The Brain Behind Social Media

As marketers, we can all agree that this fact is true: social media is a crucial part of any marketing strategy. A digital presence is important for your brand because it gives a sense of brand awareness as well as helps build your audience reach. But did you know that social media is more than just slapping a cool picture and description on your timeline? Algorithms are at the root of all social media outlets and therefore play the “brain” behind any social media strategy.

First Things First: What Are Social Media Algorithms? 

To put it simple, an algorithm on social media is a set of “rules” that are used to determine what and when something is being shown within a user’s social media timeline. Social media algorithms were developed by channels as a way of controlling what and when a post is shown. The main reasons for the development of these algorithms was to improve the user’s experience and to encourage brands to buy more ads. Seems reasonable right?

Well, when there were no algorithms, social media was a level playing field where the only thing that really mattered was the time that you posted. A timeline/feed used to be chronological which meant that posts were shown in reverse order (the most recent at the top) so if you posted an update close to a time when a user was online, it would be seen, making it easier for your post to get noticed. With new algorithms in place, there are many more factors that are taken into consideration than just time; from both user behavior and how a user might interact with a specific status, through to how other users have reacted to this status and what is trending at that particular moment in time. Due to this, there has to be a more detailed social media strategy set in place to get the attention that your business craves.

Overwhelming right? How could you possibly know how each platform algorithm works? Let me help you out. The following are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram’s most current algorithms explained. You’re welcome.

Facebook

Facebook brought its latest algorithm update on August 2013. The overall aim of the new algorithm was for posts that people most likely wanted to see, to be in the order they want to read them in. The algorithm responds to your activity and generates your News Feed into an order by the following criteria:

  • How frequently you interact with the friend, page, or public figure
  • The amount of activity the post generates; number of likes, shares and comments from your friends in particular
  • The number of times you have interacted with this type of post previously
  • The type of post (i.e. video, image, status, text, link) – video posts are said to still rank more highly than other types of statuses.

Twitter

Twitter’s new algorithm went live in February 2016 which made the tweets you most likely want to see show up first in your timeline. The algorithm responds to your activity and generates your News Feed into an order by the following criteria:

  • Tweets are chosen based off the accounts that you interact with quite often
  • How often you engage with the tweets that these users share
  • Note: This is a default setting but Twitter provides their users with the option to “turn-off” these settings and return to the original algorithm

Instagram

In March 2016, Instagram announced their new algorithm in order to show their 600 million monthly active users the posts that they are more likely to care about higher up in their feed (much like Twitter). The logic behind this algorithm was due to the fact that Instagram users missed around 70% of their feed, so the fast-growing social media platform believed that this algorithm would improve user experience. Instagram’s latest algorithm responds to your activity and generates your News Feed into an order by the following criteria:

  • How interested you are supposed to be in the content of the post
  • The relationship you have with the person posting and the time of the post.

Algorithms Are Important

It is important to be aware that social media algorithms differ by platform and are adapting all of the time. As user numbers grow, big fish like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram’s algorithms will grow and update with them. If you are looking to achieve results in social media marketing, there is no doubt that you have to stay alert and on top of the algorithm game.