 100% satisfied with this answer. “In my experience”? My friend, you’re the one in charge of the platform, you would know what drives greater performance.

That advice is slightly different to my recent overview of the shift towards entertainment over engagement, though it’s pretty much the same emphasis.

It used to be that social platforms prioritized likes and comments over everything, but as they’ve switched their focus onto video, and providing entertainment, primarily via short-form clips, watch time has become more of a consideration. Because while you might not comment on every single clip from every old TV show that comes up in your Instagram feed, you’re probably going to watch it.

That shift is the most significant in the social media space right now, moving away from interaction in-stream, which is in decline across the board, to how long they can keep you watching video clips.

That’s what’s driving all the growth on Facebook and IG, though Mosseri’s saying that what they actually prioritize is share rate, as opposed to watch time.

So it’s not just how long you watch, but how likely you are to share a clip that will amplify it further.

Which makes sense, but I still think share rates, in general, would low versus overall watch time, in that people are likely watching way more videos than they’re forwarding on to others.

But even so, if you are likely to hit “share”, it makes sense that this would also be a strong ranking signal.

I actually suspect the algorithm drivers are now ranked in this order:

  • Share rates
  • Watch time
  • Comment rates
  • Like rates

The last two could vary, but the fact is that fewer people are posting and commenting, and as such, Meta needs to focus on other elements to maximize engagement.  

So, how can you drive more shares of your content?

Focus on entertainment, and what prompts people to want to show others that clip or post.

That’s easier said than done, of course, but consider what would make someone want to share your post, what kinds of things stand out to you in this regard, and what makes you feel compelled to forward a clip to somebody else?

Entertainment, sparking emotional response (primarily joy on Facebook and IG given Meta’s shift away from divisive politics), and giving people something unexpected. Those seem to be the key drivers for maximizing your IG reach.