How do algorithms work? Admittedly, the answer to this is never easy to find.
In fact, you’d think you’ve cracked a social media algorithm only to find out the network announced some changes, and you’re back to square one.
This, of course, doesn’t mean you give up keeping updated with algorithm changes. Because at the end of the day, you need a sound understanding of how you can get your social posts to rank and attract engagement.
So to make things easy for you, we’ve created this guide on all the social media algorithm changes made last year. This way, as you draft your social media marketing plan, you’ll know exactly how to grow your audience.
Ready to learn? We’ve got the lowdown on Instagram algorithm changes, LinkedIn algorithm changes as well as modifications made over at Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook. We’ve also got tips on how you can rank on each channel and improve your ROI.
Let’s get on with it.
But first: What are social media algorithms?
Social media algorithms are channel-specific AI-powered recommendation engines that decide which content shows to which users and in what order.
All social algorithms work differently.
However, their priority tends to be the same: increasing the time users spend on the platform by showing them content that’s uber-relevant to them.
It’s for this reason that all algorithms typically study users’ interests to serve them useful content that they’re likely to engage with.
Most social media algorithms also prioritize recency or content freshness – ranking fresh content higher than content that’s a day old. Only the LinkedIn algorithm is less focused on recency and more on relevancy, as you’ll learn below.
Instagram Algorithm: How to use IG for your business the right way in 2022
Instagram ranks posts based on six ranking signals. These are:
The social ranking engine aims to show its users posts they’re likely going to engage with– leave a comment on, pause to consume it, give it a like, or save it.
Relationship with other users
Instagram is likely to show posts to users from other users with whom they regularly interact. To this end, the algorithm looks at things like: do the two accounts tag each other, like or comment on each other’s content, message one another, search each other by name, and/or follow each other.
The Instagram algorithm aims to keep up with the trends. It’s why it shows posts to users that are fresh (and so, more relevant to them).
Number of follows
The algorithm also factors in how many pages/accounts users follow to prioritize content to show to them. If someone follows a lot of shoe brands, for example, the algorithm prioritizes showing it content from accounts that the user has most engaged with.
Frequency of app use
The more someone uses the IG app, the fresher posts they’ll see. In contrast, if the person doesn’t use the app as frequently, the algorithm will show them posts aligned to their interest to keep them on the app.
This is similar to the point above – only that it revolves around how much time users spend on the app in a given session. Put simply, if someone spends more time per session, they’re likely to see all posts.
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How can brands use Instagram to maximize their ROI?
Based on how the Instagram algorithm works, here’s what you need to be doing:
- Create audience-relevant content. There’s no way you can grow on Instagram without creating content that interests your target audience.
- Engage with your audience. Of course, you can’t follow each one of them. But getting back to comments and replying to DMs are surefire ways to get your content in front of your followers while growing strong relationships with them.
- Post consistently and when your audience is online: Don’t go overboard – two posts per week is a good publishing cadence.
- Use the right hashtags: Doing so will help you increase your discoverability and engagement. Here’s how to use hashtags the right way on Instagram.
- Diversify your content mix: From carousels to bite-sized videos and memes, provide an engaging content mix to your audience to keep them hooked to your content.
- Encourage engagement: Ask questions, host contests, and giveaways, and create branded hashtags to prompt customers to share their pictures with your products (read: plan user-generated content).
Read more on Instagram Algorithm: Instagram Algorithm In 2022: How To Beat It?
Twitter Algorithm: How to use Twitter for your business the right way in 2022
The Twitter algorithm has a lot of moving pieces involved. That is: it’s at work in several areas such as:
Latest tweets and home timeline
The former shows tweets based on chronological order, and the latter shows tweets based on your interests and other ranking factors that we’ll discuss below.
Or the timeline you create by creating Twitter Lists. Within this custom timeline, you can see tweets in either chronological order or in a home timeline fashion.
These show up in several places, including the home timeline. Sometimes, the blue-bird network gives context around why something is trending. Other times, you’re left to guess why.
The Twitter algorithm recommends these based on what it thinks you like or interact with. You can always choose Topics to see more content from and tell Twitter the Topics you aren’t interested in. (Read up on humor as a Twitter engagement tactic)
Who to follow (suggested accounts)
These recommended accounts are based on promoted accounts, your Twitter activity, location, and your contacts if you’ve uploaded them on the network.
That said, Twitter doesn’t go deep into how its algorithm works. It only says the ranking engine shows content based on your interests, whom you engage with, and tweets you interact with.
