6 Major Social Media Algorithms Explained (+ Bonus Tips)

Despina Singh

December 15, 20237 min read

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After authoring numerous “how-to” posts — ranging from how to build a social media content strategy beyond the cat memes to how to measure social media engagement beyond the vanity metrics and everything in between — I've almost earned the title of the “inhouse how-to expert” (cue the self-proclaimed badge 😆).

This time steering away from the usual how-to format, I'm thrilled to be exploring an indispensable and quite *ahem* controversial topic in the world of social media.

🥁 🥁 🥁 Social media algorithms.

Social media algorithms have a big task on their hands — they sift through loads of content to pick and show users stuff they will like.

Social media algorithm impacting content shown to users

Let me ask you this — would scrolling through social media be half as gratifying if it didn't show us content or profiles that match our interests?
 
I particularly love watching cat and dog reels on my Instagram feed, and the platform ALWAYS delivers. 🎯

What you get to see on social media is clearly not just about when someone posts something anymore ('anymore' being the keyword here).
 
And that's one of the many reasons we, as marketers, need to read up on the evolution of social media algorithms.

In recent years, social media platforms have taken a significant shift toward a more user-friendly approach, much like Google's approach to ranking content, resulting in more frequent updates than ever. 

There's more.

Algorithms are controversial. Though seemingly simple in their aim to engage users, occasionally, we learn of social media algorithms amplifying the reach of popular but potentially harmful content. 

Algorithms aren't necessarily perfect, not by a long shot.

It goes without saying, there's no way to know every detail that goes into each update. So we marketers need to consistently adapt to the public algorithm updates and use them to our advantage. This means persistently experimenting with content and changing up marketing strategies.

On that note, here’s a round-up of the major social media algorithm updates that were rolled out in 2023 that you need to watch out for in 2024.

Table of Contents

1. Facebook algorithm

Well, you know Facebook's algorithm is like that one friend who's always changing the plans last minute. It keeps social media marketers on their toes, journalists scratching their heads and world leaders wondering if they should send a friend request to their adversaries just to stay in the loop!
 
Jokes apart, in their approach to Facebook Feed ranking, last updated in June 2023, Facebook says,  "Facebook's goal is to make sure that you see posts from the people, interests and ideas that you find valuable, whether that content comes from people you're already connected to or from those you may not yet know."

Here's how the Facebook algorithm works:  

  • You'll see more from friends and brands you love 

  • Whatever format you engage with most — videos, photos — that's what you'll get 

  • The buzz matters — hot topics and posts with lots of interaction, especially from your close contacts, will take precedence


Tips for winning on Facebook in 2024:  

There's no way to "beat" the Facebook algorithm. But there certainly are strategies you can use to send powerful ranking signals to it. 

The most important strategy is to create high-quality content that appeals to your specific audience, while staying engaged with followers and fans of your page. 

Here are some ways to get the Facebook algorithm on your side (aside from running paid ads): 

  • Launch an employee advocacy program 

  • Spark thought-provoking discussions with questions

  • Share content that prompts in-depth comments, not just simple compliments

Get Inspired: How Cisco empowers its employees to serve as brand advocates 

2. Instagram algorithm

The Instagram algorithm affects everyone who uses the platform — especially brands. Its core mission, regardless, is to enhance every user's experience on the platform.
 
Instagram Head Adam Mosseri, in a 2022 Instagram Reel, acknowledged:

"I know many of you are skeptical of ranking, but it really does help us ensure that Instagram is more valuable to each and every person who uses the platform."

Mosseri calls the algorithm “ranking,” possibly to make it sound less robotic, emphasizing the importance of favoring certain posts over others.

The Instagram ranking focuses on three key factors:

  • Your connections: Do you follow them on Instagram? Do you chat or leave comments? If you've engaged with someone in the past, you'll likely see their new content. This is crucial for brands — responding to messages and comments on your posts boosts your visibility.

  • Your interests: What kind of content do you like? If you interact with certain types of posts, Instagram will show you more of the same. This is why my feed is flooded with cute dog and cat videos.

  • Relevance: Is the content current and trending?

That's not all — other Instagram ranking factors include:

  • Frequency of use: If you use Instagram often, you'll see content beyond the posts uploaded by family and friends.

