Shafqat M. is the professional content writer who has been helming digital marketing projects for the last 5 years.
Algorithm Definition - Find Answer to your Questions What's an Algorithm, How Algorithms Work, and More
Given its rising importance in digital marketing, attention has steadily been shifting towards social media algorithms. And all sorts of questions are being asked from it: how do algorithms work, what does algorithm mean, how social algorithms work.
We don't want our readers to jump straight into the subject at hand, which by the way is being tackled sumptuously in the article, but give a little bit of space where we can freely acquaint ourselves with few basics of algorithms in general and social media algorithms in particular.
Speaking about the post's structure, we will cover algorithm meaning where by way of algorithmic definition, we will explain how it works. Once you know how algorithms work, we will next try to understand social media algorithms. For that, we will take algorithm examples of different social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and more, and try to figure out, for example, how algorithms work on YouTube.
We will answer such questions as to when was social media invented; explain how social media works. The motive is to help you reach more people on social media and give your content that you publish as part of your social media marketing the widest possible reach and visibility across social media platforms.
Algorithm Meaning - What's an Algorithm?
Before we even try to overcome social media algorithms, we need to know the algorithmic definition. So, let's explain the algorithm!
Algorithm Definition: An algorithm is a finite series of instructions, which are well-defined and computer-implementable, to solve a problem, or a class of problems, or to perform a computation.
Algorithm Meaning: Therefore, an Algorithm is a set of rules that solve a problem. These rules, or computational instructions, lay down a step-by-step execution plan or framework for the work to be done in order to get the anticipated or intended outcome.
Simply put, you've Input and you've Output and in-between the two is your Algorithm, which turns your input into the desired output.
Algorithm Example - Explaining How it Works!
What Does Algorithm Mean - Some Defining Characteristics of an Algorithm!
Still wondering what does algorithm mean? These characteristics will better explain algorithm to you if it's not already understood!
- Algorithms are a clear and unambiguous set of instructions
- Algorithms have well-defined inputs and outputs
- Algorithms are simple and practical, hence feasible
- Algorithms are language-independent (output remains the same irrespective of the input language)
- Algorithms are finite, with definite input and output
How Do Algorithms Work?
So, how algorithms work has been shown above with the help of algorithm example, showing how at one end we've input and another end output, with a set of instructions in between. And it kind of begins to make sense of how does social media work.
Think of social media marketing as a game, and social media algorithm its rule-book. To win over social algorithms demands that you play within the purview of its rules, the social media algorithms 2020.
Some marketers have developed a good rapport with social media algorithms. Others find algorithms enigmatic puzzles. A hard nut to crack! And that's their meaning of social algorithms.
The businesses trying to win the game of social media marketing regard algorithms with aversion. For a simple reason of dragging their content down! it's simply because they're not well versed with network algorithms. Or marketing algorithms seem too enigmatic to them to be understood!
Algorithms seem largely beneficial to the average social marketer because they understand the uses of algorithms. Harmless as ever, algorithms are meant to lift your content up and deliver “relevant” content, not random posts, the users of social media, and this is how social media does work.
However, marketers who've failed to discern how do social media algorithms work struggle to deal with social algorithms. But if you befriend social algorithms there remains nothing for you to worry about. They're not something to be detested; they are there to be mastered!
This blog aims to do that by helping marketers understand social media algorithms and how to feature in more social media feeds by hitching a ride with social algorithms.
Global Social Media Users
Social media is a marketing goldmine and to reap its benefits, one needs to strike a cord with social media algorithms.
Recently, I came across research by Statista on global social media users.
Its report projects social media users to touch staggering 3.43 billion by 2023, from 2.95 billion in 2019.
As such, social media offers businesses a marketplace of enormous proportions with an audience base running into billions of users.
As of 2020, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc has the following number of monthly active users:
Global Social Networks Ranked by Number of Monthly Active Users 2020
|Social Network||Users in Millions|
Which is the Most Popular Social Media Platform Worldwide? - Social Media Algorithms
The first social platform to reach 1 billion registered users was Facebook. Facebook currently has 2.6 billion active users monthly.
Facebook as its core platform, the company also owns WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger, each with over 1 billion monthly active users.
How Many People Use Social Media? How to Rise Above Social Media Algorithms?
Social media is not barred by language, political, geographical, or economic borders. At present, the number of people using social media is 3.6 billion users.
As mobile devices increasingly become popular, the number of social media users are expected to grow.
Are Algorithms Helpful to Marketers? Why Do Social Media Algorithms Irritate Marketers?
