How to master social media algorithms
When you join a social media platform and begin to follow friends or businesses, it’s natural to assume that they will show up in your main feed when they post. However, this is not true. All platforms are ruled by a social media algorithm that determines what you see and what you don’t see in your main feed.
The challenge for business owners is how to make their posts rise to the top of the feed.
If there’s no guarantee that the people who follow you will see your content, how can you use the social media algorithm to ensure that your content has a higher chance of being seen?
This article will discuss:
Related: Which social media platform is best for my business?
What’s the purpose of an algorithm?
In the early days of the first social networks — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — there wasn’t as much of a need to manage the content on those platforms. The amount of content being uploaded to these platforms was not nearly as much as it is today.
Meta now has 7.2 billion active monthly users across its four biggest platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and What’s App.
Every day, people around the world watch 1 billion hours of video on YouTube, and every minute, 500 hours of video are uploaded to the platform.
The number of people accessing these platforms, and the amount of content on them, is pretty overwhelming.
So, in order to better serve their users, social media networks have algorithms.
All social media algorithms are proprietary and extremely secret, and many are tweaked on an almost daily basis.
In addition, each social platform has its own unique algorithm, so there’s no way of knowing for sure how each specifically works.
But we do know some general facts about social media algorithms. As a business owner, understanding this can really help you to create the right kind of content so that it performs well.
How social media algorithms work
There are a number of factors that get fed into the algorithm and ultimately determine what appears in your feed at any given moment.
Even before there were formal social media algorithms, time has always been a determining factor in what you see and what you don’t see in your social media feeds.
Simply put, if you are on the app when someone is posting to that app, there’s a better chance that you’ll see their content.
If someone posts early in the morning, and you don’t check till later that day or night, there’s less of a chance you’ll see their post. All day long your friends have been posting as well, and the original post will be pushed down in the feed.
How many people you follow and how often you open your feed
If you only follow 100 people, there’s a better chance you’ll see more of their content. If you follow 1,000 or 5,000 people, there’s less of a chance you’ll see as many of those individual posts, as there’s more competition for space.
Additionally, if you spend a long time on the app, you’ll see more content, whereas if you only spend a few minutes on there, you’ll see less.
Types of content you respond to
On any social platform, the algorithm will make note of what kind of content you engage with. By engage, I mean anything you:
- Comment on
- Click on
The algorithm also notices which videos you watch through to the end.
With social media, we mostly consume it passively, scrolling the feed. But if we stop long enough to like or comment on something, that means it’s important to us in some way. The algorithm will attempt to show us more of that person’s content.
Keywords, hashtags, AI
Many social media algorithms use artificial intelligence (AI) to determine what the subject of the post is.
For example, on Instagram, if I Like a photo of my friend’s new puppy, it may, in the future, serve me more photos of puppies.
Keywords and hashtags in the descriptions help with this as well, as it tells the algorithm what the subject of the post is.
Weighting different types of content
If the platform accepts different types of content — like Facebook where you can post photos, links, videos or text only — certain types of content will carry more weight and perform better in the algorithm than others.
As we’ll discuss in the next section, what’s popular changes over time so you’ll need to adapt your approach as tastes change.
Note that if the platform only has one type of content — such as YouTube and TikTok, which are video only platforms — this doesn’t apply.
How to make social media algorithms work for you
And now for the million-dollar question: how do you get your posts, videos and infographics in front of more people?
1. Create the kind of content for each platform that’s performing the best
So, for example, on Facebook, native video, which is video uploaded to that platform rather than a link to another, performs the best right now.
On Instagram, it’s Reels (Instagram’s version of TikTok).
This changes over time, so you’ll need to keep in touch with the trends on the social networks you use most.
2. Keep engagement in mind
All algorithms thrive on interaction. The more clicks, likes and shares your content gets, the better it will perform.
For example, give them two options and ask which one they prefer. Ask them for advice or ask them to help out with a problem.
The key here is to get them to respond, thereby increasing the number of times your content is shown.
3. Post when your followers are most active
For most, posting in the morning before work (7-9 am) or in the evening (8-10 pm) are the best times to post.
But check your analytics for the specific best time of day for you to post, then use a social media scheduling platform to make sure your content goes live at that time. You can do this easily through Go Daddy’s Digital Marketing Suite.
Related: How to build a social content calendar
4. Pay to play
If you have done your best and are still being kept out by the algorithm, boost your posts or purchase an ad to get more reach for a piece of content.
This can get expensive fast so it’s best to start small, with a single time-limited test ad. Once you hit on something that works, you can extend the time you pay for the ad.
Hey algorithm — over here!
While the users themselves have a lot to do with what they see and don’t see in their main feeds, you can work with the algorithm and obtain the maximum possible free reach for your posts.
All it takes is a little knowledge.
Just be sure to:
- Post at the time of the day when your users are most active
- Focus on the type of content that performs best on each application
- Create posts people can’t help but respond to
If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way!
Image by: Ryan Stone on Unsplash