  • Number of accounts followed: The more accounts you follow, the greater the competition for space in your feed.

  • Time spent on the app: Brief visits to the app mean you’ll mostly see content from family and friends in your feed.

The BIG Instagram algorithm changes in 2023:

  • Equal weightage to photos and videos: In 2022, Instagram seemed all about videos. But now, they're making things fairer for photos too.

  • Discover exciting stuff: Adam Mosseri wants 2023 to be about discovery. Your content won't just go to your followers, it'll grab fresh eyeballs.

  • Conversations matter: Instagram is all about sparking conversations. Comments will be a big deal for post success in 2023.

  • Originality rules the IG world: Create original content, and it’ll get a higher spot in Instagram's algorithm. More creativity means better performance.

Guess what? You can watch Adam's weekly videos to stay in the know about Instagram's latest features and how its algorithm works. Tips for winning on Instagram in 2024: 

We've got a whole blog on how to measure your social media engagement. The blog includes a 3-step approach and the right tools to dig deeper and get solid metrics to track how engaged your audience really is. Save it for later!

3. LinkedIn algorithm

LinkedIn differs from other social networks because its algorithm is intentionally designed to prevent content from going viral. 
 
You read that right.  
 
Then what is it about?  
 
LinkedIn's Director of Product, Alice Xiong, specifically shared,

"It all starts with what you (and our 900+ million members) are finding most valuable on LinkedIn. What we've heard is that you want to see more content that is grounded in knowledge or advice, and you want to feel connected with people you know to help you discover the right opportunities. On the flip side, we've heard that the posts that are the least valuable were humblebrags and personal professional updates from people you don't know."

LinkedIn shook things up in June 2023 with some big algorithm changes. They didn't just spring this on us for fun; it came straight from user feedback. The whole point? Well, they had two key aims in mind:   

  • Share more wisdom and advice 

  • Strengthen the bonds between people who already know each other 

What does this mean for you in plain talk? Well, first off, your posts will likely show up in your network's feeds more often. This is especially true for those updates about your personal life or job. Your connections care about what you're up to, but their friends-of-friends might not be as interested.  
 
This new LinkedIn algorithm makes it more likely for your followers and connections to catch a glimpse of your posts. That's because there will be less stuff from people they're not linked with crowding their feeds.

Tips to boost your LinkedIn reach:

  • Share relevant content: Know your audience, and match their interests with your skills. Use visuals like pictures and videos. 

  • Time your posts right: Post when your followers are active. Posting weekly doubles engagement. Or even better, as earlier mentioned, let a tool like Sprinklr suggest optimal times to post, based on your audience's unique behavior. 

  • Promote your posts: Tag people, use keywords and hashtags. Create your own hashtag for more reach. Share posts outside LinkedIn. 

  • Limit outbound links: Put links in comments instead of posts at times — especially when you're not promoting a content asset like a blog, event, etc. 

  • Encourage meaningful engagement: Be active and involved — ask questions, and participate in conversations.  

  • Create original content: Original posts get more attention — go for some behind-the-scenes, interactive quizzes/polls, quotes and inspiration, product/service highlights and even live Q&A sessions.  

  • Grow your network: Connect with relevant people, fill out your profile, join groups and be active. 

  • Analyze your performance: Use LinkedIn analytics and track metrics such as —  profile views, click-through rate (CTR), video views, follower demographics, visitor demographics, post analytics, company page analytics (for company pages), sponsored content metrics (for advertising campaigns), etc. — to refine your strategy. 

  • Share professional content: Stay brand-focused, be yourself and show personality beyond the usual content by competitors. 

4. X (formerly Twitter) algorithm

X's algorithms are fascinating and a bit scary. They have a mind of their own. The micro-blogging site uses secret "black box" algorithms that sort content using machine learning and ranking signals.

Even experts can't always understand how these algorithms work. Elon Musk, before buying X, asked his followers if the algorithm should be open source. Over a million people said yes.

In line with a CNN report, Musk wants to open up X's source code to unlock its potential and make it easier for users to understand why their posts get promoted. This transparency could also help address concerns about bias in the X algorithm, an issue the company has vowed to tackle. 

