Understanding Social Media Algorithms

Written by: Gia Marrollo, Spring 2022 Intern

Social networks prioritize which content a user sees in their feed first by the likelihood they want to see it. According to Statista, in 2020 over 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide, and this number is projected to increase to almost 4.41 billion by 2025. With that many people using social networks, staying top of mind and relevant to your followers is essential when developing your social media strategy. Social media algorithms have taken the reins, determining which content to deliver based on users’ behaviors. To ensure your content serves your target audience, it’s essential to understand each platform’s algorithms. Below, we explore Instagram and Facebook’s algorithms.

Instagram’s Algorithm

Instagram’s algorithm dictates the order of posts that users see when scrolling through their feed. The algorithm prioritizes content by pushing the most relevant towards the top, giving these posts the most visibility. When thinking about how your post will perform, there are three factors to consider:

  • Content: What type of content are you sharing? The type of media posted can determine how the algorithm pushes your content. 
  • Activity: What type of content do you like to interact with most? How often do you watch videos? How much do you engage with others’ content? All of these factors influence what type of content is appearing on your follower’s feeds.
  • Engagement: The essential key to the algorithm is engagement. Engagement is an excellent indicator of what content resonates with your audience. Since feed ranking can change depending on the number of likes and comments your post receives, it’s important to always strive for more engagement.

Other platform features, such as stories, operate on their own separate algorithm. Instagram stories were first introduced to the platform in 2017 and were designed for binge-watching. Staying consistent with your stories will help you stay on top of your followers’ feeds.

Since engagement is one of the most important elements of Instagram algorithms, a great way to engage with your audience is by replying to comments. By replying to messages your followers leave on your posts, you are showing an initiative to connect with your followers, which in turn will encourage other followers to join in and leave comments too!

Facebook’s Algorithm

Facebook’s algorithm decides which posts you see while checking your feed. Facebook scores posts and arranges them in a non-chronological order of interest for each user. The algorithm helps users discover new, relevant content while avoiding spamming people’s feeds with irrelevant content. Reverse-chronological order started in 2009 and has evolved to create more meaningful interactions such as reactions, stories, and news feed updates. 

As one of the first social media platforms, Facebook’s algorithm was a mystery to most users at the beginning. At first, Facebook prioritized what users saw in their news feed. After years of feedback and new technology emerging, Facebook’s algorithm now prioritizes users’ desire to feel in control while also giving them the best experience. Four key factors influence Facebook’s algorithm:

  • Your Activity: Users are more likely to see content from friends and organizations that they interact with regularly on their feed. They are also more likely to see the types of content they interact with most show up more frequently whether it’s videos, photos, or posts.
  • Signals: Then there are two types of signals, active and passive.  Each represents the kind of behavior users will have towards pieces of content.
    • Active signals represent a type of interaction users do to engage with a piece of content. These can include comments, likes, and shares showing they are truly engaged and interested. 
    • Passive signals refer to non-action items such as the time of posts, view times, and story type.
  • Predictions: Facebook’s system predicts which post will show up in your News Feed and in what order by indicating what you’re most interested in. It only affects the Facebook ads and can also access your profile, likes, dislikes, and posts you might be interested in. 
  • Relevancy: Facebook assigns a score to all content based on how relevant it is to the users it’s served.

Now that we know more about each algorithm, how can you work around this system to ensure your content is getting out to your followers? Giving your brand a personality is one of the best ways to make the most out of the algorithm. For Instagram and Facebook, it’s essential to know what type of content performs best for each social platform. For Instagram, learn how to get to the top of your user’s feed and actively engage with your followers. For Facebook, ensure your content is relevant to your audience and encourages them to like, comment, or share with their friends.

Need help optimizing your social media content?

Navigating the algorithms across all social platforms can be tricky. Slice’s team of social media experts is here to help you build an impactful social media strategy. Contact our team today!

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