The great and elusive social media algorithm! A data puzzle designed for consumers, but leaving many small businesses and marketers on a constant content hamster wheel.
You might be asking yourself: what is the algorithm? How does it work? Where am I going ‘wrong’ with my content? We’re here to answer each one of those questions and offer good news: the algorithms aren’t as mysterious and scary as you may think. You can use organic content to rise above them and show up in more people’s feeds to enhance your reputation and sales!
Social media algorithms are a way of sorting posts in a users’ feed based on relevancy instead of publish time.
Without social media algorithms, sifting through content you enjoy would be impossible. Especially for users following hundreds or thousands of accounts on a platform, so algorithms exist to do the legwork of delivering what you/your potential clients actually want, and weeding out content that’s deemed irrelevant or low-quality.
Social platforms collect lots and lots of data based on every minute of a user’s interaction with content. From watch-time to comments, shares and even microphone or search history detection (if you allow access) – the social platforms use all of this behavioral data to show users more of what it thinks they want to see/hear about.
Facebook: Facebook was a platform designed to keep up with family and friends versus having businesses lobbying for consumer attention. Therefore, Facebook algorithms prioritize meaningful conversations versus transactional content. ‘Engagement baiting’ is something the Facebook algorithm particularly hates. This is when you post with spammy, low-value content simply for interaction so you can boost engagement which will lead to more reach. Facebook wants to see native, purposeful content with a personal or homey feel to it!
Twitter: One of the most powerful pop culture tools in history… if something happens in the world, we’re likely to hear about it on Twitter first. Therefore, Twitter’s algorithm exists to suggest Topics based on current events and what it thinks someone will find worthwhile. If a user follows a Topic, then your related Tweets, events, and ads on that topic will appear in their timeline. The Topics people follow are public which makes the platform great for market research. And, users can also tell Twitter they’re not interested in a Topic, therefore making it easier for you to connect and impact your target niche when you work the algorithm to show up in feed!
Instagram: Originally a photographer’s paradise, Instagram has always been a platform for aesthetics. However, as it started to gain popularity, things changed immensely. Off the coattails of Facebook, they prioritized chronological ‘moments you care about’ – meaning friends and implied hobbies; now, the Instagram algorithm prioritizes timely, fresh posts that relate to users’ areas of interest. The more a user interacts with a certain category, spends time on the app, and engages with a specific person the more curated their feed gets for that rabbit hole. Suggested accounts, posts, and paid ads are integrated into a person’s feed based on how closely something relates to the data on their behavior.
TikTok: Off the coattails of Instagram, TikTok favors ‘the rabbit hole effect’ also. Meaning, TikTok’s algorithm is very sensitive to the type of videos someone’s watching and which niche communities they are coming from. It will then continue to suggest similar videos based on content consumption. So, if you watch 5 “DanceTok” videos in a day and then binge motivational content by Gary Vee, it’s likely that tomorrow you will primarily be served dancing and thought leadership videos only until the algorithm starts to pick up on your new interests, and then overload you with that new niche content also!
LinkedIn: While LinkedIn has a totally different vibe than most social media platforms, its algorithm works on the same basic principles with an emphasis on quality and relevancy to users. As the most professional and information-driven platform, LinkedIn sifts through and hushes content deemed spam or low-quality and boosts high-quality content. Spam and low-quality content are considered posts with poor grammar, link-heavy, and engagement bait hashtags like #comment. Whereas high-quality posts are easy to read, offer value/expertise, encourage conversation, have powerful keywords, and use minimal yet purposeful hashtags.
To ensure you aren’t part of the content that is weeded out on any of these platforms, you’ll want to experiment A LOT. See what hits home, and evolve what doesn’t to help make your content newsfeed worthy. Algorithms are mostly working for the consumers on these platforms so that they will spend more time on the app and therefore, drive up the incentive for brands to purchase ad space.
So, if you are in the stage where you are only marketing organically on social media platforms, you’ll need to have a curious mind to constantly learn what the algorithms ‘want’ and likewise, what you and your audience find compelling and important.
Integrate the above tips into your marketing strategy and if all else fails, lead with value, video, and infographics! These are the most highly shared types of content across all social platforms combined. So, if you know your stuff, don’t be afraid to share it as you play with the algorithms to get your name and business in front of more fans and customers.