Here's a list of known X ranking signals: 

  • Your interactions: This includes the accounts you engage with often, the posts you interact with and more. 

  • Recency: This impacts what appears in Trending topics and What's Happening. 

  • Popularity at the moment: The amount of engagement and activity, especially from your network, matters. 

Tips to win over the X (Twitter) algorithm: 

  • Stay active: Post regularly, but don't overthink it. 

  • Get verified.: X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue) gets you the coveted blue check with additional features that enhance and customize user experience.  

  • Hashtags matter: Use them wisely, and avoid overdoing it. 

  • Add visuals: Photos, videos and GIFs boost engagement. 

  • Engage your followers: Ask questions and encourage interaction. 

  • Try Twitter polls: Quick and effective for getting opinions. 

  • Join trending topics: Contribute to relevant discussions. 

  • Repackage top content: Reuse and rephrase successful tweets. 

  • Use analytics: Track what works and use the insight gained to improve your strategy. 

5. TikTok algorithm

To make the most of TikTok, you've got to grasp its algorithm. Unlike other popular social platforms, TikTok's mission is to serve up new content, not just the same old posts, from folks you already follow.

Let's get this straight: TikTok isn't just about cool dance moves, and it might never have been. If you bring value, it's a powerhouse for boosting your brand's awareness.

Here are TikTok ranking signals you should know: 

  • Past likes, follows and skips count: This means the stuff you've liked, the folks you've followed and the content you've scrolled past. 

  • What you do on the Discover tab matters: It assesses stuff like captions, sounds, cool effects and what's trending. 

  • Your location and language count: Content from your hood or in your language might pop up more. 

  • Riding the trends helps: Use the latest sounds and effects can get your stuff noticed. 

  • Keep it TikTok-style. Use the platform’s special effects, sounds and text styles for that authentic "vibe." 

  • Followers don't cut it: Follower count doesn't play a role in TikTok's rankings anymore. 

Unlocking TikTok's algorithm in 2024, one step at a time: 

  • Discover your community: Explore hashtags to find groups that share your interests and amplify your reach. 

  • Grab viewer's attention: The first few seconds are make-or-break — craft a captivating intro to keep viewers hooked. 

  • Optimize for searchability: Boost discoverability by using relevant keywords and trending tags. Make your content easy to find. 

  • Prioritize quality: While you don't need fancy equipment, aim for high-quality videos — keep them short, engaging and well-lit. 

  • Perfect timing: Post when your target audience is most active — timing can significantly impact engagement; let Sprinklr's AI-driven Smart Scheduling feature worry about getting your posts out at the highest traffic times for each social account.   

  • Engage with others: Foster interaction by reacting to trends, responding to comments and remixing popular content. 

  • Leverage hashtags: Join trending challenges and incorporate popular hashtags to tap into current trends and attract a broader audience. 

  • Add sound appeal: Incorporate trending songs and catchy tunes to make your content more appealing and relatable. 

  • Embrace authenticity: TikTok thrives on real, fun and relatable content — be yourself and enjoy the creative process. 

 6. YouTube algorithm

YouTube, much like TikTok, isn't all about who you follow. It's more about what the algorithm shows you.

Here's how YouTube algorithm works:

Currently, YouTube's algorithm serves up personalized video suggestions, tailored to your interests and viewing history. It looks at what you've enjoyed before, your subscriptions and what's commonly watched together. For quality recommendations, YouTube considers: 

  • Actual viewership — do people watch, ignore or dislike recommended videos? 

  • View duration — how long you stick around? 

  • Likes, dislikes and engagement 

  • Regional context, including time and language 

So, it's not about your video's content; it's all about making your viewers happy. 
 
YouTube says,

"Insider tip: Our algorithm doesn't pay attention to videos, it pays attention to viewers. So, rather than trying to make videos that'll make an algorithm happy, focus on making videos that make your viewers happy."

Futher, over 500 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Without the algorithm, it'd be a total mess.

It's not about serving you the trendiest or newest stuff when you search for a topic. No. It's about giving you what you need. So, if two folks search for the same thing, they might get different results. The algorithm sorts things out based on: 

  • Relevance: It tries to match your search words with video titles, tags, description, etc. 

