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An Introduction to Social Media Algorithms

TMC Strategic Communications

Wondering why your social media posts aren’t gaining as much traction as you’d hoped for?

Want to know why only 100 people out of your 10,000 followers have seen your post?

With the ever-evolving world of social media, comes the constantly updated world of social media algorithms.

Posting on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram simply isn’t as ‘easy’ as it used to be a few years ago.

Take a step back in time. Both Instagram and Facebook would show posts by users and pages in chronological order on timelines. Now you will find that they show the most ‘relevant’ information first.

It’s similar to the way that Search Engines show users search results. Google, for example, will tailor search results to each user based on sites and interests they have engaged with previously

Firstly, what are social media algorithms?

An algorithm is a formula or set of steps for solving a particular problem.

In the world of social media, the ‘particular problem’ can be the oversaturation of users. All battling to get in front of the same audience.

How does a social media algorithm work?

An algorithm is a combination of metrics, some of which will always remain a mystery. In the case of social media algorithms, these are predominantly tailored to suit the user experience; serving content that the algorithm deems the most relevant.

The Example: Facebook Algorithms.

Facebook is one of the most tricky social media algorithms to master. But also one we can gather the most insight around.

Years of improvements and data have led it to where it stands today.

Each time you publish a post, the algorithm first takes a look at the ‘inventory’. Checking out all the pages you follow and the types of stories your friend’s post gauges a clearer view of your interests.

Next, there is a consideration of ‘signals’. This is based on a range of data, which makes an informed decision about how much interest you may have in a story, as well as the time of day the story is published.

Other signals that Facebook, for example, takes into account are factors such as:

  • Frequency of post from the user/page
  • Previous engagement on a story
  • Average time a person usually spends on their content
  • Type of post (image, video, link)

After the algorithm takes a look at the Inventory and the Signals. It can then form a prediction of how likely you are to react to the content. Whether it is a share, like or comment, the probability of you engaging with the content influences the likeliness that you’ll see it.

After analysing the above, Facebook will then give your content a relevance score. The higher the score, the more likely it is that it will be shown in your Facebook newsfeed.

How do you optimise your content for the Facebook Algorithm?

As with every social network, there is a great deal of trial and error involved in getting (and maintaining) the best reach and engagement.

  • Post content that is shareable, positive and sociable – after all, this is social media
  • Ensure that all content is in line with Facebook’s Terms and Conditions and doesn’t mislead users.

Most importantly, be authentic with your Facebook updates. Provide content of value to your target audience.

Think quality of engagement, over quantity of views.

Of course, Facebook is just one example…

Each social platform has its own ways of working. There are varying degrees of insight into each algorithm.

Don’t be disheartened if you do not forge the immediate results you desire. Keep your business purpose in mind at all times, and set long-term goals to work towards.

If your organic social media posts are not performing well, allocate a set amount of your marketing budget to paid social media adverts to reach new, relevant audiences. This tactic can work particularly well if you’re looking for further reach on specific campaign led activities.

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