9 Things You Need to Know About the Threads Algorithm (According to The Threads Team)

We’re finally getting a peek behind the curtain of Threads’ algorithm. And while there are plenty of things that shouldn’t surprise you — especially if you’re familiar with how the Instagram algorithm works — there are some new and innovative ways Meta is creating a unique experience for users. 

The Threads team quietly published this guide on the Threads Feed AI system on the Meta transparency site, which offers some interesting titbits about how to grow your following on Threads right now.   

That said, even after the new app’s record-breaking launch in July 2023 and meteoric rise to more than 130 million monthly active users, it’s still early days for the social network. On top of that, the team is shipping new Threads features at an impressive pace — so expect the algorithm to evolve as the social media platform shifts and grows.

Here’s a round-up of everything we know about how the Threads algorithm works, along with a few predictions for the future.  

Coming soon: Buffer X Threads. The ability to publish to Threads with Buffer is one of our most requested features to date. We’re working on it! We expect the API (the code we need to plug Threads into Buffer) to be shared with us in the coming weeks. Follow along with our transparent roadmap for progress.

1. Threads’ feed is ranked by an AI system

What’s fascinating about Thread’s latest update on their ranking system is that they don’t explicitly mention the word ‘algorithm’ at all. Instead, they call it an artificial intelligence (AI) system.

“The content that you see on your Threads feed is selected, ranked, and delivered to you by an artificial intelligence (AI) system,” the company says. “Within one AI system, multiple machine learning models work together to deliver your experience.” 

While this might feel like something new and a little intimidating, it’s not really. Most social networks use this kind of reactive machine learning AI to shape their feeds (although Threads is the first to scrap the word algorithm in favor of AI — likely thanks to the fact that most users will better understand the term after the AI boom in 2023).

2. Threads’ AI system only impacts the For You feed

After launching with a simple ‘For You’ feed — a curated feed of the content that the algorithm predicts a user will enjoy — early adopters clamored for a ‘Following’ feed, where they would only see content from accounts they already follow. Threads was happy to oblige.

Right now, the experience feels similar to TikTok’s FYP or For You Page and Following feeds, which you can easily flip between right at the top of the app. 

On the Threads app, users can switch between the two feeds by tapping the Threads logo at the top of the app or the home button at the bottom of the app, then the For You or Following tabs that appear just beneath it. On the web version of Threads, there’s a For You/Following toggle button on the bottom right. 

Interestingly, the Following feed isn’t dictated by the algorithm at all — it looks like the company has returned to a good old-fashioned chronological feed in this case.  

“You can click the Threads logo on your home screen and then click Following to see content only from accounts that you follow, in reverse chronological order,” the company says. “When you select this option, you won’t see recommended content.”

As such, the information in this article applies to the For You feed — which is where you want your content to appear if you’re looking to grow your audience on Threads.

3. Ranking is a 3-step process

There are three actions that happen at lightning speed before any content appears in users’ feeds at all. Here’s how Threads breaks that process down:

Gather inventory (content): “The system gathers a portion of the public content available on Threads and all the content posted by accounts that you follow, which may include text posts, photos, and videos that follow our quality and integrity rules.”Leverage signals (engagement): “Next, the AI system considers a variety of input signals about the content. These signals might include how you’ve engaged with similar accounts, content, or your interests.”Rank content: “Finally, the system ranks content from the previous step. Content that the system predicts will provide more value for you is shown higher in your feed. This helps the system make content recommendations that more closely match your preferences.”

This behind-the-scenes process might seem beyond your control as a brand or content creator on Threads. But I’d argue that there are some important clues in this system about giving your content the best possible chance of success. 

First, it is crucial to ensure your posts are included in “the portion” of content the Threads algorithm gathers in step one. Second (and relatively standard practice for social media platforms) is the weight placed on engagement when it comes to ranking. The third — and perhaps most important — is the mention of value in the final step. I’ll unpack all of these below. 

3. Instagram’s Community Guidelines apply

Flouting the rules is the surest way to remain stagnant on Threads — and might even mean being banned. As you’ll notice in the process above, only “text posts, photos, and videos that follow our quality and integrity rules” are analyzed according to the various ranking signals (below).

