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2023: How Do Social Media Algorithms Actually Do Their Thing?

Social media apps displayed on a smartphone

In the age of social media, algorithms reign supreme. They hold the power to determine what content we see and when we see it. But what exactly goes on behind the scenes? How do these complex algorithms work their magic?

Welcome to the world of understanding social media algorithms. In this article, we'll dive into the inner workings of these algorithms, uncovering their secrets and explaining how they shape our online experiences.

From Facebook's News Feed algorithm to Instagram's Explore page algorithm, we'll explore what factors affect what we see, how we engage with it, and how businesses and influencers succeed. We'll talk about things like relevance, how much people like and interact with content, and what people do online.

What Are Social Media Algorithms?

Social media algorithms are complex sets of rules and calculations designed to filter and organize the massive amounts of content available on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

Their primary goal is to present users with content that is relevant, interesting, and engaging, ultimately maximizing user interaction and time spent on the platform.

Data Collection And User Profiling

At the core of social media algorithms lies data collection and user profiling. When you interact with posts, share content, follow accounts, or engage in any way, platforms gather data about your preferences, interests, and behaviors. This data is used to create a detailed profile of your online persona, enabling algorithms to understand what type of content you are likely to enjoy.

Social Platform’s Algorithm Explained

Now that we understand how social media algorithms operate, let's delve into specific signals that impact rankings on each platform.

While we may not be privy to all the intricate details of each algorithm, we do have enough insights to make meaningful adjustments to our content strategy, ensuring that these algorithms work in our favor.

Below, we outline the key and established ranking signals for each social media platform.

Facebook Algorithm

Facebook logo on a laptop

The Facebook algorithm, known as the News Feed algorithm, focuses on curating a personalized feed for users. It considers several factors to determine which content appears at the top of a user's feed:

Engagement: The algorithm prioritizes posts that users are likely to engage with, such as liking, commenting, sharing, or clicking on.

Recency: More recent posts are given priority to keep users updated with the latest content.

Relationships: Content from friends, family, and accounts with closer relationships to the user is prioritized.

Content Type: The algorithm considers the type of content (photos, videos, links) a user typically interacts with.

User Preferences: It learns from a user's interactions and tailors the feed to match their interests.

Something worth noting is that the organic reach on social media platforms is witnessing a decline. On Facebook, this translates to a decrease of over 5 percent in the average reach for organic posts. The engagement rate stands at a mere 0.25 percent, which further diminishes to 0.08 percent for accounts with over 100k followers.

Paid content on Facebook is evaluated separately but still centers around engagement, customer interactions, and relevance to the topic. Key strategies for effectively navigating the Facebook algorithm include:

Prioritize Connection: Building connections is essential to ensure that your brand responds to comments and inquiries from users.

Encourage Meaningful Responses: Aim to prompt responses that go beyond a simple 'like,' as Facebook places more significance on reactions through buttons like "love," "wow," or others.

Leverage Facebook Stories: These stories don't rely on the algorithm for visibility as they're not featured in the main newsfeed.

Embrace Live Video: The algorithm favors live videos due to their higher engagement levels.

Exercise Caution with External Content: Before sharing external content, verify its credibility and ensure it's free from misleading information.

Instagram Algorithm

Instagram app on a smart phone

The Instagram algorithm strives to display content that users find most engaging and relevant. The algorithm takes into account the following factors:

Engagement: The algorithm prioritizes posts with high engagement rates, including likes, comments, and shares.

User Relationships: Content from accounts users frequently interact with, such as friends and family, is given priority.

Recency: Recent posts are highlighted to ensure users are up-to-date with the latest content.

Interest Relevance: The algorithm identifies users' interests based on their interactions and shows content that aligns with those interests.

PRO TIP: Carousels on Instagram receive threefold higher engagement compared to other types of posts. Currently, Reels are given a visibility boost to encourage their usage as a new feature. This implies that your brand should be open to experimenting with novel features in order to enhance engagement and gain attention on the platform.