Certainly, social media is the perfect place to promote your business using social media marketing (SMM) but what irritates marketers dealing with SMM is social media algorithms.
Social media algorithms update frequently. Each update disturbs the social media ranking of business's ads and contents.
How Does Social Media Work?
The standard algorithm meaning is that it is a set of rules (mathematical) prescribing how a function is carried out.
Therefore, what does an algorithm mean is that it is a mathematical instruction/s assisting social networking sites in ranking search results and advertisements on their platforms.
The order in which algorithms on YouTube display the content and distribute it to the user's feeds remains the algorithm's prerogative. From being the purveyor of information to maintaining order in which to relay posts on social media platforms, algorithms do it all. That pretty much explains how social media works and how algorithms remain a necessary cog in the wheel!
It's algorithms that maintain, manage, and monitor accounts of over 3 billion= social media users, and also position, validate, and sequester plethora of social media content on various networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Of course, no one can claim that they can discern the underlying, subtle workings of social algorithms. But multitudes of dalliances with algorithms have divulged enough information to help us outmaneuver social media algorithms in our favor and help us win over algorithms when it comes to social media marketing for our businesses.
Moreover, over the years algorithms have evolved into smart creatures that take user-friendliness into account while ranking content. An incitement, therefore, for businesses to share engaging, high-quality, and relevant content with their customers.
Based on Relevancy, Social Algorithms Sort Users Posts in Social Media Feed
Simply put, social media algorithms are computational programs that perform the function of sorting posts in the feeds of users. Priority is given to the relevancy of the content, not its publish time.
The probability that the user would want to see the content determines its position in the users' social media feed. If probability points towards 'likely yes', the content will make it to the user feed, otherwise not.
The reverse chronological method of sorting posts - where new posts automatically showed up first in the social media feed - is long gone by.
Today, social media algorithms take multiple factors, including the behaviour, into account before delivering content to the user.
You can see the manifestation of it on Facebook or Twitter, where friends and family's posts dominate your feed for the most part since you interact with them more frequently.
Video recommendations on YouTube, again point to the same phenomenon, the individual behaviour. Moreover, #tags, categories, and keywords also come into play in recommending videos.
A Brief Introduction to the Types of Social Media Algorithms
Each social media network functions differently than the other. All have their audiences with set traits and behaviours. You too are asked to behave a certain way befitting the network you're working on.
Eric Butow, et al, authors of Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing shed further light on behavioural conformity the social networks entail. In their opinion, social networks resemble "social constructs" in the manner in which they function.
Let's quote Eric Butow, et al, here where they talk about social networks and social constructs:
Social networking websites are much like any other human social constructs - each website requires different behaviours and has different expectations of its participants. Visiting each social network can be like being in a different country. People on Facebook will expect you to behave very differently from people on LinkedIn.
— Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing
Authored by Eric Butow, Mike Allton, Jenn Herman, Stephanie Liu, Amanda Robinson, this book touches on every aspect of social media marketing in a fairly detailed manner, as it is over 376 pages long.
Published by Entrepreneur Press on August 18, 2020, here are a few reasons as to why read Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing:
- Explains why social media marketing is a must for businesses
- Offers deep insights into today's most popular social networks, such as Facebook and YouTube and comments on emerging platforms too
- Teaches how to craft a robust social media strategy utilizing today's formats
- Illustrates the use of images and videos, and teaches how to incorporate them to improve your social media outreach
- Offers a detailed overview of influencer marketing, chatbots, and paid social media
- Enables you to form a result-oriented social marketing team for your business
- Proposes key suggestions on assessing social media outreach and improving its performance.]
Now, let's get back to the topic.
It's, but clear, therefore, social media algorithms must also be differing from one site to another.
Depending upon social networking sites used for social media marketing, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, we've got various types of social media algorithms.
Here’s a glance at major social media platforms and how their algorithms are ranking content.
Undoubtedly, the most popular of all social networks, the Facebook algorithm is designed to give customer engagement clear precedence over the clutter of content.
You may have a bulk of content on Facebook but to its algorithm, it's just a heap of trash if it doesn't lead to a meaningful customer engagement.
Posts by friends and families bag greater importance for obvious reasons of viewership, instead of business posts.
Same holds for paid content also, where customer engagement and relevance determine its ranking in the users' feed. Simply put, your success on Facebook is tied to the usefulness of your content and how user-friendly it is.
The Facebook algorithm also has a unique feature of spam management. Its incorporation back in 2018 into the Facebook algorithm, led to the removal of half a billion false accounts.
