All you need to know about social media algorithms
All you need to know about social media algorithms 6

Oh, social media algorithms

They are like little data puzzles to some marketers just waiting to be solved.

But if you are like most companies struggling to come to grips with social media, they're a kind of boogeyman. The primary "secret" that's keeping down your material.

To the average social user, algorithms may seem helpful and generally harmless, helping to sift through content and only deliver "appropriate" content rather than random messages.

Nevertheless, marketers who don't completely understand what algorithms are or how they operate will find themselves faced with a relentless battle.

The Bonne News? Social algorithms are not as obscure or awkward as you would imagine.

And what are social media algorithms ?

Let's kick off things with a description of a social media algorithm for the kitchen table.

Social networking algorithms are a way to arrange posts based on relevance in a user list, rather than publish time.

Social networks determine which content a consumer-first sees in their feed by the likelihood they would continue to view it.

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Before turning to algorithms, most social media feeds show messages in a reverse chronological order. In short, the first showing up was the newest posts from the accounts a user followed. On Twitter, this is still a choice for setting your feed to chronological order.

And what are social media algorithms
All you need to know about social media algorithms 7

By default, social media algorithms have the reins to decide which content you want to offer based on your behavior.

For example, Facebook or Twitter may place posts in your feed from your closest friends and family front-and-center, since these are the accounts you most frequently communicate with.

Odds are you recommended to watch videos on YouTube. This is again focused on your own experience, looking into what you have seen in the past and what people are doing while you are. Elements such as categories, # tags, and keywords are also factors in any given network's recommended content.

watch videos on YouTube
All you need to know about social media algorithms 8

Why are algorithms so controversial in social media?

So far, this all seems possibly straightforward. And what are the big algorithms deal, then?

Ok, due to their effect on distance, part of the reason algorithms are so controversial.

Spoiler alert: algorithms are not always elegant. Not by a lengthy shot.

There are plenty of instances of algorithms that tend to "cover" content at random on Facebook, despite being designed to a T. On the other side, after being suggested to seemingly random audiences, there's a well-documented trend in YouTube of videos rising to millions of views from nowhere.

Why are algorithms so controversial in social media
All you need to know about social media algorithms 9

Oh, and algorithms are constantly developing, trying to figure out the kinks to give the best possible user experience. Consequently, advertisers have to react to'em consistently. This means playing regularly with content and adjusting marketing strategies.

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Why do social media algorithms exist?

In social space, a lot of material is floating around.
Like, there were thousands of messages,
images, and videos published every minute.

Without social media algorithms, it would be challenging to sift all of this material on an account-by-account basis.
Particularly for users who follow hundreds or thousands of network accounts, so algorithms do the legacy of delivering what you want and weeding out content that is considered irrelevant or low quality.

What, in theory, is.

There's also the assumption that there are social media systems that force advertisers that pay social ads a premium. The idea is that if the brands are unable to reach their market organically, they will turn instead of advertising. It means, of course, more funding for social networks.

This point of view may sound pessimistic or even skeptical. Still, social marketers know that improvements will have a significant effect on how social media algorithms prioritize paid and organic content.

No matter if there are social media bots, the truth remains that they're not going anywhere. To brands, this means understanding what algorithms "like" and also what may lead to content being perceived as low-quality or irrelevant to their audiences.

How social media algorithms work?

Algorithms are both complicated and straightforward.

Yes, an algorithm has the purpose of delivering relevant content to users.

But the algorithms under the hood include machine learning and data science. They're able to parse data and rate posts based on parameters that the average marketer would probably never really grasp, quite frankly.

That said, though, algorithms aren't big question marks.

Networks are also frank on what would help rank content and be viewed on their site as being of high quality.

Take, for example, the recent improvements to Facebook's algorithm. Facebook has categorically laid down several ground rules for accounts trying to remain in the good graces of their algorithm: prioritize meaningful interactions over purchases, avoid baiting interaction, and post more native video content.

Networks are, and rightly so, generally ambiguous about the particulars of their algorithm.

But we can detect improvements to any given algorithm by experimentation and trial-and-error. Many advertisers, for example, believe the Instagram algorithm is starting to crack down on brands that are too frank about social marketing and transaction-specific messages.

It is determining how algorithms work involves both firsthand testing and listening to what the networks themselves are saying. It can be a tedious but necessary operation.

Do you know how to climb above algorithms on social media?

Love'em or hate them; there are practical algorithms to live here.

But understanding which algorithms are and how they operate is essential for the long-term growth of your social presence. Anything you can do to remain within the good graces of the algorithm for each network is a bonus.

Nonetheless, we do want to hear from you. What do you feel about the algorithms on social media? In the comments below, let's know!