How social media algorithms work

Social media algorithms have become the cornerstones of social media today. These are the ones who send us recommendations on what shows we have to watch, who our friends could be, what items we would like to purchase and even what destinations we would visit next.

What are social media algorithms?

If we were to define social media algorithms, we could say that they are a way of sorting outposts in a users’ feed based on relevancy instead of publishing time. With the help of social media algorithms, social networks prioritize which content a user wishes to see in his or her feed first by the likelihood that he or she will actually want to see it.

Remember the days before social media algorithms? That was the time when most social media feeds displayed posts in reverse chronological order. This meant that the newest posts from accounts a user followed showed up first. Even today, some social media platforms still follow this principle. However, there is huge content present in the social space which spans over thousands of posts, photos and videos published per minute. In the absence of social media algorithms, browsing through all of this content on an account-by-account basis would be impossible.

In other words, the advent of social media algorithms has revolutionized the reins of determining which content to deliver to you based on your behavior. They have especially been a boon for users following hundreds or thousands of accounts on a network by delivering what they want and weeding out content that’s deemed irrelevant or low-quality.

Types of social media algorithms for different platforms:

All social media algorithms are managed by dedicated teams of software engineers, data scientists, content strategists, etc. Different platforms may have different criteria and priorities to show content and update in users’ personal feeds and search results. Here’s how Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn use social media algorithms:

Facebook: Prioritises meaningful interactions

Facebook updated its latest algorithm in January 2018 according to which it now puts posts “that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people” at the top of your News Feed. This means the content that you engage the most with including reactions, comments, and shares will show the highest on your feed. Meaningful conversations for Facebook mainly include commenting or liking a photo or status, reacting to a friend’s post, sharing a link over Messenger, recommending trips to friends or advising them, etc

How marketers can make use of Facebook:

If you are a marketer on Facebook, you should focus on engagement as the pathway to reach. You can take your decisions based on Facebook’s engagement metrics like reactions, comments, and shares to lead your measurement strategy. The more your page followers engage with your content, the more you will appear in their feeds and the feeds of their friends.

Instagram: Features newest posts chronologically

In March 2018, Instagram reverted to a time-based feed. It now places content in feeds based on each post’s timeliness. While Instagram’s feed algorithm depends on relevancy, its Search algorithm operates based on personal activity. When you search for something, the bunch of photos, videos, and story results you get depend on the people you follow and the posts you like. As your activity changes, so will your search results.

How marketers can make use of Instagram:

As a marketer, you have to remember that Instagram’s recency algorithm does not mean that Instagram pays no attention to user engagement. But it’s also true that post times are more important to ensure your content appears in your followers’ feeds at the ideal time.

Twitter: Places Personal Relevance above Timeliness

Twitter’s current timeline algorithm released in February 2016 puts up relevant tweets first based on your interaction history with the accounts you follow. If you are visiting Twitter for the first time in a while, the top-recommended tweets are highlighted in a section titled “In case you missed it.” But you can also turn off this option if you wish to. So, while your timeline defaults to personalization, you can have control over which you want to see first

How marketers can make use of Twitter:

A marketer may not understand who does and who doesn’t use the recommended tweet timeline. So, it is best to optimize engagement and time. This can help create interactive content and distribute it at the optimal times for engagement.

LinkedIn: Offers Updates by Individual Relevance

Since March 2018, LinkedIn’s Feed algorithm focuses on understanding individual preferences to give users relevant updates per visit. After every visitor session, the algorithm scans and ranks posts based on various factors such as personal identity, content engagement and persona, and behavior.

How marketers can make use of LinkedIn:

Marketers have to remember that brand success on LinkedIn is largely determined by the time spent with shared content, likes, and comments. Here to engagement seems to be at the core of the algorithm.


For most social media platforms, relevance is the common factor which means marketers need to let engagement metrics lead their social media strategy. But most importantly, knowing what algorithms are and how they work is vital for growing social media presence in the long-term. If you think, understanding the twists and turns in algorithms is a bit overwhelming, you can get in touch with social media marketing agencies like xenia consulting who will provide you expert guidance on the path. Get in touch at


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