Social media algorithms… it’s a love-hate relationship. Consisting mostly of hate.

For the average social media user, algorithms are helpful. They sift through content and aim to show lots of relevant content from friends and family and less of the salesy content from brands. For most businesses, they’re living hell: this almighty force that’s holding your content back from reaching its full potential.

Each social media network has its own set of technical elements, logic and analytics that make up the algorithm that delivers content to its users. The point of social media algorithms is to balance post relevance with timeliness, leaning more towards the relevance of the post. They aim to show users content in the order that they’ll actually want to see it.

Before the time of algorithms, most social media networks displayed posts in reverse chronological order (the newest posts showed up first). This is still an option on Facebook where you can customise the content you see on your news feed, managing whose posts you see at the top of your feed and who you would like to unfollow.

Facebook settings
Click on Settings & Privacy > Settings.

Facebook settings
Scroll down to News Feed Settings and click on News Feed preferences.

Facebook news feed preferences
Here you can mange your news feed preferences.

Algorithms are constantly evolving, which is why marketers have to consistently adapt to them… or try to. They’re also pretty damn intelligent as they believe if brands find it difficult to reach their audience organically, they’ll turn to ads instead, which of course means more money for the social networks!

Is there any hope or are algorithms all doom and gloom?

Social algorithms aren’t quite as mysterious or confusing as you might think.

Sometimes networks are transparent about what’ll help content rank on their platform. For example, take the recent Facebook algorithm changes. Facebook explicitly laid out some ground rules for accounts looking to stay on top of the algorithm: prioritise meaningful content over transactions, stop engagement baiting and publish more video content.

Traditionally networks are vague about the specifics of their algorithm. Despite this, through experimentation, marketers have recently started to suss them out. For example, some marketers suspect the Instagram algorithm is starting to hammer down on brands that are too heavily posting transaction-specific content.

The good news is there are achievable steps marketers can take to optimise their posts! The key is finding a balance between what the algorithms want and creating relevant, on-brand content for your audience.

Although no two algorithms are the same, here are some general algorithm outsmarting techniques that will work across all social channels.

Encourage engagement from your audience

Algorithms treat engagement (likes, comments, shares) as the ultimate first impression. The more engagement content gets, the more likely it is to be liked by the algorithm.

One of the easiest ways to encourage engagement is by asking questions of your followers.

Latex Sense Instagram
@latexsense encouraging engagement from their audience.

Tag other accounts in your posts

Tagging other accounts in your posts acts as an invitation for new users to check you out. By putting your account out in the open, more people will hopefully like, share and comment on your posts. Similarly, creating competitions whereby people have to ‘tag a friend’ works in the same way.

Avon Tuning Instagram
@avon_tuning tagging other users to broaden their reach.

Use the right hashtags

Hashtags make your content searchable. They essentially extend the reach of your posts by assigning them to a category that users can then show interest in.

Sondr Agency Instagram
It's us... using on-brand hashtags.

Optimise your post timing

Timing is a huge factor in determining how much engagement your content gets. So, trying to post when your audience is most likely to be active means that your posts are more likely to be seen. Pretty simple really… but only if you know the times that your audience is active. We use a combination of Later.com ‘s feature ‘best time to post’ and our analytics data to determine our optimum post times.

Later.com Best Time To Post Feature
Later.com's 'Best Time To Post' feature.

Be active

Social media algorithms will reward accounts that post frequently rather than just now and again. This is why it is so important to come up with a content calendar that allows you to post regularly rather than sporadically.

Measure your performance

Without analytics, it’s impossible to know where you stand with the algorithms. Have a look at your top-performing posts on each network and you’ll be able to spot trends and spikes in engagement, which will help you determine what to post and what not to post.

Our Later.com analytics dashboard.

So that’s feed posts sorted, but what about stories? Are the story algorithms different from the feed post algorithms and how the hell do you beat them?

Instagram stories algorithm

Typically, the Instagram stories that appear first on your row of stories are from the accounts you engage with most. Pretty simple right? Here are a few tips on how to always appear top of your followers’ feeds:

• Post consistently – means more chance for engagement and, in turn, signals to the algorithm that you're posting quality content.

• Use Instagram’s features – questions, polls and other Instagram story features that invite users to engage with your posts means that your posts will show up first on their feed.

• Invite users to tap and hold on your stories – this is a signal to the algorithm that a user is engaging with your posts.

Basically, the trick to appearing first in your users’ stories is to ensure they are engaging with you, however that may be.

We hope that has helped you figure out a little bit more about social media algorithms and that you’re slightly less in the dark about them now. However, if you struggle to find time to manage your social media properly and want help beating those dreaded algorithms, we can help! Get in touch today.

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Beth Dennehy

Beth manages SONDR’S clients’ social media accounts. Using her creative flair she plans and creates various forms of content.