What the feck is the algorithm?

Social media managers get very excited when they talk about “beating the algorithm”…but what on earth is it? In terms of social media, the “algorithm” is just the way that a user’s feed is sorted – in other words, it’s the order that they see posts when they log in or open the app. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok…they all use their own algorithms to help them sort your feed. To save me naming all of these channels throughout the blog, I’m going to refer to Instagram and the Instagram algorithm, but I promise the same applies to all.

If you open your Instagram feed you’ll see that the what you are scrolling through is not just the most recent posts of the accounts you follow. In fact, if you and I are both following the exact same accounts, we won’t see the same posts in the same order. I know…crazy, right?

To figure out how to get to the top of the feed, you need to understand how the algorithm prioritises posts…so here’s the scoop: how you use Instagram directs what posts you see on your feed. Its entire job is to show people things they want to see, keep them engaged and keep them coming back. So the algorithm is not ‘out to get you’ if you are delivering the right content to the right people.

If you are trying to make sure your customers and potential customers see your posts in their feed, you need to understand how they are served content. Instagram bases its algorithm around:

  • Previous engagement
    If people have engaged with your posts before, they will see more of them in the future.
  • Related content
    If they have engaged with similar posts and related accounts, they will be more likely to see your posts.
  • Relevancy
    Every post you publish gets a relevancy score. If the photo, caption and hashtags look like they all go together, and seem like other things your customers like, they will get served in the feed.

In order for your content to get served to the right people, at the top of their feed, you need to make sure that it is engaging, relevant and regular…that’s it. That is the secret sauce. Now you just need to know who your customers are, and what they like to engage with. It could be well written blogs, stunning photos, live videos, reels, podcasts… you need to figure out what they engage with and do more of that.

What’s engagement? In order of value it is someone saving, sharing, commenting (more than 4 words) or liking your post. How do you find your customers – that’s a whole other article!

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