How Social Media Algorithms Work and 10 Ways to Outsmart Them

How Social Media Algorithms Work and 10 Ways to Outsmart Them

20 July 2021

7 minutes read

How Social Media Algorithms Work and 10 Ways to Outsmart Them

If you have a business operating in the digital space, you already know the importance of having a social media presence. Posting to your channels and hoping for the best is simply not enough if you want your content to be seen by the right audience. Understanding what social media algorithms are and how to outsmart them is a vital step in getting ahead of your competition and giving your engagement that extra boost.

 

So, if you’re ready to kick the competition to the curb and increase brand awareness then keep reading. Yes? Let’s go.

 

What are social media algorithms and how do they work?

 

Social media algorithms are automated mathematics applied to a range of data to prioritise and arrange content on a user’s feed based on previous engagement, behaviours, the similarity of other accounts followed and relevance of the brand’s post. It’s like little pieces of a scientific puzzle that the social networks fit together for the audience.

 

A girl holding a pink social media like symbol

 

Remember the days of content appearing chronologically in a feed? Not anymore! The platforms only deliver content that they think the audience wants to see instead of random posts. It’s great for the audience, but it’s much trickier if you’re trying to market your brand.

 

Every social network has a separate set of requirements and will perform different results. For example, Facebook did a huge push to make their users exposed to less spam from business accounts. The social platform has decided to go back to the essence of their business – connecting people. So, if you’re a business trying to relentlessly push your promotional content, chances are your organic reach is going to be exceptionally low.

 

It’s important to familiarise yourself with what each platform requires so it can be taken into consideration when creating your marketing strategy and campaigns.

 

But, why?

 

The fight for your spot on social media is vast. Let’s start by putting it into perspective with some numbers.

 

  • Facebook has 6 billion daily active users who spend an average of 58 minutes on the platform.
  • YouTube has 500 billion video views each day and 300 hours’ worth of videos are uploaded every minute.
  • On average, Instagram has 95 million photos uploaded every day with approximately 4.2 billion likes per day.
  • Twitter has 460 thousand new accounts registered daily.
  • LinkedIn has over 30 million company pages and over 560 million registered users.

 

With these stats, it’s easy to see why social media platforms need to sift through irrelevant, low-quality content to provide the best value for their audience.

 

Woman pointing to social media apps on her smartphone

 

Social media algorithms are designed to create the best user experience to encourage extended periods spent on the platform. The secret? Feed the audience engaging, pertinent content that sticks and stops them in their scrolling tracks. The catch for a business? They prioritise paid content over organic content. The networks want to make money too, which is why they encourage brands to pay to have their posts seen and to help with their social media algorithm.

 

Don’t worry, there are ways to outsmart the algorithms without having to fork out thousands of pounds from your profit. Let’s dive in.

 

How to outsmart them

 

If you can’t beat them, join them, right? Here are our top 10 ways to do so.

 

1. Frequency and optimal posting times

 

Find out when your audience is the most active online and post your killer content then. This will help your organic content to be seen and interacted with. You can find this information easily on the insights tab on your business profile.

 

If you’re still unsure, here is an overview of the optimal days and times to post on each platform according to global engagement:

 

  • Facebook: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 09:00 – 13:00

A screenshot of SproutSocial website showing Facebooks global engagement to outsmart social media algorithms

  • Instagram: Monday to Friday 11:00
  • Twitter: Wednesday 09:00 – 15:00
  • LinkedIn: Tuesday to Thursday 09:00 – 12:00

For a more detailed look at optimal times according to industry, read this article by SproutSocial.

 

There is also a fine line between being engaging and annoying. Take into consideration the frequency of your posts so that the user doesn’t end up unfollowing your account or not posting often enough for your content to be seen.

 

Here is a guideline for how often you should be posting across the different channels:

 

  • Facebook: Once a day with a minimum of three times a week.
  • Instagram: Once a day.
  • LinkedIn: Once a day, Monday to Friday.
  • Twitter: 3 to 5 times per day.
  • TikTok: 3 times per day.
  • Pinterest: 3 to 5 pins per day.
  • YouTube: Once a week.

