What Do Social Media Algorithms Mean for Marketing?

Every day, about 410,000 new social media users sign up for a platform, adding to the 4.8 billion users around the world. On average, social media users spend two hours and 24 minutes each day on various platforms. Collectively, the entire world spends 11.5 billion hours on social media sites every single day.

It’s hard to deny the significance of social media in everyday life, and if your marketing agency isn’t offering effective social media strategies to your clients, you’re missing out on major opportunities to boost their conversions and revenue.

Tossing up some organic posts and setting up some social media ad campaigns is only the start. To develop highly effective social media marketing campaigns, you’ll need to dig into the details of the platforms’ algorithms. Let’s take a closer look at social media algorithms and explore what they mean for marketing and advertising.

What exactly is a social media algorithm?

Social media algorithms are the code that sorts a user’s feed, prioritizing the display of content that they are most likely to want to see, rather than based on the date of publication. Back in the dinosaur days of social media, social media feeds typically displayed content to users in reverse chronological order. This means that a user will see the most recently published posts from the users they follow first, followed by older posts.

Although you can still adjust your settings in some social media platforms to display posts in order of publication time, the default is generally the relevancy algorithm. How does the algorithm know what sort of content is most relevant to any given user?

Well, content posted by friends and family on Facebook, for example, will generally take priority. The same is true of content by users that you’ve previously interacted with (liked, shared, or left a comment on).

Why are social media algorithms important for marketers?

In marketing, visibility is everything. You could plan an absolutely brilliant campaign of organic posts that raise brand awareness, make the company seem personable and humorous, and elevate the perceived quality of its products or services. The copy could be perfect and the images could be instantly captivating. But if nobody sees it, it won’t matter.

Social media algorithms are significant for marketers because they determine whether the content that they’ve spent so much time and effort to produce will get any results for their clients.

It should be noted that the algorithms aren’t perfect. While scrolling your own personal social media feeds, you may notice some content that seems completely irrelevant to your preferences and interests.

Plus, social media algorithms are being continually tweaked by their platforms. It’s all in an effort to keep people hooked on scrolling by providing them with a good user experience and engaging content that keeps them coming back.

Are social media algorithms a good thing for marketers?

While marketers may sometimes see social media algorithms as an obstacle, they’re actually a good thing. There are billions upon billions of social media posts, images, comments, and videos uploaded every day.

Without social media algorithms, it would be almost impossible for users to find the content they want to see and for marketers to put their brands’ content in front of the right eyes.

For example, let’s say you’re working on a campaign for a company that designs clothing for monkeys. There are only an estimated 15,000 people in the U.S. who keep monkeys as pets.

There’s no point in marketing monkey clothing to the more than 331 million other people in the U.S. who do not have a monkey in their household. Social media algorithms will help your monkey clothing-related posts find their way to the right eyes.

How can you please social media algorithms and attract more visibility?

Each social media platform has their own algorithms, of course, but there are a few time-tested strategies that can prove helpful for organic and paid marketing content on all of the major platforms. Here’s a look at the top steps to take to win over social media algorithms and boost the visibility of the brands in your portfolio.

1. Prioritize content quality.

No matter what platform you’re posting on or what company the content is supposed to promote, the number one priority is quality. You can never go wrong with posting high-quality content because that’s what users will find most appealing.

One issue that goes hand-in-hand with content quality is audience recognition. In order to determine what your audience would deem to be high-quality content, you’ll need to know who your audience is. Are you speaking to teens and tweens or to residents of an active adult retirement community?

Are you trying to attract people who love collectibles, or do you want to appeal to motorheads? Does your audience prefer lighthearted entertainment or actionable/informative guidance?

Remember that, although the type of content you post should be of a high quality and relevant to your audience, it does not always need to promote the brand in an obvious way.

For instance, let’s say you’re posting on behalf of an architecture company. You’ll want to post pictures and videos of your client’s work, of course, but you might also post content of jaw-dropping design work that your client didn’t do, like the Fallingwater home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The goal here is to attract attention, entertain, and provide value.

2. Encourage audience engagement.

In addition to considering content quality, social media algorithms evaluate audience engagement when deciding if a particular piece of content is good enough to show to more eyes. How exactly is the level of audience engagement determined?

It depends on the platform, but generally, the more likes, shares, and comments a post gets, the more the algorithm will value it. (On Pinterest, the higher the number of repins, the more popular it is, and therefore the more highly it will be ranked.)

Again, prioritizing content quality is one way to encourage audience engagement. The more interesting and appealing your posts are, the more people will want to respond to them in some way.

