Understanding the Algorithm: How to Maximize Social Media Reach

By Madison Taylor
November 2, 2023
Puzzle pieces on a tile surface representing the social media algorithms "puzzle."

The influence of social media algorithms should not be underestimated.

According to the latest data, the average social media user spends 2.5 daily hours on social media. The content they see is managed by algorithms that seek to serve users with the most relevant content. Being on the right side of a social media algorithm can therefore be the difference between the success or failure of a marketing campaign.

So, how do social media algorithms work, and what can your business do to maximize its chances of social media success?

How Do Social Media Algorithms Work?

Regardless of the platform, every social media algorithm seeks to keep users engaged for as long as possible. That may mean scrolling, clicking, buying, or watching. However, when it comes to social media algorithms, engagement is key. Every social media platform wants as many eyes for as long as possible.

With this end goal in mind, it’s important to understand how algorithms work. Social media algorithms will push content and information that they believe is relevant based on a user’s history. This history may include how long a user spent on the platform, what they clicked on, how long they watched a video, and more. Algorithms will then standardize that behavior into some form of data, and that data is used to determine what content a user sees.

This content comes in various forms, including:

  • Specific advertisements come from a variety of factors, including location, previous history, and personal demographic data.
  • Content from friends or other users (like on a “For You” page) that keeps the user engaged.
  • Content that users create to specifically generate an emotional response.

Do Different Social Networks Use Different Algorithms?

Absolutely. Different social media networks use their own unique algorithms, which have different factors that ultimately influence the end user’s journey. 

This HubSpot post breaks down some of the key algorithmic differences across social media platforms. Since different platforms provide different experiences and have different metrics of success, they will rank different behaviors in certain ways when determining what content will keep you on the platform for as long as possible.

Take Facebook, for instance. According to Meta, their goal is to show you the “most meaningful” post in your newsfeed. This meaning is determined by the time you spend looking at certain posts and how you like or react to those posts. This metric is different than it is for more video-centric social networks, like TikTok, which determines content relevance based on user interaction, device settings (such as location), and interactions on past videos.

How Can My Business Take Advantage of Social Media Algorithms?

Social media marketing success stems from creating a customized strategy that revolves around your business goals and the specific nature of each platform. Fortunately, regardless of the platform you use or the business you manage, there are ways your business can take advantage of social media algorithms.

  • Know your audience: In-depth research into your likely audience is necessary before you can create relevant content. You’ll have to understand who your audience is, including all relevant demographic factors, what content appeals to them, and where they spend their time.
  • Solicit engagement: Posts that ask for a call to action (“Like or subscribe for more!”) get more engagement than those that don’t. Furthermore, regardless of the platform, social media algorithms reward engagement. By soliciting engagement or asking your audience questions, you’re more likely to create a post that will be automatically boosted.
  • Coordination is key: Posts that expand your audience will likely get you in front of more users. Coordinate with other businesses to cross-promote content, enabling you to reach new audiences. This strategy will bring more eyes to your post, thus boosting your content.
  • Know what medium works: Facebook has started favoring certain types of posts, such as Lives and video. By keeping up with these trends, you can create content that the algorithm will boost, getting your post in front of more people.
  • Keep an eye on the times: Current events or live happenings are more likely to get engagement than referencing stale topics. Tie the content of your posts with ongoing events relevant to your audience. Doing so will increase the timeliness of your content and get it in front of more people. 

Closing Thoughts

Businesses live and die by the success of social media algorithms. A social media algorithm will determine what content users see, and each platform utilizes different algorithms. Fortunately, there are specific ways your business can learn about these social media algorithms and create content strategies that allow your content to get in front of as many eyes as possible.