Ever wondered how social media platforms organise the content you see when you scroll through posts? That’s the algorithm doing its work.

Algorithms sift through the ocean of content and make sure users only see relevant content (mostly) rather than random posts. 

When you understand them, you can leverage the algorithms to get your posts in front of more people. If you have no understanding of algorithms, you will likely face a constant struggle to get noticed on social media

Don’t worry. Social media algorithms aren’t as mysterious as you might think. This guide will help you understand them by covering:

  • Understanding what social media algorithms are
  • How social media algorithms work
  • How to de-code and leverage these algorithms

What are social media algorithms?

A social media algorithm is a set of data and rules designed to make decisions about what users see on a platform. 

Social media sites generate unique algorithms for every user, meaning no one will have the exact same content feed. Algorithms do this by analysing your behaviour and prioritising the content based on what it thinks you want to see.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the functionalities of social media algorithms. 

How these algorithms work

Before algorithms existed, most platforms displayed posts in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest). Now, social media platforms prioritise what a user sees based on the likelihood that they want to see it. 

By default, algorithms determine which content to deliver to your feed based on your behaviour. This includes content you’ve liked, commented on, shared or searched for. 

For example, Facebook and Twitter put the accounts you interact with most often front and centre in your feed. These accounts can belong to clients, friends and family, companies you admire, and so on. 

YouTube works similarly, recommending videos to watch based on your previous activity. The algorithm digs into what you’ve watched in the past and also what other similar users watch. 

But that’s not all that plays into it. Elements like categories, hashtags, and keywords (terms you searched for) also factor into recommended content. 

How to leverage these algorithms

​​Social media algorithms might seem like roadblocks to your marketing strategy. But rather than fighting them, understanding social media algorithms means you can craft and plan posts they want to see. 

The key when optimising your posts is to find a balance between what the algorithm wants and what your audience enjoys.

It’s important to remember that no two algorithms are the same, and the rules constantly change and evolve. That said, these strategies can help you outsmart algorithms across all social media platforms.

Get people to engage with your posts

Social media algorithms measure content value partly based on engagement. Basically, the more people engage with your posts (like, share, comment), the more likely it is for the algorithm to show them to more people. 

One of the easiest ways to encourage engagement is to ask your followers questions. Ask them about interests, preferences, tips, and so on. 

Question-based questions provide an easy way to encourage interactions and connect with your audience at the same time.

Tip: Make your questions relevant to your business (new product, design, flavours, service, etc.) and use the answers to improve your business. 

Another way to spark engagement is to introduce links and promotions with a bit of context. What does that mean? 

Well, instead of simply dumping the link in your bio or on its own in a post, spice it up with some commentary or humour. Create a fun and engaging post and use the promo link as the call to action (where to go next). 

Tag others in your posts

Tagging other accounts in your posts serves as an invitation for other users to check out your content. If they like it, they’ll hopefully share it, too! 

Make sure you tag any business, brand or customer correctly, so they definitely see it. 

You could also create tag-a-friend posts where you invite followers to tag their friends and family in response to your question or comment. For example, a funny video and a caption saying “tag someone who needs a laugh today”. 

Use these types of posts sparingly, though, so the algorithms don’t treat them as engagement bait (posts that bait people to engage without providing value).

Tip: These posts are particularly effective for major promotions like giveaways. 

Use hashtags wisely

Hashtags essentially assign a category to your social media post, which helps make your content searchable. So adding a hashtag to your piece makes it more likely to appear in front of users interested in that tag. 

So how many tags should you use? 

There’s lots of debate regarding what the optimal amount of hashtags is. But generally, adding two or three hashtags is fine across all social media platforms.

Tip: Use a hashtag generator tool like Hashtagify to find trending tags that relate to your business. 

Find the optimal publishing frequency

Social media algorithms reward accounts that frequently post rather than now and then. So aim to be an active user that posts valuable content regularly. 

The best way to find the optimal publishing frequency is to create a content calendar that outlines when to post on each platform. You can use a free social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite plan, schedule, and post your content.

Tip: You can also cross-publish content that provides value on different platforms. This way, you can squeeze more out of your content creation efforts. 

See also: How to manage multiple social media accounts for business.

Mix it up with different media

These days, social media algorithms also reward native video content, meaning videos published on that platform and not an external link. Any type of video is fair game, whether it’s a five-second loop or a mini-advertisement. 

Mixing it up with videos and other types of media keeps followers on their toes and helps you stay in the algorithms’ good graces. 

For example, you can try:

  • Mixing image-based posts with text-based ones. 
  • Alternating long and short videos.
  • Adding links to some posts, but not all. 
  • Using one hashtag for some posts and several tags for others.

Understanding social media algorithms to find success

Algorithms are here to stay whether you like them or not. So understanding social media algorithms and how they work is key to growing your social media presence long-term. 

It’s worth noting that learning how to leverage these algorithms takes time and dedication. Algorithms also change over time, so make sure you check back regularly to stay up to date. 

By implementing the methods in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to pleasing the algorithms –– and your followers. 

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