What’s In an Algorithm?

Sep 2017

Long gone are the days when social media posts arrived in chronological order. In 2009, Facebook made its biggest update, listing posts and photos in order of popularity, rather than the time it was posted. Enter the algorithm. Since then, various other popular social media platforms have adopted this method, using their own algorithm to determine the popularity, and order, of the posts you see. But what factors does the algorithm use to determine what you see online? This is unique to each channel and ultimately can change the way you use social media to market your business.



The Facebook algorithm is perhaps the most studied and analyzed algorithm online, but is still a complex mystery we might never fully understand. Over the years, social media marketers have tested the ins and outs of the algorithm and found the key factors that Facebook uses to influence the post order. There are hundreds of factors that impact the algorithm, the main factors being the type of content, engagement on your post, relevancy of the topic, and quality of the content. Recently, Facebook has heavily valued live-streaming and video as the types of content they want users to be sharing, hence and increase in video on your timeline. The engagement on your post also determines if Facebook will show it to more of your fans or followers. Trending and popular topics are also important to Facebook, as is it something they assume their users would be interested in. The quality of the link you are sharing (fake news anyone?) can also influence your reach as Facebook works to prevent unqualified news from being shared. Facebook’s algorithm is complex, and there are no “rules” they abide by. By following these guidelines, you can expand your overall reach and play into the equation that is the algorithm.



Since being acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has slowly been transforming parts of the platform to be more like its parent company, most recently being the algorithm. Since the nature of Instagram is less complex than Facebook, so is its algorithm. There are many similarities to the Facebook algorithm, most important being engagement. The reach of your Instagram post is heavily influenced by the number of comments and likes your photo receives. Other factors include time spent on your post and who is searching for your account on the platform.



The most recent to enter the algorithm game is Twitter, a platform that so recently changed its tune you might not have event noticed a difference! Unlike the other platforms, Twitter is only partially algorithm fueled. Twitter’s concept is reliant on “real-time” posting, so introducing an algorithm needed to be a different process than Facebook’s. Still based on a timeline of reverse chronological order, Twitter slips in the occasional “popular” tweet that has been liked by another one of the accounts you follow. Not a major disruption to the feed, but you’ll still notice an occasional tweet or two out of order. Another big change? The “In Case You Missed It” section brings up the most popular tweets that have been sent out since the last time you logged on. Twitter ranks these types of tweets off of what they think you’ll be interested in, who you most often interact with, and the popularity of the tweet itself.


Algorithms are everywhere and affect more than just the content we see on social media. It’s difficult to outsmart a computer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. Getting familiar with each platform’s algorithm will give you an insight to what they value most, and can be used to craft the content you post. For a closer look at Instagram’s algorithm, check out Instagram’s best-kept secret.

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