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How do social media algorithms work?

What is a social media algorithm?

Algorithms are the technical means of sorting posts based on relevancy instead of publishing time to prioritize which content a user sees first. For example, when you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed and see recommendations for various topics pop up as if by magic – these appear because algorithms have sorted those posts based on what you are most likely to be interested in or engage with each post at any given moment!

Why do social media algorithms exist?

Without algorithms, sifting through all this content on an account-by-account basis would be impossible and time consuming for users who follow hundreds or thousands of accounts across networks. The algorithm does us a service by delivering what we want to see without going through low-quality posts that don’t really add anything new into one’s feed experience!

In theory, that is.

In recent years, many people have been citing the idea that social media algorithms are designed to push brands into paying a premium for their ads. The belief states, if you’re not organically reaching your audience with content and promotions, then turning towards paid advertising will do what’s necessary- which means more money in networks’ pockets!

Algorithms are an integral part of the social media landscape, and they always will be. How you use them to your advantage can make or break a brand’s success on these platforms. For brands, this means learning what algorithms “want” and likewise what might cause content to be viewed as low-quality or irrelevant to their audience.


The Facebook algorithm controls the ordering and presentation of posts. Rather than publish content chronologically, posts and ads are presented based on what Facebook sees as relevant to the user.

While Facebook does use thousands of ranking signals, such as how users engage with posts, but below are some of the most important ones:

  • Time: Newer posts are prioritized over older ones.
  • Engagement: Are people engaging with the post? People sharing, commenting, or reacting has an impact on whether a post will show in your feed.
  • Relationship: Facebook has been pushing back against branded content to provide more authenticity for its users. The new algorithm centres around the friends and family members of an individual, rather than spamming them with numerous ads from businesses
  • Type of content: Based on your past interaction with different types of content, certain content will be prioritized. For example, if you engage with videos a lot, then Facebook will prioritize videos.

As a marketing strategist, there have been no significant changes to how you should tackle Facebook. Considering the ranking factors above and including regular posts in your strategy will spark conversations with followers or grab their attention. Furthermore, ensure that variety is included for social media success by keeping people engaged on all accounts through unique content types.


Like Facebook, Instagram looks at users’ interaction with content from the past and then predicts which types of content the user would find interesting. Instagram also uses several ranking signals, with some of the most important ones being:

  • Relationships: You are more likely to have content displayed by users that you interact with the most. For businesses, having loyal followers that engage with their page is the same.
  • Time: While the feed isn’t chronological, newer posts are ranked higher than older posts.
  • Interest: Instagram is great at understanding what content is in a photo or video. Therefore, Instagram can predict what sort of content a user is most likely to be interested in. For businesses, it is essential to focus on posting genuinely engaging content.

Instagram’s algorithm is now more intelligent than ever, and it knows what your audience wants to see. If you post engaging content for them, there is a higher chance that they will explore or click through!


Twitter has a lot more going on in the background of its timeline than Facebook does, with three main sections and an algorithm that splits up all those tweets into different parts. They are:

  • Ranked tweets: These tweets are deemed to be the most relevant and appear at the top of your feed, and gets priority
  • In case you missed it: These tweets are older posts that you may have missed previously.
  • Remaining tweets: The includes any other tweets that are not displayed in the above two sections.

As Twitter changes its algorithm, it will be hard to predict how this impacts your chances of being seen or seeing what you share in more popular tweets. But one thing we know is engagement with posts makes them appear more often, so keep that high-quality content coming! Like Facebook, try to share posts that will spark a reaction from your followers, find ways to question them to provoke a conversation. After all, conversations are at the core of what Twitter was created for.

Keeping up with the change

Social media sites are constantly changing, meaning that if you want your posts seen, then it’s essential to stay aware of all the changes! You can do this by following what platforms are doing and ensuring that you’re one of those tweaked ones when they tweak their algorithms!

Of course, if you need help with your social media strategy or implementation, you can contact us, The Recipe ltd. We are a creative digital marketing agency that strives for innovation in every project we take on. From website design to social media campaigns, The Recipe has what it takes to make your brand stand out among others online!

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