Though quite different from other social platforms, Pinterest still qualifies as the one. Pinterest differs not only in follower strategy but also in its general layout.
The Pinterest algorithm puts up with the user's interactions with the content in the past to make the guided search method on its platform relevant to the user.
In other words, your previous search for wedding hairstyles, for example, has Pinterest showing you more hairstyles at the time of your next login to your account.
So it goes without saying that Pinterest algorithm indexes the content on its platform by user interest, to ensure content marketed to the user is consumed.
LinkedIn is a sophisticated, formal and business-driven social networking site.
A top platform for B2B marketing, LinkedIn differs starkly from other platforms for it's a platform primarily for networking.
LinkedIn users, who happen to be mostly professionals, build networks, not followers. And finds Fortune 500 companies as its prominent and frequent users.
Connection and engagement are two parameters LinkedIn algorithm weighs the most to rank the content on its platform. Therefore, you can have a fair amount of success on LinkedIn with content which is relevant, read-worthy and valuable.
On Twitter, apart from the relevancy of the content, what else matters in ranking your posts on Twitter is the time and date of its publication.
Hence, quite often than not, new posts rank higher and garner maximum attention. So, characteristically, Twitter is trends-driven.
Comments also help your content rank well. If your Tweet manages to get sufficient comments, it will rank higher.
Instagram is more of a culture and glamour-driven platform. As a result, popular contents win it all and sweep Instagram rankings.
However, that's not all! Instagram algorithm cares as much for popularity as for the relevancy and engagement of the content.
And likes, comments, shares, also work wonders with Instagram algorithm if your content manages to get plenty of those.
In-Depth Analysis: How Do Social Media Algorithms Work?
Let's discern how algorithms of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc. work. Key insights drawn will help you understand the workings of various social media sites better and will help you master social media marketing (SMM).
Now and then, we're drawn to asking this question (as social media marketers):
How do social media algorithms work?
Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR - a digital marketing agency he co-founded in 2003 with Jamie O’Donnell, and is now its president - provides key insights on the subject in his article, How Do Social Media Algorithms Work? published in Search Engine Journal.
Note-worthy is his elucidation of the term, “parallax” view, and his attempt to contrast through this term attitudes of marketers and influencers towards social media networking sites.
The marketer's attitude is distinguished by their hunt for influencers on those platforms only that have an enormous reach.
Starkly contrasting is the attitude of influencers who evaluate social media platforms not based on their reach but based on opportunities, both in terms of money and audience, those platforms offer.
Going by their line of thinking, we've got for influencer marketing the following top 5 social networking sites:
|Social Media Platform||Percentage|
Though Facebook tops the charts in terms of reach it lags significantly when viewed from the perspective of influencers.
While marketers stand by the reach of their "campaign’s outputs", influencers win big by focusing instead on the growth of their "program’s outcomes".
Therefore, whether you want to discern the workings of Instagram or YouTube algorithms, to help propel your videos to even more people.
Learning how influencers do it may just open doors to new strategic insights for marketers to benefit from.
And will make it easier for you to understand how social media algorithms work because that will prove to be a key to your mastering of social media marketing.
How the Instagram Algorithm Works
The Instagram algorithm uses a plethora of ranking signals for sorting and ranking of posts.
The Instagram algorithm has a mechanism to consider the recency, relevance, and engagement of posts for ranking purposes, and it doesn't apply the reverse-chronological feed method anywhere in the process.
Here's what Instagram has to say about the ranking mechanism of its algorithm:
Instagram’s technology uses different ways, or signals, to determine the order of posts in your feed. These signals are used to help determine how your feed is ordered and may include:
Likelihood you’ll be interested in the content.
Date the post was shared.
Previous interactions with the person posting.
— Instagram Help Center
From this, it becomes clear that the emphasis is on the relevance of the content.
For Instagram success, the first thing to focus on is RELEVANCE.
The Instagram algorithm is so wired to give priority to the relevance of posts, not its reach.
After all, if Instagram users aren't interested in your content because it's not relevant to them in any manner – Instagram algorithm won't be interested in it either.
Therefore, to win the social media marketing game on Instagram calls for the content created, either by you or an influencer, to be relevant to the target audience.
For Instagram success, what your content also needs to possess is RECENCY.
The more recent a post, the greater its chances of ranking higher in users' feed on Instagram.
The best way to maintain the recency and freshness is creating a series of posts and sharing the same on an ongoing, continuous basis.
