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Let’s talk rithms.
More specifically, social media algorithms.

How Do Social Media Algorithms Work?

Even though it contains the word “algorithm”, understanding how to use it doesn’t require a lab coat or degree. The key to understanding how to maximise your reach online is understanding how to use social media algorithms effectively. From the creation of sixdegrees (one of the first social media platforms), the ever-changing algorithm has been a defining factor in how many people we can find and how broad that reach can be. Let’s hop into it, and have a look at social media algorithms, explained.


I wrote a blog post a while back talking about how influential social media personalities are when representing a company or organisation on social media, but that doesn’t help much if there isn’t an audience to present to, which brings us to today’s topic.


The long and short of it is that algorithms are sets of mathematical rules which (in the context of social media) determine how data behaves. Where it goes and who sees it is all determined by these algorithms. The thing is that they’re not all the same. With that being said, I did a ton of research and found some notable commonalities, so let’s have a look at some popular social media sites and take the first steps into understanding social media algorithms.


LinkedIn is the first on today’s list. Easily one of the most recognisable social media platforms out there, LinkedIn follows the same social media algorithm that earlier sites such as sixdegrees did. What makes LinkedIn different from other platforms is that it uses an algorithm focused on connection and engagement, meaning that what you put out there has to be relevant in order for it to reach your target audience. It also means that you can build your connections by posting good content instead of networking. In essence, growing on LinkedIn is like building a web, and every connection makes the web just a little bit bigger.


Next on our list is Facebook. Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world and a very unique algorithm to boot. As we’ll see with most of the social media platforms on this list, one of the most significant factors is relevancy. In the case of Facebook, it runs a series of layered tests to determine what appears on your timeline and the order in which it appears. This is important because it helps to push the core concept of Facebook, which is the focus on close, personal connections. Facebook quickly beat out Myspace for relevancy thanks to how it determined what was shown to people based on the content, the relevance, the level of connection, and how people reacted to it.


When it comes to search engine algorithms and SEO, Google tops the charts. Second to that is YouTube. Yes, YouTube is considered a social media platform. YouTube is the grandfather of what we see now on platforms like TikTok, which is sharing content through the medium of video. What makes YouTube’s algorithm stand out is its intense focus on keywords. When you have 500+ hours of video uploaded every minute, it’s pretty tough to sort through it all and filter things accordingly. YouTube offers recommendations based on keywords and the relevancy they have to what you’re looking for. If you’re searching for a specific content creator, you’ll find their videos as well as videos that mention their names in the title. It’s not as complex a system as Facebook, but it doesn’t have to be.


It would be remiss of me to not talk about the one and only Instagram. Since its creation in 2010, Instagram has risen to the top thanks to its unique blend of video, text, and photography. Effectively, Instagram works for everybody. Whilst it’s handy for influencer marketing, it’s on today’s list thanks to how it uses its social media algorithm. Since 2016 when Instagram stopped posting in reverse-chronological order, things have changed, and so has the algorithm.

Contrary to what you may think, Instagram posts don’t get ranked based on reach. They’re ranked based on relevance. It also factors in popularity. If you follow 8 family members, you’ll see their posts before seeing any ads or other relevant posts. Once you follow somebody, Instagram determines that you have a personal relationship with them and will begin to show you more of their content on your timeline, as opposed to other content.

The Golden Threads

The social media algorithms are different in many ways, but they also share some common threads. Let’s have a look at those.


Social media likes regular posting. The algorithms are drawn to accounts that post fresh and relevant content regularly. You could have a massive following or be pumping tons of money into paid posts, but if they’re not regular, they’re not seen as relevant in the eyes of the algorithm. Social media algorithms want to foster an active community. Staying in that community means contributing to what is posted within it as much as possible.


I’ll use this blog post as an example here. This post aims to provide information about search engine algorithms to people and organisations that use these platforms to promote growth. That means that it’s crucial to ensure that the post’s content is interesting and relates to the topic at hand. When it comes to sites like Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook, the value is placed on quality over quantity.

#Hashtags And Keywords

Posts can’t magically find their way into specific spaces without a bit of help. The function of the hashtag is to give people a term they can pop into their search bars to find what they’re looking for. It also sorts content into categories.

Keywords are essential too. Any search algorithm, regardless of whether it’s for search engines like Google or for specific sites like LinkedIn, favours posts that remain relevant and feature as many applicable terms as possible.

What It Boils Down To:

The fact of the matter is that using hashtags and keywords are great, but it doesn’t determine social media success. At the end of the day, you’re approaching people, all of whom have their own needs, and wants, and fears, and desires. Every platform appeals to a particular group of people, and you need to know how to approach them accordingly. If you pay attention to your target market and work hard to give them relevant, valuable content regularly, your presence, in turn, will grow.

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