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The Ins and Outs of Social Media Algorithm in 2024

21/02/ 2024   |   USource Team  |   Digital Marketing

As you scroll through your social media feeds, algorithms silently curate the content you see, prioritizing posts based on factors such as relevance, engagement, and user activity. This personalized approach ensures that each user’s feed is unique, reflecting their individual tastes and preferences.

Social media marketing has become an indispensable part of every brand’s overall marketing strategy. This involves understanding and harnessing the power of social media algorithms to maximize online presence, engagement, and reach.

What is a social media algorithm?

An algorithm is a series of logical steps designed to achieve a specific outcome or perform a particular computation. They are used to solve problems, analyze and process data, and help in making decisions.

Social media algorithms work the same way. Platforms use a sophisticated system of rules and calculations to organize and present content to users in their feeds. Simply put, social media algorithms help users find content they’re interested in more quickly.

Social media algorithms are anchored on various factors such as relevance, engagement, and user behavior to determine which content makes it to the user’s feed, and the order in which they see it. These algorithms produce unique outcomes as a result, depending on the user’s preferences, behavior, and interests. This is the reason why it is unlikely that users, despite following the same accounts, will see the same posts.

Social media algorithms are incredibly powerful tools for brands. They have the ability to shape user experiences by influencing the content they encounter and interact with on the platform. This ultimately—subconsciously or not—impacts their choices and perspectives.

Why is social media algorithm important for brands?

When done right, social media algorithms can help brands maximize their online presence and engagement. You want your post to fit the content the algorithm for a specific user is looking for.

Visibility and exposure: Understanding how the algorithm works can help you ensure your content is seen. When the algorithm prioritizes a brand’s content, it effectively pushes it to the forefront of users’ feeds, increasing the likelihood of engagement and interaction. This means a stronger digital presence for your brand and a higher brand awareness among potential customers—the crucial first step towards conversion.

Enhanced reach: As users come across and engage with your content, the algorithm takes note of their preferences and behaviors, and throws a wider net to connect your posts to users with similar interests. This creates a snowball effect that expands your brand’s reach organically. You now have access to new audiences and can possibly cultivate a loyal following within their niches.

Targeted engagement: Social media algorithms are designed to deliver personalized content tailored to individual users’ interests and preferences. When you align your content strategy with the algorithm’s parameters, you can deliver highly relevant and engaging content to your brand’s audience segments. In other words, it comes off as you creating content specifically for your users, which deepens your connection with them and drives higher levels of engagement, including likes, comments, shares, and ultimately conversions.

Optimized performance: Continuous monitoring and analysis of social media algorithms allow brands to fit and re-fit their content strategy depending on the situation. By tracking your brand’s key metrics such as engagement rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, you can see what resonates with your audience and adjust your content accordingly. This is a constant cycle of experimentation and refinement, which allows brands to stay agile and responsive to evolving consumer preferences and changes in the algorithmic processes.

In other words, brands can turn to social media algorithms to help them stay afloat in the vast digital landscape. Understanding how social media platforms select posts that appear on user feeds can help brands position themselves for sustained growth and success.

How to improve your brand’s reach using social media algorithms

Improving your brand’s reach through social media algorithms involves several strategic approaches aimed at maximizing visibility and engagement. Here’s how you can effectively leverage social media algorithms to expand your brand’s reach:

Post relevant, high-quality content: Creating and sharing content that resonates with your target audience is essential for algorithmic success. Focus on producing high-quality, informative, and engaging content that adds value to your audience’s lives. By delivering relevant content consistently, you increase the likelihood of capturing users’ attention and prompting algorithmic favorability.

Avoid clickbait: While clickbait may initially attract attention, it can ultimately harm your brand’s credibility and diminish algorithmic performance. Instead of resorting to sensationalized headlines or misleading tactics, prioritize transparency and authenticity in your content. Genuine engagement is more likely to result in sustained algorithmic support and positive user interactions.

Understand the trends: Stay informed about current trends and topics relevant to your industry and target audience. By aligning your content with trending themes, hashtags, and conversations, you can increase its visibility and relevance within the algorithm. Monitoring trends also allows you to adapt your content strategy quickly, ensuring it remains timely and engaging.

Know the best times to post: Timing plays a crucial role in maximizing the impact of your social media content. Analyze your audience’s behavior patterns and identify the optimal times to publish posts for maximum visibility and engagement. By scheduling your posts strategically, you can increase the likelihood of reaching your audience when they’re most active and receptive.