However, you can also boost audience engagement simply by asking them to take some sort of action. Polls and surveys are a popular method, for example.

Even if a poll doesn’t directly relate to the brand, but rather to its industry or niche, it can still be helpful for marketing purposes. If a user engages with a poll, they may be more likely to see more of your content because the algorithm might determine that other content you post is relevant to that user.

Fun quizzes or challenges are another option. Quizzes and questions can prompt users to engage with a post by commenting on it and sharing it. Often, the key to a successful quiz or question is its entertainment value (although this can depend on industry).

You might also consider talking to your clients about adding an incentive. For example, every user who leaves an answer to your quiz in the comments could be automatically entered into a raffle. The prize doesn’t have to be financially significant to attract a great deal of attention, but it should be worth the users’ time.

3. Research and use the right hashtags.

Hashtags are commonly used across social media platforms to organize content around different categories. If a user likes a post with the hashtag #mondayblues, they’ll be more likely to be shown a different post with that hashtag, even if they’ve never interacted with the second account before.

Take the time to research the hashtags that seem most relevant not only for the client, their industry, and niche, but also for that particular piece of content.

When researching hashtags, it’s a good idea to consider trending topics. You shouldn’t necessarily jump on every social media trend for every client, but do find the ones that seem most relevant to the brand.

You may need to disrupt your social media editorial calendar a bit to take advantage of any exciting trends in your clients’ field. If you wait too long to capitalize on it, the trend may have already died out.

4. Optimize the timing of your content publications.

When a piece of content is published plays a pivotal role in how many viewers it gets and, consequently, how much engagement it receives. The optimal time to post to social media differs from one platform to the next. Overall, the worst day is Sunday.

Pinterest users also don’t care much for Mondays, while LinkedIn users are most active on the platform on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

It can get complicated to pin down exactly when to post each piece of content to each platform, particularly when you start narrowing down a time window on the ideal days.

Instead of trying to sort through your own spreadsheets with optimal posting times, consider using a social media posting app that allows you to simply click to automatically schedule a post for the optimal time on each platform.

5. Stay consistent with your posting schedule.

Regardless of the specific timing of your posts, you’ll want to make sure that you maintain a consistent, predictable posting calendar for your clients. One way to win over the algorithms on social media platforms is to be an active participant.

Accounts that post content more frequently tend to do better than those that only post once per week or a few times per month. (Responding to comments is also good practice.)

To get as much mileage as possible out of each piece of content, you could consider cross-posting. For instance, if your interior design client recently completed a major job and wants to showcase the pictures, you could post them to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Just be sure that whatever you’re posting is appropriate for each platform’s audience.

6. Incorporate more video content.

Just as video killed the radio star, it may be inflicting some damage on text-only posts. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been blunt about stating that their algorithms would begin prioritizing video content over text-only content.

There’s a caveat: The priority is native video content. That means if your posts only include a link to a video that lives on another website the social media algorithm won’t reward it. The video must be uploaded directly to the platform.

The type of video doesn’t really matter—at least not for the algorithms. It could be a short commercial, an explainer video, or a customer testimonial. The algorithm will reward it all the same.

However, remember that quality is still important for all types of content. If the video isn’t interesting, engaging, or informative—or all of the above—customers won’t interact with it as much and as a result, it won’t get as much visibility as it otherwise would have.

7. Avoid clickbait like the plague.

Nobody likes clickbait, including both algorithms and humans. When social media was young, clickbait skyrocketed in an effort to—you guessed it—get clicks. As a result, the social media algorithms were tweaked to penalize clickbait.

If your content seems to be misleading or otherwise spammed, it will get downvoted. Because of this, it’s essential to ensure that all of your posts include accurate headlines, captions, hashtags, and other appropriate elements.

For example, if you’re posting on behalf of an HVAC company, you should avoid headlines like: “This AC only costs pennies!” if what you really mean is: “This AC costs very little to operate compared to its competitors.” The former suggests that customers can actually buy a new AC for pennies.

Customers don’t like being duped any more than algorithms like spam, so do be sure to prioritize accuracy over catchy headlines.

What if you don’t have enough time for social media campaigns?

Workflow management is a top challenge for marketing agency owners and managers. When you have overflow work, but aren’t ready to hire more talent just yet, you can outsource to a white label marketing agency like Pennington Creative.

We specialize in providing agency solutions to enable your business to effortlessly scale when the time is right. We also work with in-house marketing departments to provide extra help without the hassle of dealing with freelancers.

Contact us today to request a free discovery call and find out how we can delight your clients.