Understanding social media algorithms is one of the most difficult jobs for any social media marketer. Social media platforms are constantly evolving their algorithms to ensure they are displaying the content that matters most to their users. Unfortunately, each platform has a different definition of “what matters most” and this is being constantly updated too to ensure they are promoting the best content, making it a hard task to stay up to date with all of the changes.
Below is an overview of the current state of the top social media platforms and some top tips to help you understand how their algorithms work.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it will be changing its News Feed algorithm to place greater emphasis on content from friends, family, and groups. This, therefore, reduced the number of posts users will see from brands, businesses, and media outlets. The idea around this change was to promote content that encourages “meaningful interactions” from users.
But what exactly are meaningful interactions?
Facebook has moved away from trying to get users to spend as much time on the platform as possible – it is now all about spending quality time on Facebook. But how does Facebook define “quality” time? The new algorithm focuses on active interactions such as commenting and sharing content over passive interactions including likes and clicks. The thought behind this is these actions require more effort from the user and are of higher quality making them more meaningful.
Top tip: Focus on producing content that will start conversations with your followers. Comments have been listed as the top ranking factor under the new Facebook algorithm so focusing on producing content that will spark conversation will help boost engagement and reach.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter’s timeline is not fully algorithmic with a focus on promoting content in real time. Twitter’s timeline is made up of three key areas:
1. Ranked tweets
2. “In case you missed it”
3. Remaining tweets
Ranked tweets and tweets within the “in case you missed it” section appear at the top of your timeline and are tweets that are deemed to be more relevant to you. Each time you visit Twitter the algorithm studies tweets from the accounts you follow and ranks them on relevance. This is based on a variety of factors including the amount of engagement the tweet has received, who has tweeted it and your relationship with them, and previous tweets you’ve engaged with. Ranked tweets appear at the top of your timeline along with tweets that Twitter feels you will be most interested in. The “in case you missed it” section does exactly what it says on the tin: it includes older posts that you might not see in the traditional time. Again this section is made up of tweets that Twitter believes are relevant to you. Finally, you’ll see the rest of the tweets from the accounts you follow in a reverse chronological order – like the ‘old’ Twitter timeline.
Top tip: Engagement has a huge impact on the Twitter timeline algorithm, similar to Facebook. The more engagement a post receives, the higher the chance it will appear in your followers ranked tweets or in case you missed it section.
Like Facebook, Instagram has moved away from a chronological feed and now puts a large focus on engagement including likes, comments, video views etc. Instagram rewards posts that receive a high amount of engagement as these are perceived to be high quality, engaging content. In addition to this, it is believed the Instagram algorithm also focuses on how you engage with other people’s posts or comments on your own posts. Similarly to Facebook, the comments section should be seen as a place to start a conversation, and conversations are a two-way, so it’s important to take time to reply.
In addition to engagement on posts, Instagram Stories also play a huge role in the Instagram algorithm. Instagram Stories have been extremely successful since their implementation now gaining over 300 million daily users. Therefore, it’s not surprising to find out that Story engagement also affects the Instagram algorithm – the more someone engages with your Stories, the more likely your posts are to appear in their feed. Features like polls or “swipe up” are quick and easy ways to get your followers to engage with your Story which ultimately will increase the chance of your posts appearing in their feed.
Top tips: Ultimately the key to Instagram is engagement, the more people engage with your posts the more likely it is to appear in other users’ feeds. However, it’s believed that Instagram is going to be moving back towards showing new posts first – this is something to keep an eye on in the future.
Keeping up with the changes
Social media platforms are constantly tweaking and changing their algorithms to make sure their users are seeing the content they are most interested in. Therefore, it is important to stay up to date with all of these changes to ensure your posts are being seen by your followers to help boost engagement, otherwise, your whole social media strategy will be a waste of time.