Apart from Relevance and Recency, what else you need to achieve success on Instagram is RESONANCE.
What measures the degree of resonance of your posts is the level of engagement it generates. Levels of engagement in terms of likes, comments, shares, re-shares, and of course, views.
In other words, how engaging your post is or what reactions it prompts, defines its (post's) resonance.
Instagram Marketing Key Points: EMV (Earned Media Value) isn't the right metric for measuring brand awareness.
What happens mostly is that marketers citing EMV metrics claim that their influencers' campaigns have boosted their brand awareness.
However, there are various other, more legit strategies to evaluate the success of an influencer marketing campaign and measuring its impactful-ness.
They include brand awareness, brand favorability, brand frequency, brand emotions, brand familiarity, brand preference, brand demand, last but not least, purchase consideration.
As a marketer, you should be able to sequester fake from real, bot from a human. Otherwise, far too many marketers fall in the deception of fake influencer reach, peddling posts to fake followers who happen to be bots, and employing various tricks to exaggerate their numbers.
How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work?
You may also want to learn how YouTube’s algorithm works and what insights we can have on its working from an influencer's viewpoint.
Let's hear from YouTube itself how its YouTube algorithm works:
The goals of YouTube’s search and discovery system are twofold: to help viewers find the videos they want to watch, and to maximize long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction.
— YouTube Help
From this what stands out or can be inferred is that the deliverability of topics matters when creating video content for YouTube.
So, undoubtedly YouTube influencers have a challenge at hand, where they have to forge a balance between their creative prowess and discretion, but also at the same time, creating discoverable content on topics of viewers' interest.
There's no dearth of videos on YouTube. All subjects imaginable are covered. Viewers don't have a pre-planned playlist of videos on their mind when surfing YouTube.
And as such, they don't even come to YouTube to watch a particular influencer’s video. They just happen to discover a video because it ranks fairly well in YouTube's suggested videos and search results.
YouTube Marketing Tips: Whether you're an influencer or marketer, what matters in YouTube marketing is audiences' interests.
Knowing what your target audience is looking for is a marketing imperative to succeed on YouTube. And using Google Trends can prove very helpful in getting insights into audiences' preferences, interests, and of course, what exactly they're looking for on the world's largest and most popular streaming platform, YouTube.
How to use Google Trends for YouTube search?
The default search settings for Google Trends is "web search", which confuses many users as it loads trending web search results only.
But you can tweak it to view users' interest in a topic or search term you propose to create a YouTube video on.
*Google Trends is a Google tool for marketing. You may want to know what other free marketing tools Google offers, check out my previous article:
So, for assessing the “web search” interest, over some time, in a topic or search term you choose for your next YouTube video, there's no better tool to use than Google Trends.
How do you use it for YouTube search?
It's a simple process. Just follow these steps:
- Go to the “web search” tab.
- Click on it.
- A drop-down menu will show.
- Inside the menu, you will see other options.
- Select “YouTube search” interest.
From what you see on Google Trends, as a YouTube influencer or marketer, you can get countless ideas to devise well-informed content strategies.
Look, getting a preview of search interest is a tricky business and one with the maximum impact on your YouTube marketing strategy.
Take, for instance, Fashion and Beauty, the two topics seem to share the same interest from the surface, but when further delved into the topics on Google Trends, we happen to be utterly wrong!
YouTube search interest in beauty turns out to be 31% more than in fashion, worldwide.
Simply put, YouTube search interest can render your content strategies as accurate and precise as possible, and help you optimize video metadata more precisely.
Whether it be metadata for titles, descriptions or tags, Google Trends come handy.
Yet, most of the marketers turn a blind eye to Google Trends or overlook its capability to uncover topics and search terms of maximum interest.
Instead of ignoring it, if they resort to it, they can easily come across YouTube topics relevant to their business. Not only that but also to identify YouTube influencers whose content is ranking higher for those topic keywords and phrases.
As regards influencers, their channels need to have well-organised content, relevant playlists to rank well on YouTube.
Let's See How TikTok Algorithm Works
Like other social media algorithms, TikTok algorithm also curates and sends recommendations of videos based on users' interest.
So that the users find content and creators of their liking on TikTok, its feed recommendation takes into account each user's interest and how likely a user might be interested in the recommended video.
According to TikTok Newsroom, TikTok algorithm considers the following factors for ranking of videos:
User Interactions - Likes, comments and shares constitute user interactions. Videos that garner a fair amount of followers, comments, likes and shares rank well on TikTok.
