Why do social media sites keep changing their algorithms?
I’m not completely averse to change. Pack my bags and tell me we’re off to the Bahamas in the morning and I’d be well up for it. But it really bugs me how social media sites feel the need to constantly change the way they operate.
After a bit of huffing and puffing I can just about handle a few things moving around but algorithms are a different story. You spend ages honing your social media technique and then just like that, Instagram goes and changes how your posts will be displayed.
Why do social media sites keep doing this to us?
I don’t know anyone who isn’t on at least one social media platform so it constantly amazes me how the number of users continues to grow every single year.
By 2021, it’s expected that there will be more than three billion social media users worldwide. So in their defence, I do understand that this many users = a whole load of content being uploaded on a daily basis.
As annoying as it may be, the likes of Facebook and Instagram need to adjust their algorithms to ensure that their users are always being presented with the content that matters most to them.
To complicate matters even further however, every channel’s algorithms work differently.
You being serious?
Sadly, yes. If you want your posts to get plenty of likes and engagement on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, you’re going to have to learn the ins and outs of four different algorithms. This is why I normally tell clients to choose one or two platforms and master them before trying to conquer them all.
Which do I choose then?
I look at two things when deciding which social media platform to choose. The most important one is demographics. There’s absolutely no point putting your heart and soul into running your Twitter account (or paying someone to do it for you) if your target audience doesn’t even use it.
Sprout Social has put together a fantastic blog which contains all the social media demographics you could possibly need for 2019.
The second thing I consider is the type of organisation I’m working with. If you’re running an accountancy firm for example, it’s going to be really difficult to consistently produce the images you would need to manage an Instagram account. A restaurant or café on the other hand would be perfectly suited to Instagram because we love to look at photos of food (#food currently has 350 million posts).
I thought we were talking about algorithms?
Sorry, yes. Back to those algorithms. As painful as it may be, it’s important to understand how each platform works. Below I’ve highlighted the current algorithms for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (hopefully they won’t change them before I hit publish).
Facebook focuses on meaningful interactions. The more engagement your content gets, the higher it will be ranked and the more likely you are to show up in people’s news feeds. Be warned however, Facebook is (probably too) clever. If you ask people to like, comment on or share your post, the algorithm will mark you down for this.
What’s classed as a meaningful interaction?
Someone commenting on, liking your post or sharing it in Messenger or to their news feed. A handy tip for you – obviously Facebook wants to keeps its users on its site for as long as possible. Because of this, it prioritises native content over posts that take users to another site. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, use links back to your website sparingly.
Twitter now has three different sections which can determine how your content is displayed to followers.
Ranked tweets – this is based on how recently the post was sent out and how relevant it is.
‘In case you missed it’ – this section will automatically show up in your news feed and consists of older but relevant tweets.
Top tweets/latest tweets – to make things really difficult, Twitter allows users to choose the order they want to see content. Top tweets are displayed in reverse chronological order and latest tweets show as they happen. You can access this function by clicking on the star button which I’ve circled in red.
This is confusing. How do I make sure people see my tweets?
Timing is crucial when it comes to Twitter. If you time your tweet properly and it gets engagement soon after being shared, it’s more likely to be seen by others.
There are two ways you can find out the best time to send out your posts. Trial and error – try sending out your posts at different times and see if you notice a pattern when you get the most engagement. You can also set up Twitter analytics which will help you learn more about your tweets and how people are engaging with them.
As with Facebook, engagement is also important on Twitter. Likes, replies and retweets weigh heavily in the algorithm and so does native content. Credibility is also a big factor so remember to post good quality content on a regular basis.
LinkedIn prioritises native content and engagement in the form of likes, comments and shares. Something that LinkedIn does very differently to other social networks is that they actually have people involved in choosing which posts to show to more people.
You may have noticed that personal stories do really well on LinkedIn and this is because when they’re receiving good engagement rates, a member of staff will look at it and decide whether or not to open it up to a wider audience.
Focus on being open with your followers and write content that will appeal to your community. When they like, share and comment on your posts, you extend your reach to people in your second and third degree network.
Instagram shows its users the type of content they interact with most. If you’re liking, commenting, viewing or sharing fitness posts for example, this is the type of content it will show you first when you’re scrolling through your news feed.
Hashtags not only play a big part in people being able to find your posts, they also play a role in the algorithm for the Explore page so it’s well worth finding some popular and relevant hashtags you can use regularly.
Your posts are also more likely to be seen if you post consistently and the longer someone spends looking at your content, the more the algorithm likes. Ensure you’re posting interesting, engaging content that people will take the time to read or watch.
Which social media platform do you enjoy the most success with? Do the algorithm changes bother you or do you quite like being kept on your toes? Feel free to share your thoughts below.