A Better Understanding of Social Media Algorithms

· Blog

You often hear about the ubiquity of algorithms on the Web nowadays, but it may surprise you to learn that the word algorithm comes from “Al-Khwârizmî”, which is the name of a Persian mathematician from the 9th century! So the use of this word is not new!

Widely used in computer science and on social networks, algorithms are used to perform tasks, as well as to understand and decipher users' behavior. They sometimes give us a hard time, but let's face it: social media algorithms are firmly entrenched, so it's best to learn how to deal with them!

What is an algorithm?

An algorithm can be defined as a set of rules, a method or a formula involving a specific amount of data that allows to accomplish a task or to solve a problem.

According to the Merriam-Webster, an algorithm is “the set of rules a machine (and especially a computer) follows to achieve a particular goal and is often paired with words specifying the activity for which a set of rules have been designed.” The use of algorithms is not unique to the computer world and is employed in other fields.

Given its predetermined elements and since it allows for the design of a finished product, a recipe is in a way an algorithm! Some people have even developed algorithms to complete the famous Rubik's Cube. Proof that they can be applied to anything!

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Computer science has simplified the use of mathematical formulas and transposed them into another realm: that of social networks. On the Web, algorithms determine what content is seen, on which platforms, and by whom.

The relevance of algorithms on the WebYou probably already know that algorithms automate the computer procedures used on various web platforms. These algorithms analyze the data and distribute the posts according to very specific criteria.

These processes play an important role in the way social networks and many web sites work. At Google, for example, programmers use algorithms to optimize queries and predict what a user will type into the search engine.

On social media, algorithms also make it possible to distribute content that is more relevant to a user than random or chronological posts, thus creating a hierarchy of content.

What the user will see first is based on his preferences, the accounts he interacts with the most, what he has recently viewed, and so on. These preferences are determined by the algorithms specific to each social platform.

For businesses looking to make their mark on social networks, relevance is crucial. That's why it's important to learn what the algorithms “wants” in order to better position your brand, your product or your message.

Overview of the various algorithms

So, what exactly do they want, these algorithms? Well, it all depends on the platform on which they operate.

Facebook and Instagram do not display posts in chronological order, but rather according to user preferences, as mentioned earlier. Meaning a person who constantly interacts and shares content about cats, cryptocurrency or plants will see even more content about cats, cryptocurrency or plants appear in their feed.

Facebook prioritizes meaningful conversations, quality content and native video content, while clickbait and misinformation links are increasingly pushed to the back burner, whereas creators can be “punished” for sharing offending content.

Facebook's multiple and recent changes in algorithms now put “friends'” publications in the foreground, to the detriment of those of businesses. This is why it is all the more important to implement an effective strategy in order to overcome this challenge.

Instagram's algorithm also controls the organic reach of content. In addition, the use of keywords (hashtags) makes content more likely to appear to users interested in the topics in question.

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As mentioned earlier, Google has long relied on algorithms that favor web pages that are similar to those already viewed by the user in previous searches. Not to mention their sometimes slightly intrusive advertising targeting methods! Amazon works pretty much the same way. Have you recently purchased a saw? You'll probably see other DIY and home improvement items appear in your suggestions.

The same goes for YouTube, which offers videos based on the content that has already been seen. Do you regularly watch pop music videos or Asian recipes? YouTube will be quick to suggest such videos the next time you visit. Furthermore, YouTube's algorithms can prevent the monetization of channels with inappropriate content (disinformation, violence, etc.).

Even on LinkedIn, algorithms play a role in the posts that are displayed on the feed. That's why you'll most often see content shared by users with whom you have the most interaction.

Can we outsmart these algorithms?

With a little experience, you can quickly realize that the algorithms appreciate content that generates strong engagement in terms of likes, comments, mentions, shares, etc.

The constant evolution of algorithms requires a great deal of adaptability in marketing strategies. That's why marketers and social networkers must constantly be on the lookout for new trends and adapt to the changing algorithms of each platform.

The keywords:

  • experiment: type of publications, content diversification, scheduling and publication calendar;
  • analyze performances;
  • maintain a balance between what the public wants and what the algorithms prioritizes.
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Need some help?

No two algorithms are the same on social networks, and no two strategies should be either.

Want to gain a better understanding of algorithms to better plan your posts or marketing strategy? We're here to help you make the most of algorithms and better integrate them into your social media practices.