Encourage engagement: Actively encourage your audience to engage with your content by inviting comments, likes, shares, and saves. Engagement signals such as these are key indicators of content quality and relevance to the algorithm. Prompting meaningful interactions fosters a sense of community around your brand and strengthens its relationship with your audience.

Prioritize videos: Video content, particularly short-form videos like Reels, has become increasingly favored by social media algorithms. Incorporate video content into your strategy to capitalize on this trend and enhance your brand’s visibility. Whether it’s behind-the-scenes footage, product demonstrations, or entertaining clips, prioritize video content to captivate your audience and boost algorithmic performance.

Facebook Algorithm

Meta is the world’s largest social networking platform; Facebook alone has 3.05 billion monthly users.

In recent years, Meta has grown reliant on artificial intelligence to determine the content that appears on user feeds. This shift towards AI-driven algorithms has revolutionized the way content is organized and presented to users, shaping their online experiences in profound ways.

Generally, the algorithm decides which content gets displayed on Facebook feeds using three steps: Inventory, Predictions, and Relevance.

Inventory: Facebook gathers Posts from the user’s friends and content from pages and groups they’re following. It’ll also recommend content based on the user’s previous activity.

They will also be showing relevant ads. Create highly targeted ad campaigns to ensure your content reaches users who are most likely to be interested in their products or services. Use Facebook’s detailed targeting capabilities as a guide to get maximum relevance and engagement.

Predictions: Facebook uses thousands of signals—that is, who posted the content, what time they interacted with the post, and how often they interacted with this kind of content. It uses those signals and the user’s past activity and behavior to predict what each user wants to see.

Relevance: Each piece of content is scored based on relevance. This scoring system evaluates factors such as the content’s topic, engagement levels, and user interactions to determine its relevance to individual users. The higher the score, the higher it ranks on a user’s Feed, increasing its visibility and likelihood of engagement.

Have your content stay relevant by having them align with current events, trends, and conversations happening within your brand’s industry or niche.

X Algorithm

X, formerly known as Twitter, is renowned for its microblogging platform, where users can share short, 280-character messages known as tweets. It is widely recognized as a real-time communication platform that facilitates direct communication between users, public figures, organizations, and businesses. The platform has an estimated 528.3 million monetizable monthly active users.

X’s social media algorithm uses three steps to determine what posts make it to each user’s feed: candidate sourcing, ranking, and applying heuristics and filters.

Candidate sourcing: The algorithm selects 1500 of the best posts, 50% of which are from the people you follow (In-Network) and 50% are from the people you don’t follow (Out-of-Network).

When it comes to selecting posts from Out-of-Network, the algorithm decides what posts are relevant to you depending on the posts the people you follow engage with. Essentially, it asks who has liked similar posts to you, and what else they recently liked.

X also uses embedding spaces. The idea behind this feature is that users and their posts belong to a certain community anchored by a group of influential users. For example, a community of Western pop enthusiasts belong to a circle tied together by Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Beyonce. A space for football fans, on the other hand, may have the Manchester United account, Lionel Messi, and Neymar at their center.

If a post has a lot of engagement from a certain community, the post will become more associated with that community. Tailor your content to your target community’s interests, demographics, or industry affiliations to increase your brand’s visibility.

Ranking each post: Now that the algorithm has the best 1500 posts, each post is then scored based on a neural network. This network takes into account thousands of features to come up with ten labels, each of which represents the probability of an engagement.

Applying heuristics and filters: This step is a process of elimination of sorts. While it works to ensure a fair balance between In-Network and Out-of-Network posts, the algorithm also lessens:

  • Posts from accounts you block or mute
  • Consecutive posts from a single author
  • Posts that you provide negative feedback for
  • Posts that none of the people you follow engage with

That said, make sure to deliver valuable content to minimize the likelihood of receiving negative feedback. Avoid posting multiple similar posts in quick succession and vary your content formats, topics, and posting times. You’ll also want to encourage engagement from your followers—sometimes, it’s as simple as asking them to like, comment, and share.