Video Information - Details such as hashtags, captions, and even sounds come under TikTok algorithm radar for ranking purposes.
Device and Account Settings - This includes country setting, language preference, and type of device used for TikTok video streaming.
Quoting TikTok Newsroom to understand TikTok algorithm better:
All these factors are processed by our recommendation system and weighted based on their value to a user. A strong indicator of interest, such as whether a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end, would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the video’s viewer and creator are both in the same country. Videos are then ranked to determine the likelihood of a user’s interest in a piece of content, and delivered to each unique For You feed.
— TikTok Newsroom
On the news front, Walmart, Microsoft, Oracle bidding on TikTok ascertains TikTok's popularity and its potential as one of the major platforms for social media marketing.
After winning the bid for TikTok’s U.S. operations, Oracle joins the race for social media dominance. Though the competition is stern this time, with YouTube launching its YouTube Shorts, and Facebook following the suite with Instagram Reels.
How Does Twitter’s Algorithm Work?
During the initial stages of Twitter, immediately after its launch in the year 2006, Twitter's preferred ranking method was reverse chronological order.
In simple words, the more recent tweets were given top position on Twitter's timeline.
However, over the years, the Twitter algorithm has become much smarter and considers different factors to rank and display tweets.
Here's how the Twitter algorithm works:
Right after gathering all Tweets, each is scored by a relevance model. The model’s score predicts how interesting and engaging a Tweet would be specific to you. A set of highest-scoring Tweets is then shown at the top of your timeline, with the remainder shown directly below.
— Nicolas Koumchatzky and Anton Andreyev
So, what Twitter does, it doesn't only show tweets that users have a certain amount of liking for, but it also has in store the second module of tweets, previously missed, but certainly of interest to its users.
How Does Facebook’s Algorithm Work?
The biggest and most disruptive update to the Facebook algorithm was rolled out in 2018, January. Its announcement made by Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, himself, the change aimed to promote social interactions on the social networking site.
This is what he had to say about the about ranking of content by Facebook's algorithm:
I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content ... meaningful social interactions. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.
— Mark Zuckerberg
So, depending on the number of likes, shares, comments posts manage to garner, will determine its rankings appear in News Feed.
Moreover, if posts incite a flurry of meaningful interactions and conversations on Facebook, such posts procure higher priority, as such, rank higher.
That also entails that posts that users are interested in, or are likely to interact with, will show often in users' feed. Posts from friends and family fall in this category of high priority posts.
Since the reaction to these posts is due from your part, that's the reason for its higher rankings in the feed. Though good for the general users of Facebook, this change in the indexing method implemented by Facebook means business and brand posts are downgraded, left languishing in the deep trenches of Facebook's data centres.
Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear why Facebook is at the bottom of the list of top platforms for influencer marketing. Since there aren't any significant opportunities for influencers to make money and grow on Facebook, they leave it alone.
But a significant number of marketers don't seem to have an inkling of the matter, as of yet! They continue to post images, videos, write-ups on Facebook even though very few occasionally share, comment on or like these posts. Does it even reach to the target audience, is doubtful!
What's keeping marketers hooked on Facebook is unfortunately the Likes and Followers on their Facebook Pages. Unfortunate because a minuscule percentage of those followers see their posts - .0035% by estimates of Greg Jarboe.
*You may want to learn about ad targeting strategies for Facebook Ads, check out my article:
What is the Controversy Surrounding Social Media Algorithms?
Controversies aren't hard to find these days, they're in and around everything. The social media algorithms have their fill, too!
Blatantly put, algorithms play gatekeepers and pass your content on to your target audience only if some requirements, specific to each social network, are met.
Those requisites aren't necessarily quality assessments though, but parameters on which social algorithms rely while ranking users' posts. And we've discussed those parameters or criteria or signals fairly enough already.
So, marketers have a barrier of sorts in algorithms, one barring them from free access to their target audience, curtailing their reach, and holding their content, a marketing message more precisely, back! You can say they're boogeyman or a villain of sorts in the eyes of marketers.
Algorithms can severely injure the reach of business and brand posts, this has been the subject of much controversy surrounding social media algorithms.
The imperfections that creep in algorithms cause platforms such as Facebook to hide content. Which by the way is done at random, and happens to crush even those posts that are fully optimized.
The exact opposite is the YouTube phenomenon where some videos out of nowhere happen to garner millions of views only because the YouTube algorithm recommended the video to millions of random viewers.
The Problem with Social Media Algorithms
Another problem with social media algorithms that put marketers off when working with social media is the evolving nature of social media algorithms. They're evolving, constantly modernizing in their evolutionary spiral.
