How Social Media Algorithms Work

by | Nov 8, 2023 | Marketing, Social Media Glossary

Mastering Social Media Algorithms: Everything You Need To Know

Understanding How social media algorithms work begins by understanding what they’re attempting to achieve. At their core, they are complex systems designed to determine the content users see on their feeds. While these algorithms are continuously evolving, the following is a general overview of how they work for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok, along with some of the key tactics that can be deployed to help take advantage of each. By having a clear understanding of the intent of the social media algorithms for each platform, you can create a content strategy that will more impactfully align with them.

How Social Media Algorithms Work: Understanding the Facebook Algorithm

Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm evaluates a multitude of factors to determine the content that appears on a user’s feed. These factors include post engagement (likes, comments, shares), content type (photos, videos, links), post recency, and the user’s relationship with the poster. EdgeRank assigns a score to each post based on these factors, and posts with higher scores are more likely to appear in users’ feeds.

Why Facebook Works This Way:

Facebook’s primary goal is to keep users engaged on the platform. By prioritizing content that users are likely to interact with, Facebook ensures a personalized experience, keeping users scrolling and engaging for longer periods.

Tactics That Align With the Algorithm:

  • Diverse Content Types: Experiment with various content types, including photos, videos, live streams, and polls, to appeal to a broader audience.
  • Meaningful Interactions: Encourage meaningful interactions such as discussions and debates to boost engagement levels.
  • Timing and Frequency: Post at times when your target audience is most active, and maintain a consistent posting schedule to keep your content visible.
  • Paid Promotion: Utilize Facebook’s advertising options to boost the reach of your posts to specific demographics, ensuring your content reaches a wider audience.
  • Groups and Communities: Engage in relevant Facebook groups and communities to broaden your reach and connect with users interested in your niche.


Types of Facebook Content

  • Grid/Profile Posts: These are the posts that appear on your Facebook profile or grid. They can include text, photos, videos, and links.
  • Regular Feed Posts: Posts that appear in the chronological news feed of your friends and followers. These can include text, images, videos, articles, and more.
  • Stories: Facebook Stories are short, temporary posts that disappear after 24 hours. They can include photos, videos, text, stickers, and interactive elements.
  • Videos: Facebook supports a variety of video content, including live videos and pre-recorded videos. Live videos allow real-time interaction with viewers.
  • Links: Sharing links to articles, blog posts, and external websites is a common type of content on Facebook.


How Social Media Algorithms Work: Understanding the Instagram Algorithm

Instagram’s social media algorithm assesses user engagement, content relevance, relationship with the poster, and timeliness. It also takes into account a user’s interaction history, analyzing which posts they’ve liked or commented on. Instagram prioritizes content that users are likely to engage with, ensuring they see posts that align with their interests.

Why Instagram Works This Way:

Instagram’s algorithm is designed to enhance user experience by displaying content that users find engaging and relevant. By showing users posts they are likely to interact with, Instagram aims to keep users scrolling, liking, and sharing content, increasing the time they spend on the platform.

Tactics That Align With the Algorithm

  • Instagram Stories and Reels: Leverage these features to create engaging, short-form content that captivates your audience.
  • Hashtags and Captions: Use relevant hashtags and compelling captions to reach a broader audience and increase the discoverability of your posts.
  • User-Generated Content: Encourage users to create content related to your brand, products, or services, fostering a sense of community and trust.
  • Collaborations: Collaborate with influencers and other brands to expand your reach to their followers, increasing your visibility.
  • Instagram Ads: Invest in Instagram ads to target specific demographics and promote your content to a wider audience.
  • Engagement Pods: Encourage engagement within your network by liking, commenting, and sharing content from others in your niche.
  • Consistent Aesthetic: Maintain a consistent visual style and theme for your grid posts to create an appealing profile.


Types of Instagram Content

  • Grid/Profile Posts: Instagram grid consists of the posts on your profile. These can include photos, videos, carousels (multiple photos in one post), and captions.
  • Regular Feed Posts: Similar to grid posts, these appear in the chronological feed of your followers. They can include images, videos, captions, and hashtags.
  • Stories: Instagram Stories are short, vertical videos or images that vanish after 24 hours. They often include interactive features like polls, questions, and swipe-up links.
  • Videos: Instagram supports both short videos for regular posts and longer-form videos through IGTV (Instagram TV).
  • Reels: Instagram Reels are short, entertaining videos set to music, similar to TikTok videos.


How Social Media Algorithms Work: Understanding the LinkedIn Algorithm

LinkedIn’s algorithm evaluates content relevance, user engagement, connection strength, and content type. It values posts that spark meaningful professional discussions and interactions, aiming to provide a platform for networking and knowledge sharing.