Instagram Algorithm

This platform under Meta primarily focuses on visual content, particularly photos and videos. Instagram became a hit thanks to its user-friendly interface and features which allow users to share moments from their lives and express themselves creatively. It has also become synonymous with influencer culture, where individuals and brands leverage their presence on the platform to reach and engage with large audiences. Its features include Stories, Reels, and Explore, which gives users a variety of ways to create, share, and discover content.

Instagram has an estimated 2.4 billion monthly active users. It ranks posts based on:

User activity: What are the posts the user has previously engaged with—that is, what have they liked, shared, saved, or commented on? The algorithm considers those posts and sends similar content and posts from similar accounts.

As a general rule, you’ll want to put out visually appealing and engaging content to encourage users to interact and engage with your posts.

The post’s popularity: How many people have liked the post? How quickly are people liking, commenting, sharing and saving it? When was it posted? From where was it posted? The algorithm considers these factors when recommending content to a user.

Who posted it: Instagram recommends posts based on how interesting the account might be to the user, as well as how many times other users have interacted with that account in recent weeks.

Consider collaborating with ambassadors, influencers, and industry experts to promote your brand on Instagram. Posts from well-known accounts are more likely to be seen and engaged with by a larger audience, which leads to an increased likelihood of your content being circulated by the algorithm.

LinkedIn Algorithm

LinkedIn is known as the world’s largest professional networking platform, with well over a billion users globally. Aside from letting users create professional profiles that showcase their work experience, skills, and accomplishments, LinkedIn offers a range of features and tools for businesses, including company pages, advertising solutions, and sales and marketing tools.

LinkedIn is also a content publishing platform. Users can share articles, updates, and insights related to their industry or profession, positioning themselves as thought leaders and experts in their field. How does its algorithm work?

Post goes through the spam filter: LinkedIn categorizes content into three categories: spam, low-quality, or high-quality.

The algorithm deems a post to be spam if it has poor grammar, multiple links, multiple tags, more than ten hashtags, or has been posted along with multiple other posts within 3 hours. Spam posts may either be flagged by users or by the algorithm itself to stop it from circulating.

Low-quality posts are posts that are too hard to read, tag people unlikely to respond or interact, or talk about topics that are too broad to be interesting. While these posts may still make its rounds around the platform, it’s unlikely to reach a wide audience.

The algorithm prioritizes high quality posts, which are easy to read, encourages engagement, uses strong keywords, uses three or fewer hashtags, and keeps outbound links in the comments. These posts demonstrate expertise and will likely enjoy a wider reach.

Checking of individual expertise: Your professional background can influence how the algorithm evaluates and ranks your content. For example, if you post about the financial industry, LinkedIn will assume you have the appropriate level of expertise and experience in finance.

Brands should position themselves as thought leaders and experts in their industry by sharing valuable insights, tips, and advice related to their niche. By publishing content that demonstrates expertise and provides value to their audience, brands can attract followers and increase visibility on the platform.

Testing post engagement: Known as the “golden hour”, the algorithm at this stage distributes the post to a small subset of your following for an hour. If that group of people engage with the post, the algorithm will push it to more people. If they don’t, the algorithm will not share it further.

To ensure engagement from the get-go, ask thought-provoking questions, solicit feedback, and foster discussions with your audience. Don’t stop there, either—brands should also respond promptly to comments and messages to further encourage engagement and build relationships with their audience.

Ranking signals: Some of the factors the algorithm considers in selecting posts that appear on user feeds include personal connections, the post’s relevance or possible interest the user has in its contents, and the probability the user will engage with the post.

Meaningful engagement: The algorithm prioritizes posts where users leave comments beyond the usual “congrats” or “agreed”. However, it does double-check if these comments come from random people, or from users in a community related to your post. If it does not meet either of these criteria, the post may be marked as spam.

If the content is marked as spam or ignored by a relevant audience, LinkedIn will stop sharing your post to them. But if it resonates with new audiences, the algorithm will keep the post in rotation.

Newer updates to LinkedIn’s algorithm will have it focus more on posts that share valuable insights, strengthening connections between first-degree connections, and creating a more meaningful and professional environment on the platform. It will prioritize content grounded in knowledge or advice over humblebrags and personal updates from unknown connections.

As social media evolves, so do their algorithms. Brands must remain agile and adaptable by keeping an eye on trends, key metrics, and the preferences and behaviors of their audiences. By adjusting their strategies accordingly, brands can maintain a strong online presence and nurture loyalty among their followers, ultimately positioning themselves for sustained growth and success in the digital space