Photo by Nathana Rebouças on Unsplash
Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms were created to essentially simplify communication and allow people to stay in touch no matter where they are.
However, most social media platforms quickly outgrew their original outlooks, and they became a place where companies and brands expand their influence and attract new customers.
Of course, the entire process of posting content depends on algorithms designed to display the content to the right people.
Once you understand what criteria these platforms use to ensure that the content meets the standards, you can start using it to your advantage.
Social Media Algorithm Explained
All social media platforms use a special algorithm based on a set of rules and user data. They monitor user behavior to learn what type of content each user prefers, after which they decide what content to display.
Every social media site has its unique algorithms for every individual user, which is why every news feed is unique.
The bottom line is that social media algorithms analyze user behavior to prioritize content the user wants to see. It’s a simple approach that truly redefined the way we interact with brands, companies, and organizations over the internet.
The News Feed Algorithm
The news feed is a feature all social media platforms have in common. Each one has its version based on its unique algorithms.
We’ll start by explaining the most important factors in general and then dig deeper into the news feed algorithm of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Let’s see how these algorithms prioritize content in general first.
Whenever a user creates a new account on social media platforms, their news feeds display random content that usually doesn’t align with their interests.
However, as time goes by, the algorithm learns what types of content each user prefers by monitoring the type of content they engage with the most.
After some time, the algorithm can predict what type of content the user wants to see, and it will prioritize content that fits the description.
Time Spent on The Platform
Engagement is the most important metric because it increases the time users spend on the platform.
More engaging content means that users will spend more time scrolling through their news feeds, which gives brands a wider window to present their ads.
Moreover, the more time users spend engaging with content on social media, the more accurate the algorithms become.
Let’s see how that works on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in more detail.
Instagram’s News Feed Algorithm
Instagram is a real hot spot for marketers, no matter what industry they belong to. It is the youngest social media platform of all three on this list, but it quickly became the go-to place for brands looking to increase their reach and attract new customers.
Being relatively new, marketers are still looking for ways to improve their efforts. The regular business often hires a Best Social Media Marketing Companies to get the most out of its ad campaigns, as Instagram algorithms proved to be trickier than most business owners think.
Instagram’s algorithm has changed a lot in the past few years. It used to display content in news feeds by relevance, but today it uses the most recent content.
Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, it uses a similar algorithm that relies on machine learning to monitor and analyze six main factors when prioritizing content. These factors are:
- Interest – A prediction Instagram makes about your interest in particular posts.
- Frequency – How often users use the app impacts the content they see after returning to the app.
- Following – The number of followers is important as it tells the platform how many users you see in your news feed.
- Recency – Details on when a post was published have a direct impact on the time users see the post.
- Relationship – The page that shared the post and your relationship with them are significant factors in content placement. The more users interact with a page, the more likely will they get ads placed by that page.
- Usage – The time users spend on Instagram also affects the content they see.
Why Are Instagram’s Algorithms a Good Thing?
Many social media managers work hard to try and beat Instagram’s algorithms when they should be finding ways to learn from them.
Instagram creators realized that chronological news feeds don’t provide the best results. They decided to switch to a ranked feed, which was followed by a public outcry, but the change resulted in a 50% increase in average post views almost immediately.
Instagram’s algorithms use machine learning to make sure that every user gets the content they are likely to interact with the most. From a business standing point, that means more engagement and more accurate targeting.
Instead of worrying about various other issues, businesses can now focus only on creating engaging and relevant content.
It’s better to create content with these algorithms in mind, as they will be seen by more people than back when posts were displayed chronologically.
Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm
Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world, with over 3.5 billion monthly users. The platform has been improving its algorithms to improve the user experience.
Facebook’s engineers use advanced tools to monitor user behavior to improve content targeting and ad placement.
We all know about the Like button that was first introduced by this platform. Something as simple as that turned out to be an essential element in improving the user experience.
A simple like button plays a major role in personalizing the user experience. Facebook engineers have been using it since 2007 to figure out which posts have the most positive reactions and which ones don’t.
After over 15 years of evolution, Facebook’s news feed algorithms are much more accurate and sophisticated than they once were.
The Like button became a reactions button, making Facebook the most complex social media network out there. Similar to Instagram, Facebook uses multiple factors when prioritizing content. The most important ones are:
- Relevancy Score – An algorithm that predicts the outcome of every post, presenting it with a number called Relevancy Score. The score tells the algorithm how to rank the content and what order it should appear. It prioritizes the content that’s the most likely to engage the user by calculating factors such as video views, conversions, etc.
- Prioritizing Friends – The platform prioritizes content posted by friends and pages users liked. Moreover, Facebook introduced the “See First” feature that allows users to prioritize the content they want to see manually.
- Time Spent on a Post – Facebook also monitors the time users spend viewing posts. Since viewing posts can be affected by various factors, the algorithms compare the numbers between posts, displaying the type of posts where users spend the most time.
- Video Engagement – Tells you how many people interacted with your video content. The platform monitors all features such as turning the audio on, using full screen to watch videos, using HD, etc. If users open your video and turn on the sound, the platform concludes that they enjoy the content, providing similar posts in the future.
Why Facebook’s Algorithms are a Good Thing in social media Feed?
As we already mentioned, Facebook’s algorithms are by far the most complex of all three social media platforms on our list. However, its complexity is what makes Facebook’s algorithms so accurate.
Put simply, the platform monitors many different types of user engagement to increase targeting accuracy and allow businesses to optimize their marketing strategies.
Twitter’s Timeline Algorithms
Unlike Instagram and Facebook, which both share the News Feed feature, Twitter took a different design approach and called it Timeline.
Instead of displaying content based on interest, Twitter streams posts only from people users follow back.
Twitter’s algorithm is much simpler than those used by Facebook and Instagram, but that’s mostly due to the nature of the platform.
The platform wanted to create an experience that allows users to view tweets in real-time, but also catch up on the tweets they missed. They divided the Timeline into two categories – “While You Were Away” and “Show Me the Best Tweets First.”
While You Were Away
The WYWA feature is there to allow users to catch up on their favorite content in a chronological matter.
Users get recaps of the hottest tweets they might have missed. The tweets they see are determined by user engagement, and the feature pops up more for users who spend less time on the platform.
Show Me the Best Tweets First
This feature feels more like a Facebook News Feed because it prioritizes content based on tweet relevancy. The algorithm displays the tweets it thinks users will like the most.
All posts are made recently and users can view them in reverse chronological order at any time. They first see tweets from the accounts they interact with the most and are likely to engage with.
Why Are Twitter’s Algorithms a Good Thing in social media Feed?
Twitter’s unique approach to content management turned out to be an excellent choice for the company.
Instead of favoring one brand over the other, the algorithm simply provides users with more content from the creators they want to follow. From a business standpoint, this approach is a good thing because it makes it easier to maintain user engagement and encourage users to take action.
However, even if the users are not present at the time of posting, they can always review all tweets chronologically and still get the information they want. So it’s a win-win situation for both sides.
Conclusion of social media Feed
While algorithms play an important role in social media user engagement, nothing is as important as good content.
You can try to beat the algorithms, but if you offer irrelevant, boring content, your engagement rates won’t go up, no matter what you do.
Remember to put extra effort into creating outstanding content covering relevant topics to help your audience solve challenges.
Do research, only accept an impressive copy, and use videos and images to engage more people. Follow these practices, and you’ll attract more customers than ever before.
Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.