How Social Media Algorithms Impact Your Digital Presence
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When you unlock your cell phone and scroll through your favorite social media apps, you are likely to notice those social media apps are starting to look a little … similar.
As social media mega companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have evolved, they’ve started to borrow product ideas from each other in the hope of building an all-in-one experience. Although these apps are beginning to show great similarity, the algorithm behind each platform is truly unique.
What is a platform algorithm, why are they here?
Algorithms are certainly becoming gatekeepers that consumers have grown to love, while brands have found them to be a pain. Prior to social media algorithms, posts on social platforms were created equally and the only factor to seeing a post was when it was posted. Every post had the same chance of getting in front of followers regardless of company size.
However, as the number of accounts on each platform began to grow, what once seemed like a few vehicles on a popular digital content expressway turned into rush hour on a congested two-lane highway. To help traffic flow, social platforms began implementing strategic formulas of code to utilize information dedicated to pages and content you have interacted with. Through these formulas (algorithm), users are now fed content that the social platforms have deemed “relevant” to your lifestyle.
Why does each platform have a unique algorithm?
On social media, users tend to over share personal content that holds little relevance to the general population. Each algorithm uses unique engagement factors (Facebook Reactions, Twitter RTs, Instagram’s saved feature, etc.) to leverage their unique forms of engagement to help lift meaningful content above less relevant content.
How do algorithms help consumers?
If each algorithm works to its potential, consumers are fed content tailored specifically to them. Based upon on how they have reacted to past content, each platform is able to evangelize which content is most meaningful to its audience.
How do algorithms work?
When a piece of content is published on a social platform, it is shown to a small group of your followers. From there, the platform in which you posted will try to mathematically analyze the engagement the content is receiving, and will receive in the future.
When Facebook first released the reaction button feature, many were left curious to know how this would affect the algorithm. Would certain buttons carry more clout than others, if it all? And was the introduction of reactions a way to further decide which content should be shared with an individual?
(Image Source: Facebook Brand Resource Center)
Tips to leverage and understand algorithms:
1.) Understand that high quality content can be seen at any time
Since all popular social platforms have algorithms built into their content distribution, thinking you need to post at a certain time everyday isn’t as critical. The timing of responding to comments and engagement is important in the essence that higher response times can help nurture relationships and show platforms that you are an active contributor. Each social platform is finding ways to show tailored content when you return to the app.
For example: When scrolling through the Twitter app, your scrolling will cross the “in case you missed it” section of tweets where the accounts you engage with most will appear.
Instagram stories also shows a similar dynamic by showing content from engaging accounts first, instead of timing.
2.) Keep an eye on the destination URLs you are linking to
Platforms have started to track which URLs you are linking to in your call to action. To avoid any potential algorithm hazards for repetition, be sure to direct links to different pages on your site.
3.) Take advantage of new platform features
The purpose of social media posting is to take advantage of engagements with followers. As new features are introduced, higher quality of content production and guest experience soon follow. It is crucial to experiment with new features within social platforms. In the past, utilizing features can result in boosted placement within the algorithm. When Instagram rolled out the ability to share a carousel of content, brands were given the ability to share more content and further enhance potential experience in a streamlined fashion.
For example: Properties looking to expand the awareness of their onsite dining restaurants were previously forced to create multiple posts which often resulted in an inconsistent post. Thanks to the carousel feature, properties can create a post highlighting their outlets while sharing multiple images within one post. Users who view the post are being served more content in less posting.
4.) Create content that consumers will react to
Not too long ago, Facebook introduced the reaction tool bar. What seemed like a clever way to show your reaction to a piece of content has become a new factor within the algorithm. Facebook has been secretly tracking user reactions to content and tailoring each newsfeed to accommodate content that will further enhance your experience. Have you noticed that pieces of content you react to negatively don’t seem to enter your newsfeed? That’s because Facebook wants to bring more positive engagement.
Please note: If you react negatively to a piece of content, and comment, Facebook is likely to share similar topics. This strategy is not to make your experience less positive, but instead encourage further engagement on the platform.
Meaning: Reactions alone can affect your newsfeed. Reactions + Comments will be given a boost in awareness and likely will appear more frequently.
5.) Do not ask for engagement
We have all seen contests that ask you to share a piece of content and comment on the page. Facebook and Twitter have acquired AI startups to target accounts that ask users to share or comment. Every algorithm has been built with a series of punishing consequences for soliciting engagement. If you would like to encourage follower engagement, be sure to create copy that asks a meaningful question and does not clearly note a sweepstakes or contest.
Digital Services is dedicated to better understanding social algorithms as platforms evolve. We are excited to learn more about how each platform leverages your favorite pieces of content, and are excited to share these lessons with you in the future.