Instagram has more than 400 million monthly active accounts who share more than 80 million pictures and videos daily. This large volume of user-generated content is the application’s notable strength, but also makes the problem of finding the authoritative users for a given topic challenging. Discovering topical authorities can be useful for providing relevant recommendations to the users. In addition, it can aid in building a catalog of topics and top topical authorities in order to engage new users, and hence provide a solution to the cold-start problem.
In this paper, we present a novel approach that we call the Authority Learning Framework (ALF) to find topical authorities in Instagram. ALF is based on the self-described interests of the follower base of popular accounts. We infer regular users’ interests from their self-reported biographies that are publicly available and use Wikipedia pages to ground these interests as fine-grained, disambiguated concepts. We propose a generalized label propagation algorithm to propagate the interests over the follower graph to the popular accounts. We show that even if biography-based interests are sparse at an individual user level they provide strong signals to infer the topical authorities and let us obtain a high precision authority list per topic. Our experiments demonstrate that ALF performs significantly better at user recommendation task compared to fine-tuned and competitive methods, via controlled experiments, in-the-wild tests, and over an expert-curated list of topical authorities.