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  • Writer's picturejamesshamsi

Lesson 3: The Viral Battle

Hitting the Explore page is only half the battle...

Everyone’s fighting to get on the ‘Explore’ page, and space is limited.The first 30 spots on the Explore page are the most valuable (because most users don't scroll past the first 30). Once you’re on there, the next battle is staying on there. 

Bear in mind, Instagram wants to only show you the only the best content as user. However, they don’t have a team manually choosing what goes on the Explore page - it’s all done automatically through the algorithm. 

With literally hundreds of thousands of posts fighting for the same spots in your followers feeds, how does Instagram decide which posts to show exactly?

Well, it compares posts using performance metrics and engagement ratios. This is what we like to call ‘The Viral Quality Filter’.  


What is the VQF?

The short version:

Once you’re on Explore, your post is constantly compared to other posts

This includes other posts currently on Explore, and posts that could be on Explore.

The decision for which posts end up being featured on Explore vs others is primarily driven by engagement ratios and video completion rates - among other things too. 

After finding content to feature on the Explore page from 1 of the 4 possible content sources we discussed in the previous lesson, (for a refresher click here), posts go through what we like to call: ‘ The Viral Quality Filter’ - the VQF.  

We call this the process the 'VQF'. It keeps the highest quality posts on Explore and removes poor performers (the low-quality posts). It's great because it's automatic - no human involvement needed at all! 

Each possible post to feature on the Explore page is compared to another, based on the two performance metrics below. The posts that aren’t good enough are removed and replaced by the ones that are.

(1) Engagement Ratios  Whichever post has stronger engagement ratios outperforms the other in the VQF. Engagement ratios are the ratios between the reach of a post (how many unique people saw it), divided by the number of likes, and/or comments/saves. The higher the ratio, the better.

(2) Video Completion Rate  If it’s a video, Instagram monitors how many people finished watching the video to 75% completion. The algorithm assumes that the more people who complete the video to the end, the more likely it’s high-quality content.

Total video view time is considered here. If 75% of people finish a 10-second video to 100%, it won’t mean it’ll outrank a video that only 65% of people finished, which is one minute long. Weighted averages and ratios are used to prevent this happening. It also analyzes if viewers liked, commented, saved, and even followed the account after. The ranking is of course improved based on these engagement and follow outcomes. In addition, the algorithm looks at how many people replayed the video as a way of making assumptions on its quality.

All content on the Explore page is continuously being compared to others that could take its place based on the above. If the algorithm sees that other posts are actively outperforming one on the Explore page, the post will be replaced. If the algorithm notices your post building engagement momentum, it will replace a current post with your new, better performing content. 

Want to learn all about Instagram? See all 13 free lessons here.

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