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Algorithms and Social Media

  • What are social media algorithms?
  • What is the purpose of social media algorithms in marketing?
  • Social media algorithms every marketer should be aware of

Social media is a powerful instrument for communication and has significantly impacted our culture. It’s become a part of everyday activity for most people across the globe, with recent data showing more than 4.62 billion social media users worldwide in January 2022

Social Media users worldwide

According to recent data from Statista, Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp are the most used social media platforms ranked by the number of monthly users.

Facebook was the first social network to surpass one billion registered users. The platform also owns the biggest social media platforms, with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram boasting more than one billion active monthly users.

However, it’s not just established networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that are gaining traction, as new platforms such as TikTok, Twitch and Discord are gaining popularity. And brands are capitalising on their growth by advertising their products and services on these networks in hopes of engaging new audiences.

However, with so many users on these platforms and even more content circulating, it became apparent that these networks would need to update their systems to prevent users from leaving the platforms. That’s the purpose of an algorithm.


Social Media Algorithms: What are they?

Social media algorithms are a set of mathematical rules that determine how fantastic content should be displayed in user news feeds. The algorithm essentially decides where your content or ads rank and place in a user’s feed.

However, as social media algorithms are constantly updated, it can be difficult for marketers to keep abreast of changes.

While there’s no way to know how much detail goes into each update for sure, we have a comprehensive understanding of the steps needed to manoeuvre the social media landscape to generate desirable results.

We’ve broken down everything you need to know about social media algorithms, including how to optimise your content to boost its visibility in the feed.

What’s the Purpose of Social Media Algorithms?

Before social media algorithms were introduced, feeds displayed posts in reverse chronological order, with the newest posts showing up first.

However, networks thought it would be better to create algorithms to prioritise content that the user will find most valuable or engaging. For example, you might find that friends’ posts are always displayed at the top of your feed because the algorithm knows that you interact with these users’ posts more frequently.

Essentially, the purpose of an algorithm is to filter out irrelevant content, which can be a double-edged sword for marketers, especially if your posts aren’t receiving a lot of engagement or don’t fit the criteria.

Combine that with ranking signals from Google, and you could be out of your depth if you don’t follow best practices on core web vitals.

Social media platforms regularly update their algorithms to improve user experience like search engines. Maintain optimal visibility in the news feeds by ensuring your content is high-quality, relevant and engaging and keeping abreast of changes so that you can make the appropriate tweaks to your content.

5 Types of Social Media Algorithms Marketers Need to Know

Looking for tips about how to navigate a specific social media algorithm? 

Let’s delve into detail about how algorithms of popular platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, work and what you can do to ensure the algorithm favours your posts.

How the Facebook Algorithm Works

Compared to other social networks, the Facebook algorithm can feel like a mystery, causing many brands to question how to enhance their presence on the platform.

Engagement is key to the Facebook algorithm, which determines posts based on relevancy to users. To combat the algorithm, create personalised posts that promote quality content to drive real engagement and spur more authentic user interactions.

Facebook’s algorithm went through a major change in 2018 to move away from business posts and prioritise familial and friendly content. Currently, its four primary ranking signals are:

  • Popularity
  • Content-type
  • Relationship
  • Freshness

Although organic reach on social networks struggles to generate traffic, running a Facebook ad campaign is cost-effective. As a result, Facebook is a powerful tool for small and medium-sized businesses that might not have the financial resources to invest in a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign.

While paid Facebook content is ranked separately from organic content, it still revolves around the four ranking signals mentioned above. To maximise your engagement levels, brands should strive to:

  • Publish posts during times when audiences are most likely to engage with your content
  • Build connections with your followers or in groups by responding to comments and queries
  • Encourage more “weighted” engagement by asking followers to do more than like your posts
  • Drive discussions before link dropping to avoid practising engagement bait
  • Utilise the Facebook stories feature for your posts to get noticed
  • Leverage video content where possible as this is favoured by the algorithm
  • Encourage employees to engage with and promote your content to broaden the reach

Coupling your organic efforts with paid advertising will give you the best of both worlds on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your content to see what posts resonate with your audience and generate the most engagement.

How the Instagram Algorithm Works

So, we’ve discussed Facebook. Next, let’s get into how to outsmart its younger cousin, Instagram.

Like most social media platforms, Instagram initially ordered posts based on most recently published. Fast forward to 2022, and there are now six ranking signals for Instagram content, these being:

  • Interest
  • Relationship
  • Following
  • Average session time
  • Timeliness
  • User session time

Where content is concerned, carousels get three times more engagement than other posts, so don’t be afraid to utilise the platform’s new features to help boost your engagement levels.

Social Media

Irrespective of whether you’re a social media algorithm expert or a startup, one way to futureproof your brand against social updates is to create consistently high-quality content.

To achieve this, you will need to take the time to research and understand your audience, taking into account the type of content they like, their pain points, desires, preferred medium and the best time to post. We’ve written a handy guide of Instagram marketing tips that will be sure to boost your visibility in 2022.

How the TikTok Algorithm Works

TikTok is the latest social media craze and the primary network for teenagers and young people, with approximately 50% of its global audience under 34-years-old.

It’s TikTok’s highly personalised algorithm that had seen the brand take off in recent years, with the app announcing it hit 1 billion monthly active users years before predecessors Facebook, and Instagram did.

According to TikTok, it ranks content based on:

  • User interaction, e.g. viewing preferences and habits
  • Video information
  • Device and account settings which include country and language

TikTok is also unique because it doesn’t offer recommendations based on following or success to ensure that users receive the content they love, making it a powerful marketing tool for brands.

Providing you can capture the attention of your audience, how many followers you have does not matter!

How the LinkedIn Algorithm Works

LinkedIn, which bills itself as the world’s largest professional network, is a social networking platform that prioritises communication rather than building a following. LinkedIn also runs a very interesting advertising model which you can read all about here.

While there are dozens of factors LinkedIn uses to measure content, the five most significant factors are:

  • Dwell time
  • Social Selling Index (SSI)
  • Interest relevance
  • Engagement probability
  • Current connections

The algorithm aims to promote content that it deems relevant to the user, with posts from connections more likely to appear at the top of the feed.

LinkedIn Sales Solutions

Still unsure about how to survive the LinkedIn algorithm? Here are a few key tips you can follow to elevate your brand’s presence on the platform:

  • Use no more than ten hashtags in a single post
  • Avoid tagging more than five people at a time in one post
  • Publish video content as much as possible as this has become the preferred type of media
  • Don’t include multiple links in your posts
  • Encourage followers to do more than like your content
  • Build your network by engaging with other professionals in your niche and ask employees to promote your page and posts
  • Post at a time when your followers are online

Another way to futureproof your company’s LinkedIn profile against future updates and elevate your brand’s presence is to use analytics to learn more about your audience and produce higher-quality content.

How the Twitter Algorithm Works

Knowing how the Twitter algorithm works is key to helping you stand out on the platform and maximise your reach.

Twitter used to rank content in reverse chronological order, emphasising day and time rather than relevancy or quality of content. Now, Twitter’s algorithm prioritises relevance and nearly always shows users personalised recommendations.

The main ranking signals for Twitter are:

  • User activity
  • Engagement
  • Media type, e.g. GIF, photo
  • Timeliness

However, Twitter gives its users the choice to customise their timeline showings to tailor the way they want content appearing in the feed. For marketers, the key to surviving Twitter algorithms is to post relevant content consistently, taking into account the times and days your audience is active on the platform.

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