Other than that, there’s not much detail that the Twitter team shares. What we do know, though, is that every time a user logs into the app, the Twitter algorithm creates a relevance score to show content based on the following signals:
- How fresh are the tweets?
- How relevant is the tweet to the user judging by the keywords it uses?
- How many likes, retweets, and comments the tweet gets?
- How many users engage with the tweeting account?
- The account’s follower count and its location
- The type of media included in the tweet (GIF, poll, graphic, etc.)
How can brands use Twitter to maximize their ROI?
Take the following steps:
- Tweet regularly. Consistent tweeting is an effective recipe for growing your visibility and engagement. Be sure to keep self-promotion to a minimum, though. Focus on providing value instead.
- Tweet when your audience is active. Be clear on who your target audience is and when they’re likely to be active. After you’ve tweeted a couple of times, see which time brings your content the most engagement. Also, your audience is likely to miss a tweet if you send it out during a niche-popular Twitter chat hour.
- Engage with your followers. Retweet their tweets, leave comments, respond to messages and comments, and encourage your audience to interact with you.
- Use keywords in your content. Study competitors, industry influencers, and creators who talk about similar topics. Find out which keywords they’re using and use the same in your tweets.
- Include rich media in your tweets. Post a healthy mix of tweet formats. From bite-sized videos to branded GIFs and graphics, test different content formats to figure out which ones grow your engagement.
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LinkedIn Algorithm: How to use LinkedIn for your business the right way in 2022
The LinkedIn algorithm – like other social media algorithms – prioritizes the time users spend on the app. How so? By showing them posts that are relevant to their interests and those that they’re likely going to engage with.
As a means to this, the algorithm uses the following ranking signals to show content to its users:
LinkedIn studies its users’ behavior, reading the posts, people, pages, and hashtags they interact with. In fact, whatever users do on the platform is used to determine their interests so as to serve them relevant content that interests them and gets them to spend more time on the app.
The LinkedIn algorithm looks at users’ varying degrees of Connections too. The professional network shows content to users based on how close the Connection is (first, second, or third-degree).
Of course, the larger your network on LinkedIn, the higher your content’s odds of showing to more people. Also, if a user interacts with a particular LinkedIn creator – no matter the Connection degree – they’re likely to see more content from them.
On LinkedIn, comments carry more importance than reactions. Reactions, in turn, are more important than shares. That’s how the algorithm ranks content, too i.e., It spreads the content that gets more comments than content that attracts more reactions.
Another essential ranking factor here is the dwell time or the time users spend on your posts.
If they pause for only a bit or not at all, the LinkedIn algorithm considers the content is irrelevant to them. However, if they spend more time – also clicking the “see more” option to read the post – the algorithm rewards the post with more exposure.
How can brands use LinkedIn to maximize their ROI?
With that, here’s what you can do to get your content to rank better on LinkedIn:
- Grow your network. Connect with people in your industry and interact with them. Instead of liking their posts, leave thoughtful comments on their content. This way, they’re likely to reciprocate the engagement – helping your content reach a wider audience beyond your immediate connections.
- Leave meaningful comments. Sure leaving comments is a great way to get people to reciprocate by commenting on your posts.
But here’s more: long comments that encourage people to “see more” tend to get more engagement on the platform. This, in turn, tells the algorithm you have lots of value to share, so it pushes your content further.
- Add 3-10 hashtags. As with Instagram, you are using hashtags on this platform also grows your visibility. However, the LinkedIn algorithm’s preference has grown from 3, which seemed to be the magic number of hashtags to add to your post with the LinkedIn 2019 algorithm update. Currently, it’s best to add between 3-10 hashtags to your posts. Any more than ten, however, are considered spam.
- Tag people for more engagement. Also, it’s a good idea to tag people to prompt them to engage with your content. However, be sure to tag people who will engage than ones who might not respond or may remove the tag. The latter signals the algorithm that you’re spamming people. The result? It reduces your exposure.
Facebook Algorithm: How to use Facebook for your business the right way in 2022
The Facebook algorithm 2021 gives us a bit of detail on how the platform ranks content. Before that, there’s little that we knew except that organic research was on a downward trajectory.
However, if your target audience is on Facebook, you need to know how the latest algorithm update ranks content. It’s essentially a 4-step process starting with the network taking all the posts available in a user’s network and scoring them according to predetermined ranking signals – we’ll talk about them in a bit.