YouTube Algorithm

Youtube logo on a smartphone

YouTube's recommendation algorithm aims to keep users engaged by suggesting videos they are likely to enjoy. Key factors include:

Viewing History: The algorithm considers a user's past viewing behavior to suggest similar content.

Engagement: Videos with high watch times, likes, comments, and shares are more likely to be recommended.

Content Type: The algorithm tailors recommendations based on the type of content a user frequently watches.

Trending and Freshness: It showcases trending videos and new uploads to ensure users stay informed and entertained.

LinkedIn Algorithm

LinkedIn logo on a smartphone in a yellow background

Renowned as a frontrunner in B2B marketing, LinkedIn distinguishes itself as a networking-focused social platform rather than a follower-centric one. It currently boasts substantial adoption among Fortune 500 companies.

LinkedIn has developed an algorithm hinging on connections and engagement, making robust and pertinent content pivotal for achieving success on the platform. The algorithm's primary objective is to enhance engagement and prioritize relevant content. Since 2018, the algorithm has witnessed a remarkable 50 percent annual surge in viral activity. Even if your networking connections are limited, cultivating this aspect can be deferred if you offer content of value.

Key strategies to harness LinkedIn's algorithm encompass:

  1. Employing 3 to 10 hashtags in a post

  2. Recognizing that while video content is favored, it no longer receives primary emphasis in the feed

  3. Prioritizing comments over likes or reactions

  4. Valuing dwell time, reflecting how long a viewer engages with your post

  5. Expanding your network by engaging with pertinent individuals, encouraging employee activity, or participating in LinkedIn Groups

  6. Exploring LinkedIn ads to expand your network and audience

  7. Leveraging analytics to comprehend the effectiveness of your content

LinkedIn's algorithm prioritizes content that offers value and relevance to professionals. Key considerations include:

Engagement: Posts with higher engagement rates, such as comments and shares, are favored.

Connection Strength: Content from users' close connections, such as colleagues and industry peers, is given priority.

Content Quality: The algorithm assesses the quality and substance of the content, favoring informative and insightful posts.

User Preferences: It learns from a user's interactions and tailors the feed to match their professional interests.

Twitter Algorithm

Twitter logo in a smartphone

When Twitter was introduced in 2006, it used a timeline-based approach to display posts, focusing on the chronological order rather than content relevance. However, in its latest algorithm update in April 2023, Twitter has progressed to incorporate a variety of factors for post ranking, including subject expertise and demographic suitability.

Twitter's timeline algorithm aims to surface tweets that are most relevant and engaging for users. Factors taken into account include:

Recency: The algorithm places a significant emphasis on the recency of tweets. Recent posts are given priority in users' timelines to ensure that they are up-to-date with the latest information and conversations.

Virality: Virality refers to the extent to which a tweet has been shared, retweeted, liked, and engaged with by users. Tweets that are gaining traction and being shared widely are often ranked higher by the algorithm.

Relevance: The relevance of a tweet is determined by its content and how closely it aligns with a user's interests and interactions. The algorithm assesses the keywords, hashtags, and context of a tweet to gauge its relevance to individual users.

Geographical Location: Geographical location is a factor that comes into play, especially for tweets that involve location-specific information or trends. Tweets related to local events or news might be promoted to users in the same geographic area.

Personal Interests: The algorithm takes into account a user's past interactions, likes, and engagement patterns to understand their personal interests. Tweets that align with a user's demonstrated interests are more likely to be shown to them.

To leverage Twitter for business purposes effectively, it's essential to share pertinent content aligned with your specialized field. Consistently engaging with pertinent accounts, users, or brands is crucial. Additionally, optimizing engagement can be achieved by sharing content during peak days and hours.

TikTok Algorithm

TikTok logo in a smartphone

TikTok, a rapidly growing social media platform, has gained immense popularity. The effectiveness of TikTok's personalized algorithm stems from its segmentation of the captivating 'For You' feed featuring videos. But the question remains: How does this mechanism operate?