Good for algorithms, though! But it's marketers who've to bear all the complications arising from the continuous evolving of algorithms into smarter beings.
A major complication is that it puts marketers in the flux where they've got to adapt to the changing and evolving algorithms to reap benefits of social media marketing.
This entails marketers have to maneuvre their content strategies every time new changes are rolled out. Adapting different marketing strategies is their only way to stay relevant and in the good grace of these algorithms.
Nevertheless, social media algorithms for the most part hep content rank, and good content, of course, ranks fairly well, most of the time.
By deploying machine learning and data science techniques, social media algorithms parse data and rank posts based on criteria we've discussed above.
Shrewd marketers also perform hit-and-trial experiments with algorithms to get a better idea of what works and what doesn't.
The result of this shrewdness is that marketers have got the inkling of Instagram algorithm's cracking down on brand posts explicitly endorsing social selling.
And the same fate is in store for transaction-specific posts, which bear the brunt of Instagram's algorithm.
Top Strategies to Outsmart Social Media Algorithms
Now that you know how social media algorithms work, it's time to get acquainted with strategies to outsmart social algorithms.
Marketers have to work their way through to please social media algorithms and create content or posts of their wanting or liking.
Though no one can indeed claim to have fully discerned the way algorithms work we have learnt enough to take some concrete, actionable steps to optimize our content.
And as certainly is the case, no two social media algorithms have the same mechanism for ranking content, these algorithm-outsmarting strategies offer great results across social networking sites.
Aim for user engagement
So, how do you engage with your audience?
The best way to amass audiences' response is by asking questions in your posts. Questions garner comments, hence guarantees user engagement.
Simply put, the more users engage, that's to say like, comment, share, with your posts, there are high chances of its ranking well because social media algorithms admire user engagement the most.
Tag other brands, businesses in your posts
We've seen tags work wonders and snowball into the bigger movements on social media sites. Politicians tag celebrities to get them involved in social movements.
Businesses tag to drag each other's feet, or to troll one another, or to participate in friendly banter.
Tagging can be fun but a useful strategy to outmanoeuvre social media algorithms. Tagging inspires the account tagged to engage with your content, and most certainly, to share it.
But make sure not to get your tagging posts moderated as engagement bait, it has to be real and used occasionally for giveaways or promotions.
Use hashtags related to your posts
Hashtags serve two purposes, a) making the content searchable and, b) extending its reach.
Adding right hashtags help social media algorithms assign a category to your posts, and propels your posts to more users' feed interested in that particular tag. As a result, increases the reach of your posts manifold.
Publish frequently to be an "active" participant
Being on social media isn't the same as being an active participant. Whether you're publishing to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, doesn't matter.
Being an "active" participant on that platform is a basic requirement to get visibility and traffic to your content.
And the best way to become an active participant is by publishing frequently, not once in a while. Social media algorithms grace generously the active users publishing frequently and your aim should be to win over the algorithm's trust.
You can also use a publishing calendar that streamlines your content publishing across the social media platforms. Additionally, it will help you post regularly without a miss.
Publish video content directly to each social media network
Social media algorithms have a fondness for native video content. Videos published directly to a platform, say, Facebook, carries more weight than videos posted through an external link.
These videos can be anything from mini-commercials to background tours of your business. Or videos of chefs preparing customers' favourite dishes!
All social networking sites encourage brands and businesses to publish more video content on their platforms.
*You may want to learn more about video marketing, check out my article:
Be wary of spammy links
While sharing links helps drive traffic to your website, but don't spam your posts by sharing too many, or too exclusively, links on your social media accounts.
Social media algorithms are fundamentally averse to just posting links, and moderates such behaviour as spammy.
However, that doesn't mean link posting is prohibited by social algorithms, just that an adequately substantiated context, or a running commentary, needs to accompany your links.
Similarly, you should also be wary of using terms such as "BUY NOW" too often, lest your content reach is curtailed.
Here's what else you can do to outplay social media algorithms:
- Don't stick to one, but experiment with different content strategies
- Assess the performance of various types of content using analytics
- Spice up your posts with humour to keep followers’ interest always alive
- See how image-based posts perform in comparison to text-based posts
- Put the success of long-form videos up against short-form videos
- Evaluate what works best for you, content with or content without links
- Examine what results do posts with one hashtag yield in comparison to posts with multiple hashtags
- Deploy analytics tools to measure engagement rate of your posts, and also to gather data around top-performing posts
How to Profit from Social Media Algorithms
Till now, I resisted from articulating but I'll say it now, algorithms can work in your favour. Social media algorithms can be your gateway to social media success.
