How to make friends with the algorithms
Hear someone say ‘algorithms’ and you’ll hear a collective groan and eye roll. If you market your business online with social media and search engines, you’ll likely think they’re the bane of your life and often find yourself blaming them for things not going well. Which, let’s face it, is quite easy to do. To be successful, we need to understand how they work so we can play their game. It’s about making friends with them, not fighting them! But how much do you really know about them? Let’s start with the basics...
What even is an algorithm?
An algorithm is basically a set of rules. In terms of social media, these rules are used to deliver content and to ensure people see more of what they want to see, all designed to keep us scrolling more.
As a consumer, this is great! It means our feeds are showing us the most relevant content first and more often based on our previous engagement. So if you like a bunch of my posts, comment on them, view my stories and engage with them, you’ll likely see more of my content, more often and closer to the top of your feed. It sends signals to the platform you like my stuff, so you’ll see more of it. Happy days!
But as a business and marketer, it means your content has to hit the spot and be engaging for it to have the best possible chances of being seen by as many folk as possible.
How the algorithm works?
These rules, judge how good a piece of content is or likely to be engaged with. The better it is, the more chance it has of being seen. As soon as a piece of content is published on a feed, there’s a tiny window of judgement. The platform’s algorithm will show your content to a small test pool of followers, if it’s engaged with a lot in that time, then it’s shown to more people who may also like it, and on and on, prolonging the shelf-life of your content. If it doesn’t, it won’t be prioritised as much.
It also takes into account what people have liked before and commented on before and profiles they’ve spent time on. So if someone follows you and hasn’t interacted before, it’s unlikely they’ll see your content in their feed.
There are 3 important and 3 kinda important factors platforms consider when choosing how to rank content:
Interest - content is shown if the platform thinks you’ll enjoy it, based on previous interaction
Timeliness - prioritising more recent content over week old stuff
Relationship - this is your relationship with your followers. If they interact a lot, send DMs, tagged in your images, you’ll be prioritised in their feed
Frequency - how often you open the app means you’re shown the top posts since your last visit first
Following - the more people you follow, the fewer times you’ll see multiple posts from the same people
Usage - the more time you spend in the app, means you’ll see a greater variety of posts
So now we know what they are and how they work. But how do we become BFFs?
How to beat the algorithms
Knowing your audience
This is the biggest point, which I cannot emphasise enough.
How can you create content to speak to people if you don’t fully understand who you’re speaking to? If you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no-one. People won’t know you’re speaking to them and will just scroll on by. Understand who they are, what their pain points and problems are that you solve, what makes them tick, what’s important to them. Create content with intention and purpose that feels like you’re in their head, speaking directly to them.
Yup, that word we hear a lot of. But it’s true.
As I said above, the more people who engage with your content, the more people see your content. And, whoever does engage, this sends a signal to Instagram that they like your stuff meaning they’ll see more of it.
Engagement isn’t just likes and comments. It’s also shares, saves, sending DMs and interacting on Stories, so many sure you’re creating content that encourages people to interact with you in some way.
Here are my other top 15 tips for working the algorithms to your advantage
Post content on your feed frequently & consistently to give people the opportunity to engage with you
Make use of as many functions on a platform as possible
Video, Stories and Lives need to be a regular part of your strategy
Use your insights to know when your audience is online and post at these best times for optimum engagement and which content they like best
Show up. Don’t just post and walk away, or schedule and think you don’t have to do anything more. Show up to interact and engage around the time of a post going live. Acknowledge all interactions and generate conversation. Replying with a simple thank you creates a dead end - people like to be recognised and validated
Outwardly engage on other people’s content. It’s all about being social, connecting and building real relationships
Write long captions. The more time people spend on your posts, the better
Make sure the first sentence of your caption is going to hook people in and make them want to expand to read more, and not scroll on by
Using carousels of multiple images increases time on posts and, if one image isn’t as strong, Instagram will show the alternatives to encourage engagement
Make sure your content tells a story. No matter the format, you should have a beginning, middle and end to any videos, stories, lives or captions.
Get personal. YOU are your brand. No-one else. So share human and vulnerable insights into your journey. Honesty and genuineness are really attractive, but make sure it’s always linked back to your brand. No-one likes an over-sharing moaning Mary.
Put your face forwards. Human faces get more interaction, so make sure you’re visible or sharing your customers
Have a hashtag strategy. Make use of all 30, research good ones for your industry, build blocks of about 15 saved on your laptop or the notes section on your phone, alternate which blocks you use and add in additional ones specific to the image. Make sure they’re relevant. Avoid overly generic ones and avoid repeating the same ones all the time
Have a call to action in each post. Whether it is to give their thoughts, share an opinion, make a decision, follow the link in your bio, or DM you. Get creative in encouraging connection
Make use of UGC (user generated content).This is the content your customers creates and tags you in. Share it on your channels and tag them in. It builds relationships, shows you care about your audience, encourages other people to share their pictures AND it reduces the amount of content you have to create. WINNER!
I’ve bombarded you with a huge dollop of nerdy info there. But, in summary it’s knowing your audience, creating content FOR them (not you), and being social. Remember, social media isn’t a sales or marketing tool. It’s for connection, community and building relationships. Focus on that and you’ll be flying!
As always, any questions give me a shout
Rock on, Jen x