User Interactions: The algorithm considers what users engage with, including likes, shares, and comments, to determine preferences.

Video Information: It takes into account details like captions, hashtags, and sounds to categorize and recommend content.

Video Completion: Videos that are watched till the end are favored, indicating strong engagement.

Diversity: The algorithm aims to expose users to a variety of content, from different creators and genres.

TikTok offers a unique aspect in that its recommendations aren't reliant on follower count or video popularity. The platform's core appreciation lies in well-crafted video content, granting everyone an opportunity to showcase their content to users, brands, and creators alike. This attribute renders TikTok an invaluable medium for marketers aiming to captivate a youthful audience through creative video content.

Challenges And Concerns

A woman looking stressed at her laptop

While social media algorithms have transformed the way we consume content, they also face criticism and concerns:

Filter Bubble

The Filter Bubble is a phenomenon where social media algorithms personalize content to the point that users are primarily exposed to information that aligns with their existing beliefs and interests. This can create a feedback loop, where users are reinforced in their viewpoints without being exposed to diverse perspectives. The consequences of the Filter Bubble include:

Confirmation Bias: Users may become more entrenched in their existing opinions, as they are less likely to encounter alternative viewpoints.

Polarization: The lack of exposure to diverse perspectives can lead to the amplification of ideological divides and hinder constructive dialogue.

Narrowed Worldview: Users may miss out on important news, trends, and issues due to the algorithm's prioritization of familiar content.

Echobox Effect

The Echobox Effect, also known as the "echo chamber" effect, occurs when social media algorithms unintentionally amplify sensational, emotional, or polarizing content. This content tends to generate higher levels of engagement, as users are more likely to react to extreme viewpoints or provocative material. The consequences of the Echobox Effect include:

Misinformation Spread: Misleading or false information that evokes strong reactions can quickly spread, leading to the proliferation of inaccurate content.

Confirmation of Beliefs: Users might be exposed to exaggerated or extreme viewpoints that confirm their existing beliefs, intensifying polarization.

Decreased Credibility: The algorithm's prioritization of sensational content can erode the credibility of the platform, making it a breeding ground for clickbait and sensationalism.


Social media algorithms heavily rely on user data to personalize content. However, this data collection can raise serious privacy concerns, as users' personal information is utilized without their full understanding or consent. The privacy challenges include:

Data Exploitation: Personal data collected for algorithmic customization can be used for targeted advertising without users' clear consent.

Data Breaches: The storage of vast amounts of user data increases the risk of data breaches, potentially exposing sensitive information to unauthorized parties.

User Surveillance: Excessive data collection can lead to users feeling monitored, raising ethical concerns about surveillance.

Algorithmic Bias

Algorithmic bias occurs when an algorithm's decisions or recommendations reflect underlying biases present in the training data. If the data used to train algorithms is skewed or contains biased information, the algorithms can inadvertently perpetuate discrimination and inequality. The implications of algorithmic bias include:

Discrimination: Algorithms can amplify existing societal biases, leading to unfair treatment or exclusion of certain groups based on race, gender, or other factors.

Unequal Opportunities: Biased algorithms can impact job opportunities, loan approvals, and other areas of life where automated decisions are made.

Lack of Diversity: If the training data lacks diversity, the algorithm might struggle to accurately represent and serve diverse user groups.

Final Words

Content Is Key

Algorithms are designed to sift out posts lacking relevance or quality, ensuring that only the finest content is presented.

A significant lesson for marketers on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is to internalize that the responsibility lies with us to share captivating, informative, entertaining, and pertinent content. This encompasses selecting pertinent subjects, crafting engaging text, and sharing captivating visuals and videos.


Well, aren’t we glad you asked! We at DigiCom are obsessive data-driven marketers pulling from multi-disciplinary strategies to unlock scale. We buy media across all platforms and placements and provide creative solutions alongside content creation, and conversion rate optimizations. We pride ourselves on your successes and will stop at nothing to help you grow.


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