All that's required to profit from social media algorithms is understanding how these algorithms work. Gaining this insight gives marketers a competitive edge and helps secure better content rankings.
Social media caters to the marketing needs of businesses worldwide and helps brands reap benefits in terms of more traffic and ROI. So, by putting efforts into understanding algorithms, marketers and businesses alike can truly master social media marketing.
What Do Social Media Algorithms Mean For Businesses
Businesses can take away different things from social media algorithms as regards their marketing strategies.
First of all, it should be ingrained in the business's marketing culture that user engagement matters highly when it comes to algorithms ranking your content.
Secondly, spending money to garner the attention of the target audience has become indispensable for businesses trying to leverage social media marketing.
Opting for paid advertisements on social media sites means you can reach your target audience without any fuss or clutter. At the same time, leveraging marketing expertise and data analytics may help turn your paid campaigns into high returning investments.
But as time goes by and algorithms become smarter, as said earlier, relevance, recency and resonance, the three attributes of content, will continue to be your sure shot at winning the game of social media marketing.
Tips to Optimize your Content for any Social Media Platform
1. Create Short Videos
The video content is a hot favourite right now among consumers. Creating and publishing short videos to social networking sites can stimulate qualified leads by 66% and promote brand engagement.
Why short videos?
Short videos are easier to consume even when a user is short on time or is just sifting through his social media feed. Not to mention that short videos are less expensive to create and publish to social networking sites.
You may also want to engage your followers and Facebook's live stream is the best way to do so through a live video. Those who miss out can catch up later with your video as it remains available for viewing after the live session is over.
In the process, you get real metrics to implement in your future video marketing strategy.
2. Create Engaging Content
Content needs to evoke user interaction for it to rank well with social media algorithms. User interaction is usually measured in terms of likes, comments, shares your content receives.
And content can be engaging and interactive only if it resonates with your target audience. Publishing such content boosts ranking and features more frequently in users' feed.
Brand loyalty is also tied to engaging content. And you can cement it further if you publish more interactive content regularly.
Especially see to it that you diversify the content by posting:
- Polls and quizzes
- Live interviews
- Company Q&A
- Photo captioning contests
3. Humanize your Brand
As humans, we're emotional beings and yearn for humour to keep us motivated. Touching the emotional and humorous cords give your brand a humanistic touch.
See to it, therefore, that you post funny memes whenever the occasion is just right and your audience can afford a ROFL moment.
The same goes for an emotional video, just try to evoke the right kind of emotions. A brand cannot be humanized better by any other way.
Such kinds of posts give your brand its viral moments as they generate more likes, comments, and shares.
4. Share User-Generated Content
Another tricky way to optimise your content for social media is re-posting or sharing content created by other users on social media.
User-Generated Content can be anything: a meme, a video, a photo, even a screenshot, it just needs to be captivating.
How exactly does it help your cause?
Well, I guess it's not hard to figure that out! What happens when you share the content of another user is that it catches the attention of the original creator, or in more favourable case, the attention of the creator's followers who then engage with the post.
So basically, you ride on the popularity of the post to further your efforts of improving the brand awareness. Along with it, your content, too, soon catches up.
However, the whole thing has to be done respectfully by giving the original creator due credit and not distorting his/her content in an unethical manner.
5. Reply to Customers' Comments
Nothing complex about this, it's a simple strategy that yields great results. After this strategy is implemented, you will revel in the fact to have won customer loyalty.
So, every time users comment on your posts, see to it that a timely reply is given most courteously. And try to drag the conversation further.
However, there's another way to start conversations on social media, comment on consumers' posts. Like and share their posts, of course, posts should have some sort of relevance to your business.
So, keep interacting with your customers, it will help popularise your content as customers return the favour of comments.
6. Share News Articles
Impress upon your followers that you care by sharing news articles. Keeping up with the latest news in your industry establishes your brand authority.
Your social media followers just may want to seek more of it if they find news articles helpful to them in some way or is relevant to their interests.
7. Offer a Sneak-Peek into your Business
Businesses are not just about things. There are real people involved who produce those things. For example, your customers may want to know more about the chef whose delicacies they like the most.
Offer a short kitchen tour to show them how their favourite dish is prepared. All of this helps humanize your business. And it's the best way to introduce your staff to your followers.
Setting a day for staffers to post their content, offering an insider's view of the office or a workplace tour, also serves to grab the attention of your followers.
