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How Instagram spots a trend

Joab Jackson | July 3, 2015
With a user base of over 200 million people, who collectively post 70 million new photographs and short videos a day, Instagram provides a timely view of events around the world that people are interested in. But how does the service spot emerging trends while they are still on the rise?

Another potential confounding issue is that multiple hashtags may be applied to the same event. For instance, the #fashionweek tag is frequently joined by #model and #fashion.

So the development teams wrote an algorithm that clusters together hashtags that refer to the same event. It looks at how often hashtags are paired together, such as #equality and #lovewins. It looks at words that are very similar, in order to detect misspellings, so that #valentinesday and #valentineday are clumped together. It also runs an internal tool that classifies tags into a predefined set of topics.

"When we approached trending, we tried to break this project down into smaller problems that could be tackled separately by components with a very specific function. As a result, each individual in our team was able to focus on one problem at a time before moving onto the next one," the researchers wrote.


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