/ / / Beat them at their own game: Learn how the social algorithms work to improve your social strategy

Beat them at their own game: Learn how the social algorithms work to improve your social strategy

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Social Algorithms - How do they work? Facebook.

Your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are probably full of hundreds of people, maybe even thousands, who are all connected with you. Most people don’t realise, but these social networks have a way of ensuring that you don’t see every update from every one of these people – because, actually, that would ruin the experience of the social network for you.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all done their research and have implemented social algorithms that will help you – and your fans – see exactly what means the most to you every time you log on. Here at Social Heroes, we know a lot about the way these algorithms work and we’d like to share them with you.

Each week, for the next 3 weeks, we’re going to share with you how these algorithms work for the three most popular social networks: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Today, it’s Facebook.

Facebook’s algorithm was the earliest one – beginning in 2006. It’s changed a substantial amount since then, and will we’re sure continue to, but here’s how it stands in 2016.

Facebook’s entire algorithm is based around the whole concept of a personalised newspaper. Zuckerberg envisioned a platform which picked ‘news stories’ from friends, families and brands that most stood out to individual users as being interesting. So what impact does this have on your feed?

Well, considering that we anticipate that the average user without the algorithm in place would see 1,500 stories a day – in comparison to the 100 that we actually see – that’s a huge difference.

How does it work?
Facebook’s team of web-development geniuses are constantly finding ways to learn from user behaviour and creating new signals which can show which content each user is the most interested in.

Their algorithm has become incredibly sophisticated over the years, and is now at the forefront of the platforms when it comes to categorising posts. But exactly what do they look for?  There’s not one easy answer to this as they do take into account hundreds of different variables which can actively predict whether any user will react to, like, click on, comment, share, hide or report any given post. Creepy, right?

Even more so, when considered that the algorithm is able to predict your action with a degree of confidence that we refer to as the ‘relevancy’ score which is specific both to the individual user and the post itself. Most businesses know that ads are given a relevancy score, but do not know that this is extended into their organic posts too.

Every post that could potentially show on a feed anywhere in the world is assigned a relevancy score, and will then be ranked and put them into the order that they will appear on a news feed. Every single time you log in or refresh your feed, the post at the top has beaten thousands of others to be the most prominent one for you at that time.

Facebook is also able to give priority, or higher relevancy scores, to posts from friends over brand pages and promotional posts – and in 2015 the ‘See First’ feature was released which allows all users to choose themselves which accounts are shown at the top of the news feed.

Following the relevancy scores, Facebook can and does monitor the time that users spend viewing certain posts. They have discovered that if people are spending more time on a particular post within their feed, then it usually means that the content is relevant to them. By extension, Facebook will then assume that this post is likely to be relevant to your friends and the post is more likely to show up on their News Feeds too. Clever.

Finally, Facebook will also use the type of post to categorise where it falls on your News Feed. They’ve placed a lot of focus on videos since 2015, and continue to do so into this year. They had found that many people were engaging with videos but not actively liking them, so they started to monitor all forms of engagement – such as turning on the audio, pressing HD mode or opening it in full screen. This algorithm will then interpret any of these activities as a sign that you are enjoying the video and will then show you similar ones higher up in your feed.

What does this mean for me?
As a user of Facebook, it’s interesting to know that the posts that you see every day are there for a reason, and are not just shown at random to you.

As a business, all of the above is incredibly useful to know – as it can really help you put your strategy into perspective and consider goals that are going to help boost your relevancy score and get your post reach soaring.

Initially, the obvious thing to do is to look into creating more relevant, shareable social video content. Facebook’s focus on video doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and as a brand you should be reacting to this if you want to make an impact on the platform.

Following this, you need to be carefully considering your posts before you send them – because the more they are relevant to your fans, the more likely you are to get these shown on not only their News Feeds, but their friends’ News Feeds too. There’s no quick fix with this one, and the only way that you’re going to be able to really measure this is to learn by experimentation and seeing what works for your fans.

Use the algorithm as a guide, and strategise your Facebook posts; always keeping the all-important relevancy score in mind.

If you’re not sure where to start, would like some advice, or a health-check of your current page get in touch with Social Heroes. We’re here to help.


Follow Shauna Madden:

Shauna is the Head of Content for Social Heroes. She has spent several years spearheading PR campaigns for giant companies in the North of the UK with incredible results.

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