 

2. Drive discussion

 

Community management is incredibly important when it comes to social media algorithms. Driving discussions around your content encourages interaction from the audience. Ask thought-provoking questions, post responsive surveys and polls and always respond to comments.

 

A female influencer driving discussion to help with social media algorithms

 

The more interaction your content receives, the higher the chances of it being favoured by the algorithms and landing in front of the right crowd.

 

3. Don’t engagement bait

 

Social media platforms want to build authentic engagement, which is why they have started punishing brands who seek engagement before discussion. When you engagement bait, it is seen as a bad business practice and makes your page appear like spam or misleading. This results in the networks demoting your content and results in your reach decreasing significantly.

 

4. Change it up

 

Change up your content to avoid it becoming boring and repetitive. Don’t be scared to recycle high-performing content either and make sure to include user-generated content to help you be more relatable to the audience to drive connection and interaction.

 

A female influencer in a pink jersey taking a selfie on a yellow background

 

Experiment with different content formats to keep your content fresh and the algorithms wanting more. This brings us to our next point.

 

5. Don’t forget about video!

 

Video content is king, and the channels favour it. So, make sure you include it into your content calendar to stay ahead of the algorithms.

 

In recent weeks, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has said that due to the success of their competitors, Instagram will no longer consider itself a photo-sharing app and are making changes to favour more entertainment and video content.

 

A camera and clapperboard on a light background

 

The reason for this? It drives higher engagement, starts conversations and is more shareable compared to any other content. That is why platforms like TikTok have grown tremendously in recent years and have taken the top position as the most downloaded app for the first half of 2021.

 

6. If there’s a new feature, use it!

 

This is probably the most important tip when it comes to outsmarting social media algorithms. There’s a reason why the platform has introduced a feature, so quite simply, use it! The platforms will naturally favour content that is making use of its new feature as a way of self-promotion to encourage others to do the same.

 

7. Involve your employees

 

Encourage your employees to push your content. The more people sharing content, the better and broader the reach. This also leads to an increase in interactions, generates leads and improves brand awareness.

 

A women dressed in red looking at her laptop reading about social proof

 

8. Don’t navigate away

 

As mentioned previously, the goal of the networks is to keep their audience on the platform for extended periods of time. So, make sure that not every piece of content you’re producing has a call-to-action that navigates away from the platform. The algorithms will prioritise high-quality, engaging content over links if it keeps the user glued to their news feed.

 

9. Engage with other brands

 

Engaging with other brands’ pages is a fantastic way to gain a larger reach. It puts you in front of a potential new audience and is an excellent way to increase brand awareness. The more you use the platforms as a place to interact instead of just promoting your products or service, the more the algorithms will work in your favour and let your content be seen.

 

10. Hashtags

 

Make sure you have done some hashtag research for your content to always remain searchable, seen, and relevant. Use the right number of hashtags for each platform and be careful not to overdo it. Including too many hashtags in your copy flags your content as spam and will result in incredibly low organic reach.

 

A pink hashtag used for social media algorithms

 

Make sure to use a mixture of high, medium and low performing hashtags so that you’re not constantly fighting for a spot on the user’s feed.

 

Here is our advice on the optimal number of hashtags to use for each platform to beat the algorithm:

  • Facebook: Two to four. Search for popular hashtags in the search bar.
  • Instagram: Five to ten. Don’t put your hashtags in a separate comment. Make sure they are included in the caption to draw attention to it.
  • Twitter: Two to three. Make yourself familiar with trending hashtags.
  • LinkedIn: Two to three. Keep the hashtags professional.
  • YouTube: Two to three. Never use more than fifteen. YouTube will flag your account as spam.
  • Pinterest: Two to five. Think of Pinterest as a search engine. Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your content.

 

If you’re spending countless hours on crafting content but not considering the algorithms, you might as well kiss your social media strategy goodbye. Listen to what the network wants from you in exchange for high-performing, engaging content. Knowing how algorithms work and how to outsmart them is the only way you can boost your social media growth and use your channels as a powerful lead magnet.

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