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Instagram Shares New Insights into How it Selects Recommended Posts to Highlight in User Home Feeds

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Instagram Shares New Insights into How it Selects Recommended Posts to Highlight in User Home Feeds

Looking to get a better handle on how Instagram’s feed algorithms work, and how you can optimize your content approach accordingly?

You’re in luck – today, Instagram has published a new overview of how it ranks content for its ‘Suggested Posts’, or the posts that you see in your Home feed from accounts that you don’t follow in the app.

This element became a key focus recently, after Instagram began inserting a lot more AI-based content recommendations into user feeds, which prompted widespread user backlash, and has since seen IG scale it back, as it works to refine its algorithms. But even with that shift, Instagram does see AI recommendations as a key element of its future, and in maximizing user engagement.

In other words, even if you’re not seeing as many recommendations in your home feed right now, they will be ramping up again sometime soon.

So how does Instagram select which additional content to show you in your Home feed? Here are some insights:

First off, Instagram’s engineering team outlines the focus of its recommendation system, and underlines the key aims of its approach:

  • Users spend a lot of time crafting the perfect home feed for themselves. How can we do some of that work for them and make it feel like they crafted these recommendations themselves?
  • Anecdotally speaking, users who stay engaged keep finding newer sources of interests to follow. Can we help in this act of progressive personalization a bit?

Whether people actually want an automated system to do this work for them is another question entirely, but the intended aim is to replicate human discovery with AI features, in order to enhance user engagement.

That then sees Instagram’s post recommendations fall into two categories – ‘Connected’ and ‘Unconnected’, with the latter being the posts that Instagram’s systems find and highlight, based on your interests.

The process, as you would expect, is largely based on implicit signals – i.e. actions you’ve directly taken in the app, like following and liking posts. But it can also extend to the people you follow, and what they like, as a proxy for direct engagement, while some popular posts are also highlighted based on overall engagement.

But these elements are more related to its Explore surface – in the Home feed, the aim is to replicate the feel of the posts and profiles that you’ve chosen to follow, in order to make it increasingly familiar.

Scrolling through the End of Feed Recommendations should feel like scrolling down an extension of Instagram Home Feed.

Instagram algorithm overview

That’s important to note – the recommendations that Instagram wants you to see in your main feed should closely replicate the accounts that you follow, down to the types of posts they share. At the same time, Instagram’s also trying to insert more and more video – specifically Reels – into user feeds, which is another factor in its more recent experiments.

But the aim, as noted, is to build more directly on your stated interests, as opposed to simply adding in the latest trending content.

So how does Instagram do that?

“In order to ensure that our recommendations feel similar to posts in Home Feed we prioritize accounts that are similar to accounts a user encounters in Home.

  • In the candidate selection step while training and evaluating our ranking models we ensure that the overall distribution is not skewed away from Home-based sources.
  • We follow the same freshness and time sensitivity heuristics as Home Feed to ensure that suggested posts provide a similar kind of fresh feeling as the rest of Home Feed.
  • We also ensure that the mixture of media types (like photos/videos/albums etc.) are relatively similar in Home and suggested posts.
  • For users whose immediate engagement graph is relatively sparse, we generate candidates for them by evaluating their one-hop and two-hop connections. Example: If user A hasn’t liked a lot of other accounts, we can probably evaluate the accounts followed by the accounts A has liked and consider using them as seeds. A → Account Liked by A → Accounts followed by the accounts A likes (Seed Accounts). The diagram below visualizes this line of thinking.

Key points for marketers:

  • Instagram tries to recommend content which is similar to the accounts that people have chosen to follow, so it may be worth conducting more research into what other brands in your industry, particularly those that are doing well on IG, are posting, in order to better align with the specific elements that could then see your content highlighted to your target consumers
  • ‘Freshness’ is important, which means that you need to be posting regularly to ensure that you’re maximizing your opportunities in this respect
  • Worth also noting that Reels is becoming a bigger focus over time, so while it’s not explicitly stated here, as more users engage with Reels, more Reels will, in turn, be recommended in Home feeds

There’s not a heap of nuggets to latch onto here, but the key point is that Instagram wants its Home feed recommendations to feel familiar to each user, so it’s less about highlighting the latest viral hits from across the app, and more about aligning with each users’ explicit interests.

That, in itself, could be very valuable insight for your IG approach.

You can read the full research post here.

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

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Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

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Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

Pinterest is taking a unique approach to Black History Month, with a new ‘Find Your Routes’ Black Travel Hub initiative, which aims to highlight places that have strong connections to Black history, while also showcasing Black-owned businesses.

As explained by Pinterest:

“Find Your Routes” is inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book aka “The Green Book”. The Green Book was a guidebook for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era that provided a list of accessible hotels, boarding houses, taverns, restaurants, service stations and other establishments throughout the country that served Black Americans patrons.”

The Black Travel Hub, which you can find here, will present a range of travel options, along with their history, with creators from the US, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil and more, all taking part in presenting their city.

It could be a good way to provide education alongside inspiration in the app, while also helping people to connect, and support highlighted communities.

Pinterest will also be showcasing Black-owned businesses on Pinterest TV, while internally, it’s also hosting a company-wide event ‘to help employees gain knowledge about the history, present, and future of Black travel through the lens of Black Pinployees’.

As noted, it could be a good way to both spark important conversations, and inspire new travel journeys, which include an extra level of cultural understanding and education, along with a leisure break.

It’s an interesting take on the celebration either way, and it’ll be worth noting what sort of reaction the initiative gets, and whether it inspires more travel as a result.

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