How do algorithms change the information that reaches us?
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Social media algorithm is a phenomenon that is hardly understood by a common user, even for marketers, for it is something like data puzzles that are complex to be solved. To do business in the contemporary world, social media is the most important platform in the digital environment. Consequently, marketers who do not understand algorithms find themselves in a difficult position to tackle social media.
What are the algorithms?
The algorithm is a process through which social media posts are displayed on a users’ feed based on its relevance, rather than the publishing time. Social networks have the power to sort and prioritize content as per the users’ behavior. Previously, the content was displayed in reverse chronological order, where the users were able to see the newest post first. Now, social networks decide content for the users based on their interactions, activities and preferences on social media platforms.
For instance, the post users see on Facebook or Instagram might be from their family or friends, depending on how often they interact with those accounts. There are times when they also see YouTube video recommendations that could be based on past searches. Additionally, factors such as likes, hashtags, keywords, and categories also determine the recommendations a user may get on any platform.
The algorithms are useful in a way that it only displays content that is relevant and based on the consumers’ likes and preferences. However, marketers often criticize them for not being accurate and also for not impacting the reach on a social media platform. Sometimes, Facebook randomly hides content even when it's optimized to a target audience.
On the other hand, YouTube recommends videos with millions of views randomly to a viewer. Due to constant backlash, algorithms are evolving to provide a better user experience. Marketers need to adapt to the constant changes and developments by experimenting with different strategies for marketing.
But how do social media algorithms really work?
In easy words, the purpose of algorithms is to convey content that is most relevant to the users. Although, in terms of functionality, they involve data sciences and machine learning. The algorithms analyze data and rank posts using criteria that are not easy for an average marketer to understand. Because of that, some social media networks have drawn a detailed guide for users to help them understand how their content will be ranked.
Facebook, for example, has established ground rules that give priority to the purposeful conversation instead of transactions. Similarly, Instagram made it clear that they display those posts and accounts to which a user shows the most engagement. Other elements like the number of followers, active time on Instagram, and post timings, amongst others, also contribute to what a user sees.
Social media networks are still not transparent about how the algorithms work in reality. The information that reaches us today is based on our attitudes and behaviors. In most cases, the bigger the engagement, the more the algorithm will work in one’s favor. However, mastering the art of understanding the algorithm demands constant experimenting and implementation of useful techniques.
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