The information and tips in this article come from one of Likeable’s Smarter Social™ modules. Learn more about Smarter Social™, our solution for in-house digital teams, here.
If you work in social media, you’re undoubtedly familiar with “the algorithm.” It’s a somewhat nebulous term that gets thrown around a lot, especially as it relates to social content—but do you truly know what an algorithm is, and do you understand how to use it to your brand’s advantage? If not, great! Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about social media algorithms.
What is an algorithm?
According to an official dictionary definition, an algorithm is “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” As it relates to social media specifically, an algorithm is essentially a way of sorting posts in a user’s feed based not on when the content was published, but rather on how relevant that content will be to the user (based on previously gathered information about that user’s likes, dislikes, and behavior).
What do social algorithms want?
Every social network uses an algorithm to determine what content shows up in a user’s feed as well as what ads to serve. From a content perspective, the goal of the algorithm is to find and serve the content that it thinks users will “care the most about,” to use Facebook’s explanation, and therefore spend more time in the platform.
From an ads perspective, the algorithm’s goal is to find the people most likely to take the action the advertiser wants at the most efficient cost (such as viewing a video, clicking a link, or buying a product).
The goal of posting content or running ads on social is to get into the feed. (Of course, there are other placements available on most social networks, but in-feed tends to be the primary goal.)
Once in the feed, your branded content appears between all the posts being shared by friends and family. That literally puts the fate of your content in your target’s hands. They can scroll right past your post, or they can stop to watch and engage.
That’s why we call content that works “thumb-stopping.”
How do algorithms work?
What the algorithm looks for differs by platform, but how it works doesn’t change.
The algorithm will test each creative/ad by serving a few thousand impressions and compare performance to every post it has ever served. If reactions are positive and strong, it will serve the post more. If not, it will stop serving the post.
In other words, if your content does not have an immediate, positive reaction, it will not succeed.
Take it from YouTube directly: “Our systems have no opinion about what type of video you make, and doesn’t favor any particular format. Rather…focus on what your audience likes. If you do that and people watch, the algorithm will follow.”
What’s the best way to master the algorithm?
Understanding your consumer within the social context is the key to creating a great user experience, and in turn winning their attention. Here are five tips for mastering the algorithm on social media.
1. Give your consumer a clear reason to stop and pay attention. What’s in it for them?
2. Always opt for the CliffsNotes version. Attention spans are short, so get to the point.
3. Be single-minded in purpose. In other words, focus their attention on the objective you care most about.
4. Maintain a platform native look and feel. Avoid banner blindness by using creative that is not obviously an ad.
5. Talk like a person, not like a company. Use language that fits the platform and the surrounding content.
Want to schedule a Smarter Social™ session with our team to learn more? Get in touch.