The social media algorithm has attracted a bad reputation for being detrimental to businesses’ posts. But I’m going to tell you how it works, and how to work with the algorithm rather than against it.
What is an algorithm?
An algorithm is the technical term to describe how posts are presented on individual users’ feeds. It’s a method to determine what kind of content a user would enjoy and engage with most.
(Facebook released a video in 2021 explaining the definition of this ‘ranking system’. Check it out here.)
Social media is a behaviour-driven platform; it mirrors a user’s interests and reactions so that they see more of what they like. Therefore, it’s important to take your ideal audience’s preferences into account every time you post.
To make it a little more complex, social media platforms aren’t massively transparent about the specifics of their algorithms. They’re constantly changing it, so it can take a lot of guesswork to determine how to get your content in front of your desired audience without the platform burying it.
Despite the ambiguity of it, we can see how Facebook’s algorithm has changed and favoured different things over the years. You can see how it reflects how our society’s preferences have changed too:
2009: Facebook premieres its first algorithm to bump posts with the most likes to the top of the feed.
2015: Facebook starts down-ranking pages that post too much overly-promotional content.
2016: Facebook adds a ‘time spent’ ranking signal to measure a post’s value based on the amount of time users spent with it, even if they didn’t interact with it.
2017: Facebook starts weighing reactions (e.g. hearts or the angry face) more than likes. Another ranking signal is added: Videos that people watch to the end are shown to more people.
2018: Prioritisation of posts that spark meaningful interactions. Posts from friends, family and Facebook Groups are prioritised over organic content from pages.
2019: Facebook prioritises ‘high-quality, original video’ that keeps viewers watching longer than 1 minute, especially video that holds attention longer than 3 minutes. Facebook also starts bumping up content from ‘close friends’; those who users engage with the most.
2020: Begins to evaluate the credibility and quality of news articles in order to promote substantiated news rather than misinformation.
2021: Facebook makes the algorithm more transparent, and gives people better access to their data.
What does the algorithm take into consideration?
You need to work smarter, not harder, when posting on your business account. Algorithms take a lot into account. So before you blame it for your content tanking, consider what you’re posting first.
Remember, algorithms are just a calculation.
It can’t be denied that friend and family content tends to be favoured over a business page’s organic content, but this shouldn’t deter you as you still have a lot of cards to play!
For example, the more engagement content receives, the more people that content will be shown to. The algorithm appreciates popular content, and will continue to suggest it to others with similar interests or behaviours – even beyond your page’s following.
Informative content that followers share is favoured over promotional content. Therefore, your posts shouldn’t be the hard-sell, advertorial kind; save that for the adverts! Your page needs to provide value since it’s a platform that people traditionally spend time on to stay connected and enjoy themselves. So give them something they’ll love!
Avoid external links in your posts since social media platforms don’t tend to like users getting directed away. Remember; social media websites are businesses too.
Algorithms prioritise particular formats of content that are currently in favour. For example, Instagram is publicly pushing their platform from image-based to video-based content. Therefore, users who use Reels have an automatic advantage in terms of having their content seen by more people.
Having said that… If a user interacts with photos more, then they’re more likely to see photos. If they interact with videos more, then they’ll see more videos on their feed. So always keep your audience in mind!
You could even take into account what time works best for your audience. Posting content in the evenings or even later could be your prime time.
Working with the algorithm
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with what social media seem to love or avoid, but try not to overthink it. While it’s important to understand the algorithm, remember who your audience is and stay tuned into the kind of content they enjoy. If they love it, then the algorithm will back you up.
Social media is all about entertainment and information packaged in a way that is easy to consume and interact with.
Keeping your content honest and interesting will increase the chances of followers sharing your content to their friends and family. This is the most valuable form of advertising, and will increase trust in your brand.
Staying up to date with the platform updates and new features will all help too.
Finally, try not to get overwhelmed or frustrated – ADVRT is here to help! Get in touch if you need a point in the right direction, or for us to take care of your pages entirely.
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