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Social Media Algorithms: A Jargon-Free Guide for Startups

We know all too well that understanding social media and its baffling algorithms can be a minefield for founders looking to shape their online presence. Like puppeteers of the digital world, these algorithms dictate what content gets seen, who sees it, and when. It can be tricky to navigate these ‘rules’ set by the social media giants, so much so that 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing, which includes understanding and leveraging these ever-changing algorithms.

Understanding the Basics

 

So, what actually is an algorithm in social media? Put simply, it’s a set of rules or instructions followed by computers to determine what content each user sees when they scroll their feeds.

When you log into a platform like Instagram or Facebook, what you see isn’t just a random collection of photos and posts. Instead, these platforms use sophisticated algorithms to personalise your feed based on your previous actions. This includes the posts you like, the people you interact with and, even the amount of time you spend looking at a particular post.

For example, if you’re a regular TikTok user, you’ve probably noticed that the content served to you on your For You Page (or FYP for those clued up on the lingo) is, 99% of the time, exactly the kind of thing you’re interested in. In fact, TikTok’s algorithm is probably one of the most sophisticated out there, with targeting that’s so super accurate, it’s scary. No two people will ever be served the exact same content at the same time, simply because each user’s set of interests are unique to them.

You’re probably wondering why this is all relevant. Well, if you can understand how these rules work, you can tailor your content to make sure it not only reaches the widest possible audience, but also puts your brand directly in front of your target audience.

Eyes On The Brand

When you post a piece of content, it’s not guaranteed to be seen by all your followers. In fact, due to the way that social media algorithms operate, only a tiny percentage of your audience is likely to see it at all. Frustrating, we know!
These algorithms prioritise certain types of content, based on factors (or ‘ranking signals’) like engagement, relevancy, and timeliness. This means that the more interaction a post has and the more relevant the algorithm deems it to be, the more visibility it’ll have. Timing is also critical, as recent posts are more likely to surface at the top of your followers’ feeds.

Sounds like a minefield, right? It doesn’t need to be though. Keeping a few simple tips in mind when crafting your content can really help to drive results.

Content is King

So now you know what an algorithm is, and how to use them to your advantage, let’s talk about what you should actually post. Tailoring content to dance to the tune of social media algorithms is easier than it might seem.

Identifying the Algorithm’s Preferences  

Every social media algorithm is unique, so its key to understand the type of content preferred by each platform. One size doesn’t fit all!
Facebook loves meaningful content that sparks conversation, and Instagram favours engaging Reels and imagery. Understand the algorithms of the platforms you use and find unique ways to play in to them.
Instagram’s Creators page regular shares updates and is a useful one to follow, and sites such as Sprout Social and Later are great sources of information.

Playing by the Rules of Engagement  

Social media algorithms promote posts that engage users. Generate content that drives comments and encourages the audience to share with their friends, such as competitions,  ‘This or That’ polls where users pick their favourite of two products, or asking for their thoughts on potential new products. Be sure to respond to as many comments as you can, too. The more you interact with users, the more the algorithm favours you.

Quality Over Quantity  

One excellent, relevant post is better than many average ones. Create high-quality content with useful information for your audience.

Consistency is Key 

Regular, consistent posts keep you in the algorithm’s good books. Building a content calendar can help maintain consistency but be careful not to post too often. Don’t spam them with constant posts, or you run the risk of losing followers that you’ve worked to win. Find the right balance for you and your audience.

Perfect Timing

The timing of your posts is important. Check the analytics and insights sections within each platform, where you’ll see your audience’s peak activity times, and schedule posts around these to ensure maximum visibility. Posting about food? Schedule your posts to go live just before lunch or dinner time when they’re hungry! Launching a new product on social? Time it around paydays when your audience is more likely to spend their hard-earned cash.

Brand Advocates

User-generated content (or UGC), like reviews or testimonials from customers and influencers, can boost engagement and reach, as it provides authenticity and trustworthiness. Reviews and recommendations sell, so find ways to encourage your audience to share their experiences of your products or services.

Experiment and Evaluate  

Remember to check your posts’ performance. The content that gets the most likes, comments, and shares can provide useful insights to help determine your future strategies. Keep testing different approaches to find what works best.

Whether you’re in fashion, technology, or food services—every startup needs a solid online presence. The secret is to fully understand social media algorithms and how they work. Their underlying principles are generally the same: they favour active and engaging content that triggers authentic interactions. So, always focus on creating quality content that resonates with your audience, and stay consistent to keep them coming back for more!

Experiment, analyse your results, and tweak your strategies accordingly. Who knows? Your startup could be the next trending topic.

Need help with your marketing strategy or social media content creation? Drop us a line!

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