A remarkable and disruptive function, which social media algorithms perform is offering relevant content to users. From outside, it looks like a very basic function that algorithms perform, but is it so?
Just by looking at how social media algorithms work, it becomes clear that complex and sophisticated technologies of machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science go into lending algorithms a penetrating smartness.
Drawing from an array of factors, social media algorithms index and rank content, or posts, by taking into account certain parameters, some comprehensible, some beyond an average marketers comprehension.
Nevertheless, social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, aren't always tight-lipped on their algorithm's content ranking mechanisms. They always spill a few beans here and there, and I've managed to gather them together in this article.
Facebook after updating its algorithm recently asked its users to prioritise these points to stay relevant and continue to rank higher:
- Pay more attention to generating meaningful conversations on social media than involving in all-out transactions.
- The engagement baiting irks social media algorithms, hence should be avoided.
- Priority should be given to publishing original native video content.
How marketers can utilise social media algorithms in their favour?
There are two ways to deal with social media algorithms: one is to consider them a hurdle and second is working through them to turn them in your favour.
The second way is a practical and prudent approach than the first one. And makes sense too because algorithms can't be overlooked. Any attempt to circumvent social media algorithms will make your business suffer.
Learning to work with algorithms is a much better and rewarding strategy. Because once marketers understand how social media algorithms work, they're better equipped to a) optimize their content, b) render their marketing campaigns more effective, and c) grab the top position in user's feed.
You can achieve all of this by creating content to the satisfaction of social media algorithms. And creating such content means understanding algorithms and their ranking mechanism and their criteria for ranking posts.
Some Interesting Things you may want to know about Social Media
Social Media Timeline
Bolt, first-ever social networking and video website created, it remained active from 1996-2007.
Six Degrees, a social networking site, launched, users created profiles to connect with others by making ‘friends’.
ICQ, acquired by AOL, re-launched as Instant Messenger service.
LiveJournal launched as the first-ever blogging platform.
Habbo, a game-based social networking platform, launched.
Friendster created, allowed users to create profiles, connect, and share content.
LinkedIn launched as a business-centred social networking site for professionals.
Most popular social networking site, Facebook launched.
Important Statistics on Social Media Users
- Worldwide, an average person spends 2 hours 24 minutes or 144 minutes per day on social networking sites
- At an average life expectancy of 70, an average person will spend 5.7 years of his/her entire life on social media, assuming he/she starts using it from 16+ of age
- On yearly basis, the global average is 36.5 days a year, assuming 16+ the age an average person gets on social media
- Social media users of Philippines 3H 53M a day networking on social sites, highest among the 47 countries surveyed
- Japanese users spend much less time, 45 minutes a day, the lowest in 47 countries surveyed
Average Daily Time Spent on Social Media by Countries
On average, the following countries surveyed spend this amount of Time, in terms of hours and minutes, every day on social media:
2 hours 24 minutes
2 hours 3 minutes
1 hour 49 minutes
1 hour 44 minutes
1 hour 42 minutes
When did social media start?
Launch of social networking platform Bolt in 1996 marked the beginning of social media. Six Degrees that came into being in 1997 had features where users could add friends and create profiles. Other social networking sites that were launched include:
- AOL Instant Messenger,
- Live Journal,
- Friendster, and
- Facebook, in 2004.
What is the current growth rate of social media in the US?
The US has a yearly growth rate of 3.1% (for 2019-20 time period). Already, 70% of its population are active on social media. Kicking off with just 5% of its population active on social media in 2005, it reached 50% of the US population by 2011.
How much time do people spend on social media every day, globally?
Globally, as of 2020, the average time spent on social networks is 2 hours 24 minutes per day. On the other hand, the average time spend on social media in the US is 2H 3M, less at least by 21 minutes from the global average.
This average when tallied against average life expectancy of 73 years (per WHO), it comes to 5.7 years or 2,080 days spent by an average user on social networking sites during their lifetime.
What’s the percentage of mobile vs. desktop social media usage?
Here's how users access social media sites. Social media usage by device:
exclusively mobile device (tablet or phone)
solely mobile phone
Other Key Statistics on Social Media Users
- Out of total social media users, 98.68% or roughly 3.76 billion access social networking sites using a mobile device
- 78% or around 2.97 billion social media users exclusively use a mobile phone to access networks
- Users exclusively accessing social media via desktop are 1.32% or 50 million
- Those using both desktop and mobile to access social networks include 20% or 760 million, users
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Shafqat M