The Save Feature: Instagram’s New Favorite Ranking Signal by@asherumerie

The Save Feature: Instagram’s New Favorite Ranking Signal

Asher Umerie HackerNoon profile picture

Asher Umerie

I'm a writer of prose, poetry and digital content, a lover of film and most recently an editorial intern with HackerNoon

As you would expect from a resource that aims to echo the changing heartbeat of a vibrant community of users, Instagram’s priorities as a social media platform have changed over the years. 

Some of these changes have been influenced by the growth and large-scale adoption of the platform. An example of this is Instagram’s 2016 update to its feed ranking algorithm, as data had made it clear that users on the platform were missing out on about 70% of all the posts in their feed.

Other changes have come about as a result of Instagram’s efforts to curate an experience that is unique to each user. 

For content creators that are looking to grow and keep a consistent following, it is important to keep tabs on the changes that the platform implements with all of its ranking algorithms. 

‘The’ Instagram Ranking Algorithm

A common misconception that some users have is the idea that Instagram has a singular algorithm that defines a user’s entire experience on the application. This is a half-truth. 

In practice, multiple algorithms govern different parts of the application. When you think about it makes perfect sense, after all, separate parts of the app offer the user a different kind of experience. 

Feeds, Stories, and Explore 

If you are an avid or even passive user of the Instagram platform, you can attest to the fact that feeds and stories, over the years, have become a place where you expect to see content from people you follow - friends, family, colleagues, artists you admire, brands that interest you and so forth.  

As far as your feed and stories are concerned, and with the exception of ads ( that are tailored to your preferences ), you essentially control what you see. 

With the explore page, on the other hand, an entirely different ball game is in play. With ‘explore’ – at least in my case – friends and family are pretty low on the list of things I expect to see. Again this makes sense because just as the name ‘explore’ suggests, it was designed to help users discover new things, based on our history on the platform; things we’ve demonstrated interest in over time, as your previous interactions suggest.  

Signals and Ranking Algorithms 

Having identified how content is curated around the user, it Is important to understand how this content is ranked.  

For instance, If I follow 30 accounts and they all make a new post simultaneously, what do I see first? And why? 

Enter Signals

These are bits of information surrounding a post (and your potential relationship with it), that help Instagram rank your preferences in a bid to predict your levels of interest. Many of these signals work simultaneously, but they can be grouped into four main categories. 

  • The Post
  • The Poster 
  • Adjacent activity 
  • Interaction history 

The Post
These signals focus on the post itself, its popularity (how many people have liked it), its length (in cases of video content), location tag, and so forth.

The Poster
These are signals that focus on the individual or brand that made the post in question. They aim to determine how interesting this individual/brand is to you. How popular said poster is, based on the interactions their previous posts have aggregated in the last couple of weeks. 

Your own activity
This helps Instagram understand what your interests are likely to be, especially when they are similar to the kind of content in view. 

Your Interaction history 
If you follow an account and have barely interacted with it in the past, chances are that new content from that account will not rank well, when compared to accounts that you consistently engage with. 

These signals work across the app but retain slight differences in the ways they are implemented in ranking, depending on whether we’re dealing with the feed, stories, or explore content. 

The Save Feature - Instagram’s new favorite signal 

On any Instagram post, the save feature can be found at the bottom right corner.


Users can click on the icon to save posts that they like.

To access these saved posts, Users can navigate to their Instagram profile, click on the hamburger menu and then tap ‘saved’. 


From here users can then organize their saved items into different categories.


As established earlier, saves are an interaction with a post that leads Instagram to believe that the post in question offers you considerable value. 

As Instagram considers the elimination of like counts to encourage depressurization,  more users are nudged towards quality over quantity. ‘Saves’ have become more valuable than ever as a result. 

 How to Create Save-Worthy Instagram Posts 

First and foremost, remember that your users are people just like you. Consider your interests and determine what kind of content you would like to save and why. 


Teach Something 

When you offer users content that they can learn from and apply in their day to day, the chances that it will get saved go up astronomically. 

Danielson Williams is a great example of a creator that offers immense value. His video content combines a love for music and recreational cannabis, with easy-to-follow recipes for amazing meals. 


Diuto Ajoku on the other hand is another impressive creator, but instead of meals - she creates videos that offer style inspirations to her 244k (at the time of this article) followers. 


Chase bank offers financial literacy tips for kids, that parents can adapt for their children. 


Take your users on a journey

Sometimes users aren’t necessarily in the mood to learn anything. They’re just scrolling through the app to pass the time, or to keep boredom at bay. While there is immense value in creating one-off content (and of course, it can be good enough that it gets watched over and over), there is also a considerable value to be had in creating a thematic series.

Multi-disciplinary designer and artist Daniel Arsham takes followers on a journey through his creative process with almost every post.


Create Quotable Content

Instagram users like a good quote, one that they can refer to time and again. Your job would be to source for or come up with quotable content that ties into your overall value proposition


Think long term, think quotes and images than transcend season and situation (of course it's important to also keep an eye on trends and adapt them to the your brand’s tone)

Ask for it

Appeal to a faithful following and simply request that they save your content. You can choose to explain why they need to or not. 


For e-commerce content pages like femi handbags users tend to use the save feature as a ‘cart’ where they essentially make a note of items that they would like to purchase at a later time. 


Bottom Line

Ultimately it is important to understand your target audience, different groups of people go back to different kinds of content for different reasons. When you have a grasp of their preferences, you can tailor these tips to their unique realities and bask in all the oncoming saves.
Good luck and keep creating beautiful stuff.

Asher Umerie HackerNoon profile picture
by Asher Umerie @asherumerie.I'm a writer of prose, poetry and digital content, a lover of film and most recently an editorial intern with HackerNoon
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