Social Media

What you need to know about social media algorithms

Social media algorithms can be the arch-enemy of the hardworking PR professional, with updates making it harder and harder to get content seen.

However, they can also be one of your greatest tools, ensuring that good quality content is seen by target audiences. I’ve done some research into how the algorithms for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn work, to give you some tips for using the channels.

Twitter

Twitter states: “Tweets you are likely to care about most will show up first in your timeline. We choose them based on accounts you interact with most, Tweets you engage with, and much more.”  But what does this actually mean?

Twitter bases the tweets that it shows on your timeline on a number of factors, including engagements, timing and media use. Let’s look at engagement first.

Accounts that you engage with on a regular basis – whether it’s likes, retweets, profile visits or tweet clicks – are more likely to feature on your timeline. And if people regularly engage with your content, it is more likely to appear in their feed and possibly that of their followers too. If you’re getting a lot of engagement on a post, it will be served to more and more people – it is the sign of a good piece of content after all – which is how content eventually goes viral (this part of the algorithm only works for organic engagements).

What you engage with will also play a part in what appears on your timeline. Always retweeting videos? You’ll see more video content. Always liking pictures? More tweets with pictures will be served to you … you get the idea here. So, from a PR and social media management perspective, it’s important to understand and analyse what your followers are engaging with and continue to produce similar content that they will read, listen to, watch or click on.

Timing is an interesting factor in the algorithm. Although the platform considers various factors, Twitter’s head honchos are adamant that displaying content in chronological order is still important to them and that this plays a huge part in delivering content in your twitter feed. So simply put, if you want content to be seen, post it when your followers are most likely to be online.

Whilst the ‘in case you missed it’ section will house all sorts of content Twitter has analysed that you might find interesting, for the most part, Tweets are served in reverse chronological order.


Facebook

Unless you’ve been living under a social media sized rock recently, you can’t have missed Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement in January stating that Facebook’s algorithms were changing to  focus on “helping you find relevant content to helping [sic] you have more meaningful social interactions.” He continued: “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

Cue collective panic from social media professionals on how to get their company or client’s content shown.

But it’s not all bad news. Information shared from a Facebook News Feed Webinar highlighted four key points that the algorithm takes into consideration:

  • People sharing a link over Messenger
  • Commenting on or liking a person’s photo or status updates
  • Multiple replies to a status update or photo = more likely to see again
  • Meaningful interactions

Sounds doable really. But as part of this, the algorithm also takes into account active and passive interactions:

Image: https://blog.bufferapp.com/facebook-algorithm

So if you’re generating content for your company, client or even for yourself, it’s all the more important to focus on content that people will want to share (either in their feed or via Facebook Messenger), comment on or positively react to. Yet within each of these aims are other factors to consider.

  • Commenting – content that generates organic comments and conversations will be favoured. Content that ‘engagement-baits’ – ie: ‘tag a friend in this meme’ type posts or ‘like if you’re a fan of XYZ’ – will not be.
  • Sharing – any sort of share is great, but it’s considered even better if that share sparks further conversation.
  • Reactions – comments and shares are a priority, but you can’t expect users to be sharing everything. So reactions are factored into the algorithm as well.

In short, you need to think about creating and sharing quality content that starts a conversation that your followers will want to continue. For more on the Facebook algorithm, I highly recommend this blog by Buffer.


LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s algorithm is perhaps one of the most simple to understand. Simply put, there is a four-step process when you share content on your news feed:

1. The algorithm categorises it as spam, low-quality or clear. Ideally, you’re aiming for all your content to be ‘clear’, but it still has a chance to be seen if it is dubbed ‘low-quality’.

2. Content is served to a proportion of your connections or followers. If it gets lots of likes, comments and shares, it is deemed quality content. If there is low engagement or the post is reported as spam, it is less likely to appear in further news feeds.

3. The quality of you and your network is analysed because, for example, a spam account could get lots of engagement from other spam accounts and LinkedIn wants to avoid this.

4. Human editors review the content to see if it should continue to be shared in news feeds.

Image: https://engineering.linkedin.com/blog/2017/03/strategies-for-keeping-the-linkedin-feed-relevant

So what can you do to ensure your content is seen and maximise on the LinkedIn algorithm? Firstly, ensure content is relevant to the platform, relevant to your target audience and is optimised well. Just because content you have shared on Twitter is doing well doesn’t mean the same will apply on LinkedIn.

Secondly, for business platforms, encourage your employees to like, share and comment on the posts initially. This will help them to be served to more users. However, avoid blind sharing content where you can. Always add a comment that provides some additional value to your network.

Next, ensure that you post at the right time. There are probably hundreds of blogs out there stating when the best time is to post but in truth, it seems the answer is ‘it depends’. Test different pieces of content at different times and see what performs best. Take a look at when other people or businesses are posting, as this will be a good indication of when they are online and active.


Liked this post? You might also like to read 7 of the best tools for bloggers or How to make the most of 4 billion internet users.

Disclaimer: facts, tips and advice in this blog are based on research I have conducted. All information is correct to the best of my knowledge, however, as many social media channels often change and update their algorithms, I cannot guarantee that this will remain the case. All I’m saying is take the advice with a ‘pinch of salt!’

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