Next, it filters for posts a user is unlikely to engage with based on their past behavior. It also ranks content that’s likely spam or misinformation lower.
In the third step, the Facebook algorithm scores the remaining content for personalization. And, finally, it arranges the content in a nice balance of rich media so a user can enjoy a variety of post types.
With that, let’s look at which signals Facebook looks at for ranking posts:
How fresh that content is with newer posts shown first.
This is which media type is present in a post and which media type a user tends to engage with most.
How a user interacts with posts from an account – brand, friend, or a news publication source.
This includes how much engagement a post gets. The more popular it is, the more it’s likely to get exposure on Facebook.
How can brands use Facebook to maximize their ROI?
Based on how the Facebook algorithm 2021 works and its ranking signals, follow these tips:
- Share audience-relevant content: This is essential for growing your engagement and signalling the algorithm that your content interests your audience.
- Post regularly: And make sure you publish on times when your audience is active on Facebook. This is crucial for checking off the recency ranking signal.
- Create content in different formats: Short explainer videos, custom GIFs, and text-based posts are content types you should be trying. Don’t forget, live video has a lot of demand on Facebook.
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TikTok Algorithm: How to use TikTok for your business the right way in 2022
Lastly, let’s look at how the recommendation engine over at TikTok works. Here’s a walk through the ranking signals the video platform looks at:
This is how the TikTok algorithm determines users’ interests. It looks at everything from the accounts a user follows, the creators they search for and those they’ve hidden, comments they make, videos they favorite, videos they report as inappropriate, videos they label as not interested, and videos’ watch time. It also looks at content a user creates on their own account.
This is information users specifically seek out in the Discover tab. It includes captions, hashtags, effects, trending topics, and sounds.
Device and account settings
These include location setting, the device a user is using, language preference, and the selected interests. Since these are one-time settings, though, the TikTok algorithm doesn’t look at these signals as much as the two above.
That said, the TikTok algorithm is against duplicate content, content users have already seen, and content that’s potentially spam.
How can brands use TikTok to maximize their ROI?
Here’s what to do:
- Create content that’s sure to engage your niche audience: Keep in mind that the TikTok algorithm doesn’t rank content based on your follower count or past viral videos that have seen success on the platform.
This means if you’re relatively new on TikTok, audience-relevant, engaging content can help you go viral without having to first work on building a following.
- Write compelling captions: And, make sure you add relevant keywords here too. The reason? Captions are a great way to tell your audience what your video is about. In doing so, they can increase your engagement and video completion rates.
- Post when your target viewers are active: While this is important for all social networks, it’s particularly important here as active engagement with your video is a key ranking signal.
Read More Here: TikTok Algorithm
Bonus tips for optimizing your content for each social media algorithm
Before we wrap this up, here are two more tips for improving your engagement on social.
First, study your social analytics to optimize content
Look for when your audience is active on each social channel. Also, determine which topics and post types garner the most engagement.
Studying this is essential for not just better understanding your audience but also for reaching them better on social media.
You can always search for these critical metrics using each social platform’s in-build analytics. However, if you’re looking for in-depth analytics in one place, you’ll need to pick from social media analytics tools.
- Audience growth
- Top performing posts
You can also analyze likes, comments, content type, and more to highlight which content type is best resonating with your audience.
Study what your competitors are up to
You also need to choose from competitor analysis tools. The aim? To learn which type of content your competitors are posting, what’s working for them, what they’re possibly doing wrong, the hashtags they’re using, and more.
Again, ContentStudio can help you with its content analytics feature that shows you relevant data on what’s working for any competitor, domain, industry – even topic.
You can easily learn which content type is performing best and which social networks competitors and others in the industry are using. You can also identify your audience’s sentiment around a topic, which is an excellent way to refine your social media content plan.
Read up on: YouTube Algorithm
All these details on ranking signals and how each social network’s algorithms work point toward one key takeaway: you can’t game any social media algorithm.
What helps, however, is the following:
- Knowing full well what interests your target audience – gets their attention and encourages them to engage (including the content formats they prefer to consume).
- Posting highly valuable, entertaining, or educational content (depending on your social media content plan) when your audience is active.
- Engaging with your audience by replying to their comments and messages quickly and prompting them to engage with your content. For instance, by asking them to share their thoughts, add an emoji or GIF reaction, or hosting polls.
In short, the more dedicated you’re to building a community and offering value to your niche audience on social, the more return on investment you’ll drive.
Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed blog posts and articles for small businesses and app companies who aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience.