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What’s Inside Social Media Algorithms?

The practice of collecting and selling consumer data that tracks buying behaviors and monitors physical movements of every internet user is causing serious concern and consternation among the virtually connected. Effective digital marketing techniques depend greatly on understanding and utilizing the vast amount of data generated by social media users and the platforms that collect, evaluate and rank consumer data.

In the early stages of social media platforms, virtually all posted content by users and advertisers was uploaded to the platforms. In order to manage and optimize the use of all the massive amounts of information, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and others began to implement a set of rules (algorithms) to determine what information a user would be able to experience and the order in which that information was revealed to each individual user. A mathematical formula designed to determine an individual user’s preferences, algorithms have often been difficult for the average user or marketer to fully understand. The previously proprietary secrecy surrounding how the formulas were designed led many in the digital marketing arena to misunderstand and distrust the process. Recently some of the most popular apps have lifted the veil of secrecy to promote overall trust and understanding.

Given that each social media platform uses different criteria for developing and implementing its own algorithms or formulas, the result can often make understanding the process more difficult. To cloud understanding even more, Facebook recently reminded us all that there is no single algorithm, but rather “multiple layers of machine learning models and rankings” designed to guess which user posts are “most valuable and meaningful to an individual over the long term.” Like so many other important things in life, details matter. So what facts are considered in the process of building social media algorithms and can the details be easily explained and understood by users and advertisers alike?

While each platform does have a unique order of approach to formulating its algorithms, most measure similar or common elements. Established relationships between a user and another person or business will rank the posted content higher than content that lacks a former relationship. Generally, the more a user interacts or frequents a particular profile the more often that profile will appear first in future postings. Consistently engaging followers with quality and interesting content will reward a brand with higher rankings in future posts to a targeted audience.

It is often said that content remains the undisputed king in digital marketing and is certainly an important factor in the formulation of most algorithms. But the type of media utilized to project the message is also important. Videos, photo images, and the use of links are favored differently by individual followers. Algorithms measure the media preferences of each individual user constantly and rank favored choices accordingly.

How popular are your brand’s posts with the general internet audience? Are they being shared or being reposted freely between like-minded friends and followers? If not, your future messages may not receive a favorable ranking. This reality emphasizes the importance of the quality of the content and the presentation of a message. Personalization of the message and consistency in its placement will promote better results for a brand.

Generally, new previously unseen news and public information receives top ranking, at least until the user reveals its importance to them. This offsets users not being presented with new insights and perspectives previously not encountered or experienced. In 2020, several social media platforms announced that the algorithm will evaluate the credibility and quality of news articles to promote substantiated news rather than misinformation. The announcement created controversy among internet users across digital platforms. If not resolved, the act may have a sustained negative impact on the credibility and trustworthiness of platforms that appear to be deciding what content and information users experience.

Proponents argue that algorithms deliver what users want most and measure ongoing activity to determine the future ranking of important information. Without the utilization of machine learning, Instagram says that 70% of all posts and 50% of friends’ posts would not be revealed and that relevancy sorting has led to its 800 million-plus users seeing 90% of friends’ posts.

While the major social media platforms say they are utilizing algorithms to create better experiences for users, the differences in how each create formulas and the seeming constant changing of the process are making it difficult for digital marketers to identify the best path forward for brands. The upcoming regulations to the use of consumers’ personal information may be one reason behind the flurry of changes and the platforms’ voluntary revelations about processes.

To learn more about the changing digital media landscape and how it will impact your brand’s social media marketing strategy, call the experienced professionals at Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) today at 678-686-1125.