Instagram’s improved search could help close the gap with TikTok

Instagram's head Adam Mosseri revealed Wednesday that Instagram will feature more photos and videos in future search results. This change will allow users to see the list of photos and videos that a keyword search can pull up along with results for hashtags and accounts, similar to how TikTok displays results.
Mosseri says that the search tweak is one of many improvements to inspire and discover. While keyword search has been used by the company to provide visual results, certain terms can pull up pages with suggested images. However, Instagram's new plan will give these more prominence. Mosseri explains that searching for a term such as space will bring up suggestions photo and video results, along with traditional accounts or hashtags. This encourages more exploration. Although visual results are still available behind the tap of a keyword they should be more prominently displayed and common. The modified search experience is demonstrated by Mosseri at around 3:30 in the video.

The current Instagram keyword search is a bit hit and miss. However, it doesn't always return results with the right photos or universally. Mosseri explains that the company is expanding the range of terms that will be pulled up, beginning with English and building from there. Instagram was unable to give a launch date when asked.

Mosseri says that Instagram's primary criterion for determining the results it displays is relevancy, even if there are no new keywords or visuals. Here are the signals that Instagram considers when displaying results. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Search text. Search's most important signal is the text you type in the search bar. Search will match your input with the appropriate usernames, bios or captions. Your activity. This includes posts you've seen, accounts you've followed, and interactions with accounts. We often show accounts and hashtags that you visit more than those that you don't follow. Information about search results. We also consider popularity signals when there are many possible results. These are the clicks, likes and shares for a specific account, hashtag, or place.

These same suggestions also apply to how your content appears in search results. To determine whether your content is relevant to a particular search, the platform examines your Instagram bio and text, as well as your location and captions. It also filters out content that is not in line with its Recommendations Guidelines. This includes sensitive topics such as violence and semi-nudity. These issues have been a source of concern for Instagram users in the past.

These improvements to search will make Instagram easier to use and more compelling to click through. It's possible that the superficial similarities to TikTok are not a mistake: Mosseri openly discussed the new era of Instagram post-photo sharing, in which they embrace video and suggest content.