Why LinkedIn Works This Way:

LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, and its algorithm promotes content that fosters valuable connections and discussions among professionals. By encouraging insightful conversations and industry-related interactions, LinkedIn enhances its users’ professional experiences.

Tactics That Align With the Algorithm:

  • Thought Leadership: Share well-researched articles, industry insights, and your own expertise to position yourself as a thought leader in your field.
  • Engage Authentically: Engage with other professionals’ posts thoughtfully, offering valuable insights and opinions to stimulate discussions.
  • LinkedIn Live: Utilize LinkedIn Live to host webinars, Q&A sessions, and live discussions, allowing you to connect with your audience in real-time.
  • Articles and Publications: Write and publish articles on LinkedIn, showcasing your expertise and knowledge, and attracting a wider professional audience.
  • Networking: Actively expand your professional network by connecting with colleagues, industry peers, and potential clients, increasing your visibility and reach.


Types of LinkedIn Content

  • Grid/Profile Posts: LinkedIn profile grid includes posts similar to Facebook and Instagram. It can feature text, articles, images, and videos.
  • Regular Feed Posts: These posts appear in the news feed of your connections and followers. They can include text, articles, images, videos, and documents.
  • Articles: LinkedIn allows users to publish long-form articles on various topics, positioning you as an industry expert.
  • Videos: LinkedIn supports video content, including native videos and live streams.
  • Document Uploads: You can upload PDFs, slideshows, and other documents directly to LinkedIn posts.
  • Document Sharing: Uploading documents and presentations directly to posts can enhance engagement and provide value to your audience.


How Social Media Algorithms Work: Understanding the TikTok Algorithm

TikTok’s algorithm, the “For You Page” (FYP), analyzes user interactions, video information (captions, hashtags, sounds), and device/account settings. It also considers the region and language settings of the user to curate a personalized feed. TikTok’s algorithm aims to provide users with a continuous stream of entertaining and engaging content from a diverse range of creators.

Why TikTok Works This Way:

TikTok prioritizes user satisfaction by offering a variety of creative content tailored to individual preferences. By showcasing content that resonates with users, TikTok ensures a captivating and enjoyable user experience, leading to longer app usage.

Tactics That Align With the Algorithm:

  • Creative Expression: Experiment with different video styles, effects, and sounds to create unique and visually appealing content that stands out on users’ FYPs.
  • Trend Participation: Stay updated with TikTok trends and challenges, and participate in them creatively to increase your visibility to a wider audience.
  • Interactive Elements: Incorporate interactive elements such as polls, quizzes, and duets to engage users and encourage them to interact with your content.
  • Consistent Posting: Regularly post content to maintain a presence on users’ FYPs. Consistency increases your chances of reaching a broader audience and gaining followers.
  • Collaborations: Collaborate with other TikTok creators to cross-promote each other’s content, expanding your reach to new viewers.


Types of TikTok Content:

  • Short Videos: TikTok’s main content format involves short videos ranging from 15 seconds to 3 minutes.
  • Duets: TikTok allows users to create split-screen videos with other users’ content, fostering collaboration and creativity.
  • Stitch: Similar to Duets, Stitch enables users to clip and integrate scenes from others’ videos into their own.
  • TikTok Challenges: Challenges are viral trends where users participate by creating videos related to a specific theme or dance routine.


Social Media Statistics, Updated November 8th, 2023

  • Facebook: As of July 2023, Facebook has over 3.03 billion monthly active users worldwide, solidifying its position as the largest social media platform. It remains a crucial platform for businesses and individuals to connect with a vast audience and share information.
  • Instagram: With over 2 billion monthly active users globally as of July 2023, Instagram has cemented its status as a leading social media platform. Its Stories feature, with over 500 million daily users, continues to provide a powerful tool for instant, engaging content delivery.
  • LinkedIn: In October 2023, LinkedIn surpassed 830 million members in over 200 countries and territories, further establishing its dominance as the premier platform for professionals. It facilitates networking, job searches, industry-related discussions, and skill development opportunities.
  • TikTok: TikTok’s meteoric rise continued, reaching over 1.5 billion monthly active users globally as of January 2023. Its unique short-form video content format and diverse creator base have made it one of the most popular and influential social media platforms.


How Social Media Algorithms Work: Wrapping it Up

Remember, the key to successful social media engagement lies not only in understanding how social media algorithms work, but also in staying updated with the latest changes and trends on each platform. By adapting your content strategy to align with the evolving algorithms and catering to your specific audience’s interests and preferences, you can significantly enhance your social media presence and engagement levels.

J.W. Martin

About the Author

J.W. Martin is a marketing expert with 25 years experience developing marketing strategy for local businesses. He can be reached at

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