According to Threads’ Terms of Use, content on the platform must abide by the Instagram Community Guidelines, which they summarize as:

“We want Instagram to continue to be an authentic and safe place for inspiration and expression. Help us foster this community. Post only your own photos and videos, and always follow the law. Respect everyone on Instagram; don’t spam people or post nudity.”

It’s also worth ensuring your content aligns with another set of rules: Instagram’s Recommendation Guidelines. While content that goes against these guidelines is still technically allowed in the platform, it’s excluded from Instagram-recommended feeds like the Explore Page or the Instagram Reels Feed. It’s very likely this impacts Threads’ For You Feed, too.

That means avoiding anything that: 

depicts/discusses self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, or violence is sexually explicit or suggestive promotes the use of certain regulated products, like tobacco

4. The signals that shape users’ feeds

Much like other social networks, there are a host of signals that affect what content appears in Threads’ users’ feeds and in what order. 

In their explainer, the social network breaks down several of the algorithm’s predictions, along with the signals that influence each one. I love their way of framing this because it highlights that even the tiniest of actions on your content can have an impact beyond just likes, comments, and reposts. 

Whether or not a user will like a post 

This prediction is influenced by:

How many posts they’ve seen on their feedsHow many posts they’ve clicked to likeHow many times they’ve clicked to like the author’s posts in their feedHow many posts they’ve clicked to like from this author, of those that they’ve seen

How likely a user is to click to view replies on a post

This prediction is influenced by:

How many times others have clicked to reply to the postHow many replies they’ve seenHow many times they’ve clicked to like the author’s posts in their feedHow long it’s been since they were active on Threads

How likely they are to follow the author of a post

This prediction is influenced by:

How many posts they’ve seen in their feedHow long it’s been since they were active on ThreadsWhich authors they’ve followed recentlyWhether or not the post was predicted to contain language that goes against the Instagram Community GuidelinesHow many times they’ve viewed the author’s profile on Instagram

How likely a user is to click on the profile of a post’s author

This prediction is influenced by:

How many times the author’s profile has been clickedThe profile click rate on the author of the postWhether or not the post was predicted to contain language that goes against our Community GuidelinesHow many times they’ve viewed the author’s profile on InstagramThe number of times that people have clicked on the author’s profile

How likely a user is to scroll past a post rather than engage with it

This prediction is influenced by:

The number of times that they’ve viewed a postHow many times they’ve clicked to like the author’s postsHow many times others have viewed the post

Threads hasn’t been explicit about what weight they give to each of these actions, but it’s likely that the more effort the action requires, the more it influences the predictions and, in turn, your content ranking. 

5. Actions on Instagram affect Threads’ feeds

Threads is owned by Meta (which also owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) but is often touted as a companion app to Instagram. 

An Instagram profile is required to get set up on Threads, and it’s easy to share and switch between the two social networks. When you join the platform, your Instagram followers will also receive a nudge to follow you on Threads. 

So, it’s not surprising to see just how much actions taken on Instagram can impact the Threads algorithm. As you’ll see above, viewing an author’s Instagram profile is a signal that affects not one but two predictions. It’s a relatively high-friction action that involves heading over to the author’s Threads profile and tapping on the Instagram logo on their page to switch apps. 

With all that effort, checking out someone’s Instagram profile is a powerful indication of interest in the author’s content and will likely significantly impact ranking. This is a big hint that success on one platform will continue to be tied to the other as Threads grows — for now, at least! 

6. Users can customize their experience

While Threads’ users’ feeds are all shaped by how they consume and engage with content on the platform, they do have a more explicit level of control over what they do and don’t see.

Some of these options include:

Unfollow: This one is pretty self-explanatory (though Threads doesn’t say whether an unfollow on Threads might impact Instagram feeds and vice versa).Share: This includes sending a post to a chat and sharing it on another platform or site.Mute: Via the three dots to the right of every post, users can mute Threads creators so their content no longer appears in the users’ feeds without unfollowing.Hide: Also via the three-dot menu, users can hide a specific post so that they won’t see that post again. “This action also helps to limit similar content from appearing in your feed,” Threads says. Report: Users can report content they think goes against Threads’ (read: Instagram’s) Community Guidelines and posts they believe are spam or false information. The system will try to show the user less content like the post they reported, whether Threads rules that the content violates their guidelines or not. 

