16 Jul, 2021

The Social Media Algorithm Explained

Ah, social media algorithms. For some people they’re like little data puzzles waiting to be solved, but for others, they can only be described as a bit of a monster. We’re here to tell you though, that social algorithms aren’t actually as scary and mysterious as you might think. Let us explain…. 
 
Social media algorithms are a way of organising posts in a user’s feed based on relevancy. Basically, social media platforms prioritise what content the user sees based on what they are most likely to engage with....See, we told you it wasn’t that scary. 
 


Before the introduction of algorithms on social media platforms way back in 2009, users’ feeds would be displayed in chronological order, meaning the newest posts from accounts a user followed would show first – this is actually still an option in the settings for Twitter and Facebook if you didn’t already know. 
 
Today, the algorithm varies depending on which platform is being used, but the main ones are of course Facebook and Instagram. Let’s take a look at each channel and see how they’re currently ranking content and users. 
 
Facebook 
As of April 2021, Facebook recorded over 54.8 million users in the UK alone, that’s an increase of 9.6 million compared to the previous year. While the usage is clearly growing, businesses are noticing that organic reach is rapidly declining and part of the reason for this, is the Facebook algorithm. 
 
The algorithm assesses and scores posts based on the user’s interest before presenting them in the feed. It works by taking all of the posts in a user’s network and ranking them based on what the user is most likely to engage with. It boosts posts you’ll want to see and hides the ones you don’t. The recent changes put greater emphasis on meaningful interactions such as comments, replies, likes and shares, so to beat the algorithm, we recommend: 
 
Engaging with your audience on a daily basis 
Posting and waiting patiently for people to interact with your content just doesn’t cut it anymore. Make sure to spend the time responding back to comments and building relationships with your followers. Spark conversations between your followers by asking questions, sharing polls onto your stories and generally being a social butterfly!
 
Aiming for reactions over likes 
Reactions seem to carry more weight over likes alone. What’s the best way to get reactions we hear you ask? - Inspire emotion within your content. Be careful not to take your content too far though, you don't want to fall foul of cancel culture.
 
Posting on Facebook Stories 
Did you know posting to Facebook Stories is actually a sneaky way around the algorithm? Stories aren’t technically part of the newsfeed so you can bypass the constraints. Stories are a great way of engaging with your audience organically. As they only last 24 hours, it’s another reason for your audience to check in and see what you’ve been up to. 
 
Getting your profile on the favourite list 
Facebook now gives users 30 slots for their favourite pages, meaning you have a chance to appear higher in newsfeeds and you’ll be one of the first posts to be seen. Now time to get creating that engaging content to get on the list! 
 
Next up Instagram… 
 
We’ve FINALLY got the lowdown on exactly what makes up Instagram’s algorithm – or should we say MULTIPLE algorithms! According to their latest announcement, Instagram has said that the platform is “made up of a variety of algorithms, classifiers and processes, each with its own purpose”. Simply meaning each part of the app uses its own algorithm which is tailored to how people use it. It’s been revealed there are six factors that determine what you see in your feed: interest, timeliness, relationship, frequency, following and usage. Let’s take a look at these further… 
 
1 - Interest: how much Instagram predicts you’ll care about the post 
By looking into your past activity, Instagram is able to gauge your potential interest in other posts based on genre. If you’ve engaged with food accounts/ posts, Instagram will rank content within that genre to show food, restaurants etc. higher on your feed. 
 
2 - Timeliness: how recent the posts are 
Instagram wants to show you posts that are the most recent and relevant. The algorithm re-orders only the new posts between your current visit and your last visit. 
 
3 – Relationship: the accounts you interact with regularly 
So you don’t miss out on leaving those 🔥🔥🔥 comments on your BFF’s latest post, the algorithm studies your past interactions to see which accounts you engage with most often to make sure these are the ones you will see first. According to Instagram, profile searches are what contribute to the posts in your feed. 
 
4 – Frequency: how often a user opens Instagram 
If you’re like our Digital Marketing Executive, Paige, it will be at least once an hour #GUILTY! It seems obvious, but how else would Instagram know what you’ve seen and what you haven’t? They’ve got to keep it fresh haven’t they! 
 
5 – Following: content from all accounts a user follows 
If you follow thousands of people, it means Instagram needs to filter though more content in order to decide what it shows you every time you log on. If this is you, you just need to interact or search for more accounts to enable those to appear at the top of your feed. 
 
6 – Usage: how long a user spends on the app 
If you’re a serial scroller or just a check when you’re bored kinda person…Instagram knows 👀. The algorithm makes sure it shows the most relevant posts first for those whistle stop people, whilst for users who prefer a longer scrolling session, you’ll find content in and around posts you may or may not have already seen.  
 
If you’re a Social Media Manager or just interested in how the app works, we cannot stress enough that as long as you’re creating engaging, relevant and timely content, the algorithm isn’t your enemy. Our tips for creating these posts you ask… well… 
 
  • Make sure you embrace the latest features – stories and reels are a MUST! 
  • Mix up your posts – make the most of single images, carousel posts, IGTV’s, lives, reels and stories 
  • Post at the best times for your business – either when your greatest number of followers are active OR when your brand is most relevant for them. (Find this by clicking the 3 lines and clicking insights
  • Create a hashtag strategy – TOP TIP: look at your competitors and see what they are using, this is your best start 
  • Track what’s working – there’s no point in putting in the work not knowing what the results are… right? Take the time to dig into your analytics either through the app or through a third-party platform.