  • Engagement: How much people like and watch a video — likes, comments, shares, they all count. 

  • Quality: The algorithm sniffs out which channels know their stuff and are trustworthy. 

  • Your history: What you've liked and watched before shapes your results. 

Now, these rules are mixed and matched a bit, depending on where you are on YouTube. 

  • Home: This is your welcome mat on YouTube, personalized just for you. It reviews the videos’ performance and what you've watched. 

  • Suggested videos: When you're watching something, these are the "Up Next" picks. They're based on what you're watching now and what you've seen before. 

  • Search: Of course, what you type matters. But YouTube also throws in your personal tastes to spice things up. It checks if the titles and descriptions match your words and how popular the video is. So, if you're hunting for cabbage recipes, it'll consider your cabbage cravings. 

Tips to improve your YouTube organic reach in 2024: 

  • Research your keywords: Use language that people use when searching for your content. 

  • Use keywords wisely: Place primary keywords in your video's file name, title, first two lines of the description and in the script. 

  • Skip tags: They play a minor role in video discovery. 

  • Attractive thumbnails: Create consistent, non-clickbait thumbnails. 

  • Keep viewers engaged: Use cards, end screens and playlists to guide them. 

  • Attract views externally: Promote your videos through ads, external sites, social media and partnerships. 

  • Engage with your audience: Build connections with viewers and creators. 

  • Avoid clickbait: Misleading content harms your reputation and algorithm support. 

  • Stay informed: Create content that aligns with trending topics. 

  • Experiment and evolve: Learn from failures and successes. 

  • Know your audience: Analyze demographics and behavior for content strategy. 

  • Timing matters: Post when your audience is online. 

  • Quality over length: Focus on keeping viewers engaged. 

  • Learn from metrics: Analyze audience retention and adapt your content. 

How to check if social media algorithms are working in your favor or not?

Every brand wants more engagement on its posts, but these pesky algorithms make it challenging. They are as unpredictable as the daily weather forecast.

Staying informed about the latest best practices and algorithm updates on the platforms you're using to continually refine your social media strategy is one thing.

The next thing? To get a sense of how your content is performing and whether the algorithm might be favoring it or not.

Here are some strategies:  

  1. Bring in analytics and reporting: Utilize social media analytics tools to track key performance indicators (KPIs), such as engagement, reach, impressions and CTR. Monitor these metrics over time to understand how your content is resonating with your audience and whether it's gaining traction. 

  2. Track content performance: Keep an eye on the performance of individual posts or campaigns. Identify which types of content, topics and posting times generate the most engagement and reach. Positive trends in these metrics can indicate that your content is aligning well with social media algorithms. 

  3. Monitor your audience insights: Gain a better understanding of your social media audience. Analyze demographic information, interests and behavior to determine if your content is reaching and engaging your target audience. 

  4. Focus on sentiment analysis: Evaluate your brand or content by conducting social media sentiment analysis to determine overall sentiment and feedback. Positive sentiment often correlates with algorithmic favorability.  

  5. Incorporate competitive analysis: Compare your performance with that of your competitors. Consistently ranking higher in key metrics may indicate that your approach aligns well with social media algorithms. 

  6. Perform A/B testing: Set up A/B tests to compare the performance of different content variations. This helps you identify content strategies that are more likely to be favored by social media algorithms.  

  7. Keyword and hashtag tracking: Monitor the use of specific keywords and hashtags to see if your content is appearing in relevant conversations and trending topics. 

So, notice any big dips or spikes in your stats recently? A social media management tool can tell if something has changed in algorithms.  
 
Signing off
Social media platforms are constantly evolving. Expect more algorithm updates.  New signals, features and secret AI recipes may surface. Despite uncertainties, however, crafting engaging content remains THE winning social media content strategy. Keep it engaging, and you're golden.

Sprinklr AI+ can be your friend in this journey if you let it. Powered by Sprinklr AI, Google Cloud’s Vertex AI and OpenAI’s GPT models, with a foundational infrastructure built to fit your business needs like Tetris. Oh, and the ability to generate content across multiple channels, ensure faster replies and simplify content review with AI-powered grammar and tone checks is unmissable. You can get to experience it first-hand!  
 
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