Again, Threads doesn’t say how much weight is given to each of these actions, but they likely have a more significant influence than easier or one-click actions, such as a ‘like.’

7. Threads is exploring trending topics

While this is not explicitly tied to the algorithm, Threads’ latest feature launch could be a sign of things to come. 

CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, recently announced that Threads was testing trending topics, a highly requested feature. “For those of you who have been calling for a trending feature, we’re rolling out a small test to help you find timely topics people are talking about,” he wrote on Threads in February. 

“Today’s topics on Threads will be on the search page and in the For You feed. The topics are determined by our AI systems based on what people are engaging with right now on Threads.” 

Trending topics are currently only available to English users in a small portion of the U.S. market, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared that they expect to “roll it out in more countries and languages once we get it tuned up.”

This could be a powerful form of content discovery and a way to reach a new audience when it makes sense to chime in on a trending topic related to your niche. This addition bears a striking resemblance to what helped plenty of content creators and influencers grow a following on X (formerly Twitter), and it’s definitely one to watch. 

Threads hasn’t shied away from the obvious comparisons to X, rushing to meet the needs of plenty of disillusioned X users. For example, Threads quickly introduced an edit feature after launch — likely nudged by the fact that the ability to edit tweets was a highly requested feature on Twitter and is now only available to X Premium subscribers. 

New features like this hint at the possibility that Twitter growth strategies could be effective on Threads, too. 

8. Fediverse features are worth watching out for

The arrival of the fediverse — something Threads has promised since launch — promises to add interesting new dimensions to growing a following on Threads. 

For one thing, soon, your followers on Threads won’t even have to have Threads accounts to follow you. For the uninitiated, Threads will be interoperable with other social platforms built on the ActivityPub protocol, like Mastodon and Bluesky, meaning your target audience will be exponentially bigger than just those 130 million folks using Threads. If that sounds like a huge deal, it’s because it is. The fediverse has the potential to change social media as we know it. 

The Threads team is working on these features, but you can already follow Adam Mosseri and some other key authors on Threads from other platforms. 

It’s unclear how this may impact the Threads algorithm — and the algorithms of other platforms built on the ActivityPub protocol — right now, but it’s certainly one to keep in mind as you grow your following. 

If you’re serious about Threads, it’s worth setting up and getting to grips with a fediverse platform before this big shift comes into play. Check out our guide to all Bluesky’s features and how to use them or our beginner’s guide to Mastodon

9. Providing value is the key to Threads’ success

Understanding the inner workings of the Threads algorithm is definitely helpful, but there’s one small detail that stood out to me in their ranking explainer:

“Content that the system predicts will provide more value for you is shown higher in your feed.”

I love that framing because it showcases the ultimate goal Threads hopes to achieve with its powerful AI ranking system: posts that contain value for Threads users. So, rather than worrying about Threads engagement hacks or the best tags to use, focus on the quality of your content. What do you want your audience to walk away with after reading or watching your posts? 

There are so many ways to do that. It might involve:

Teaching them something new from your unique areas of expertiseHelping solve a particular problem your target audience often facesKickstarting a conversation in an area they have knowledge of or want to learn more aboutJust making them laugh!

Of course, that is easier said than done! Luckily, we have plenty of resources that might prove helpful as you grow your following on Threads. 

I’d suggest you start by following the steps to create your own social media strategy (this applies to creators, too!). If you’re looking to build a personal brand, this guide provides a handy framework for doing exactly that. Finally, here’s a guide to tactics the Buffer Team and I have found success with on Threads

It’s also worth noting that Threads has a host of features that make your content easier to find, engage with, and derive value from. While none of these features are explicitly mentioned in Threads’ algorithm update, tapping into all the options a social network offers is always a solid strategy for ensuring you offer as much value as possible. That means:

Using tags (Threads’ version of hashtags) to start or join conversations in your nicheLeaning into polls, GIFs, memes, photos, and videos to stop the scrollJoining ongoing conversations in Threads rather than just trying to start your own

Happy Threading!

What’s your experience been on Threads? I’d love to hear more about what you’ve learned. Tag @buffer in a post on Threads, or leave a comment below. 


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