How Do Social Media Algorithms Work?

It’s estimated that of the 4 billion (ish) Internet users worldwide, around 3 billion are active on at least one social network. The numbers really are remarkable, amounting to the single biggest consumer audience the world has ever known.

Competition across all social networks is ferocious, irrespective of niche.  Whatever it is you do, you’ll be up against many thousands of others competing for the same traffic.

In order to get ahead on any popular platform, you ned to find a way to stand out and make your voice heard. Precisely where social media algorithms come into play, which single-handedly dictate where the lion’s share of all SM traffic is directed.

What Are Social Media Algorithms?

Social media algorithms are effectively mathematical rules that determine who sees what on their feed. They’re responsible for the posts, pictures and published content you see when you log into your account, along with the recommendations provided when you search for something.

They work in a similar way to major search engines like Google, though are active constantly to provide you with a continuous feed of information of relevance to your interests.

Interestingly, all social media algorithms work in a different way. They exist for the same basic purpose, but go about things somewhat differently to their counterparts.

For example:

1. Facebook’s Algorithm

Facebook is all about showcasing the kinds of posts that elicit an emotional response and generate hype. With Facebook, you always see posts from your friends and family first, followed by promotional stuff later on. This can be overcome by businesses who use paid ads, from which Facebook generates a small fortune every hour of every day.

2. Instagram’s Algorithm

The algorithm used by Instagram is extremely sophisticated, taking into account user preferences and behaviour for a more holistic overview of what its users want. Comments and likes in particular play a big role in determining who sees what on Instagram.

3. Twitter’s Algorithm

With Twitter, it’s all about cutting-edge content that’s fresh and relevant that very moment. Publishing time and relevancy to users’ interests are the two most important factors, due to the split-second ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ nature of Twitter as a platform in general.

4. LinkedIn’s Algorithm

Meanwhile LinkedIn doesn’t place particularly heavy emphasis on promotional content or on whatever your friends and family are saying at the time. Its algorithm prioritises establishing connections and generating engagement, which is why you’ll often see posts and recommended content from people who aren’t even in your network at the time.

5. YouTube’s Algorithm

With YouTube, you’re basically looking at a search engine that’s identical in many ways to Google. All recommendations and suggestions are based on past searches and your viewing history, along with the popularity of the content available and how recently it was uploaded.

6. Generate Engagement

Nothing matters more to any social media algorithm than engagement. All signs of engagement are guaranteed to work in your favour - examples of which include likes, shares, downloads, retweets, comments and so on. Engagement indicates content that is worth checking out and therefore worth promoting.

7. Engage with Others

The same is also true in reverse, as engagement is reciprocal in nature. To be picked out and promoted by your preferred social network, you need to be as actively engaged as possible with your target audience. Embrace the ‘social’ side of social media and focus on two-way communication.

8. Post Timings & Frequency

Social media algorithms never look kindly on publishers who fail to publish on a regular basis. In addition, it’s also important to time your publishing in accordance with when your target audience is most active. This will ensure maximum engagement and exposure for your posts, while satisfying one of the basic requirements of the social algorithms.

9. Publish More Video

One major similarity across all platforms is the popularity of video content.  This is something social media providers are more than aware of, which is why entertaining, educational and engaging video clips are showcased prominently. A mix of media types is the best way to go, but ensure there’s a decent scattering of videos in the mix to make sure your content stands out.

10. Minimal Direct Promotion

Generally speaking, the vast majority of consumer audiences are turned off by content that is purely promotional. People simply don’t go to social media with the aim of having mass marketing messages thrown their way. Therefore, the hard sell should be avoided at all costs in the content you publish. Subtle marketing messages are one thing, but overly promotional content is best avoided.

11. Cross-Promote Your Content

If you publish content across several different social channels, ensure you cross-promote your posts accordingly. This can be great for generating engagement and bringing new followers aboard - both of which are factors considered by social media algorithms. The more interest and engagement your posts generate, the more prominently they’ll be showcased in return.

12. Track, Measure and Improve

Last but not least, there is no such thing as a perfect social media marketing strategy. There is always room for improvement, which is why you need to be constantly monitoring your campaign’s performance. Use analytics to find out what’s working, what could stand to be improved and what needs eliminating entirely. Determine which types of posts are having the desired effect and publish more of them.