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Feb 27 2020

Social Media Science: Understanding the Algorithm

Ever wonder who the mad scientist hiding behind the curtain of your social media feeds is, determining what to show you next? He’s got a name, friends: Al. Al Gorithm.

OKAY terrible jokes aside: what exactly is the algorithm, and why does it matter?

I appreciate the simplicity of this definition from Pedro Domingos’s The Master Algorithm: “a sequence of instructions telling a computer what to do.” Really, friends: that’s it. As you engage with social media on various platforms, they get hip to your patterns of engagement and the magical algorithm kicks in, reprioritizing content to deliver what it deems most interesting to you. 

Let’s say you follow an account or page highlighting adorable puppies. Next thing you know, you might start seeing more puppies in your feed. You engage with one of these accounts, and before you know it: the platform shifts your feed so that account’s newest content pops up first, maybe even before your aunt Alice’s vacation photos.

That’s it! That’s the magic of our good pal Al. Now the question is: how do we make Al work for you?

As I hinted at in the previous paragraph, the algorithm is powered by two factors: interest and relationship. By following an account, you indicate interest and create a “relationship”, and that triggers the sequence. What you see on your feeds will likely be a collection of the friends with whom you interact most, the stories or videos you watch most, and the content you “like.” The best and most efficient way to make the algorithm work for you is to engage with the accounts you love/trust/endorse, and to share content regularly that makes your feed lovable/trustworthy/endorsable.

Tips for helping the algorithm to work for you:

  1. Create a consistent posting schedule. To be crystal clear: this does not mean you need to post every day or several times daily. Find a rhythm that works for you, your business, and your goals, and stick to it. The best posting schedule for you is the one you can maintain with relative ease. This also means learning a bit about when your followers and fans are likely to be on the platform, and scheduling posts accordingly.
  2. Engage with consistency. A tip within a tip here: all engagement is good engagement (okay… trolling notwithstanding). Comments, likes/reactions, reshares, and video views all count as engagement. Comments need not be novellas, either! Al views simple emoji responses the same as lengthier screeds. Make sure you’re as active with your friends and fans as they are with you, and you’ll stay top of feed and top of mind.
  3. Analyze as you strategize. Another sneaky tip within a tip: the type of content you share won’t necessarily trigger the algorithm differently. Photos and videos hold equal weight to start. It is, however, worth your time and effort to pay attention to which of those options gets a better response. If more folks engage with your video content, future videos will get ranked higher. Keep an eye on your feeds’ insights and analytics to help inform future content decisions. 

We hope this brief glimpse into our pal Al Gorithm’s personality gives you some encouragement and insight into what can help you social media feeds stand out. Want to know even more about him and how we can make him work for you? Reach out and let’s strategize!