We listen, so you don’t have to: 01 Social Media Algorithms

PODCAST REPORT: The Science of Social Media// Social Media Algorithms: How They Work and How To Use Them In Your Favor, By: Buffer

Brian Peters talks with Michael Stelzner, CEO of Social Media Examiner

Social media is an ever-evolving beast. Facebook and Twitter seem to always be just one step ahead of all of us. As we feel we’ve mastered the most recent update, they go ahead and turn the whole operation on its head.

Friends, meet social media algorithms. They are responsible for taking everything you thought you knew about optimal posting times and sharing content, and absolutely annihilating it. What was once a linear world has now been vigorously shaken (not stirred) and we have no choice but to go back and completely rethink our marketing strategies.

Now, algorithms are not pure evil. From a consumer standpoint, they are a dream. They organize and prioritize content that we as consumers are interested in. They rid of spam, limit advertising space, and are designed to elevate higher quality content. Marketers cringe as consumers rejoice.

So, how can we make light of a dark situation? The key is to understand what these algorithms are rewarding and do what they want. Sounds simple enough, right?

Let’s break this down into Facebook and Twitter, as the two platforms operate on completely different algorithms.

Facebook algorithms push high quality content regularly. An old habit that we need to die quickly is scheduling posts when we know our audience is there. This has little to no effect anymore, as these algorithms are not linear. They are custom. When content is published, the algorithm scans it. This content is selectively shown to a sample audience. If the audience reacts (likes, comments, shares) quickly to the content, then Facebook will show more of it.

How to create content that will be deemed likeable by Facebook’s algorithms and your audience? Luckily, Facebook is quite transparent about what their algorithm is looking for. Preferential treatment is given to long-form and live videos. Think about it. Just like you want people to stay on your site for as long as possible and ultimately buy, Facebook wants you stay. What Facebook algorithms do not like and will actually hand out punishments for are click-bait posts. Stay far away from title like “you’re not going to believe what happened when X tried X product” if you want to avoid the wrath of Facebook.

Twitter’s algorithm is much younger than Facebook’s and we won’t say it is less sophisticated, but it is currently less selective. What you will see is tweets of those you actively engage with lifted to the top of your feed. The chronological foundation of Twitter no longer exists. What are also near extinction are the days of evergreen content. Buffer Social data has noticed a drastic decline in its reach. Stelzner hypothesizes that Twitter uses Artificial Intelligence operatives to read these evergreen tweets, recognizing that they are time and time again, promoting the same content and weeds out the unoriginal content by not sharing it. He predicts there will be a major shift to creating content that is specifically meant to be viewed and shared on Twitter. This is why live video via their in-platform app Periscope is rewarded with more exposure.

There are some tactics to help overcome these algorithms. Businesses should focus on opt-in email subscriptions so they can take the consumer off the social media platform and to their site. Cut back on posting, specifically evergreen content and instead focus on creating fewer, high quality posts. Focus on community development (ex. live videos, quick response rates) and building a strong relationship with the consumer. Focus less on the numbers. Accept that they are going to go down.

So, as a small business owner, what do you need to know? Stelnzer is adamant that social advertising is imperative. A paid strategy is essential or you are simply not going to get exposure. Have an email acquisition strategy. Get those people, who came to your site, signed up so they never miss a future post. Add social share buttons to your content. When someone shares your content and their friends react, the algorithms deem your content worthy and it gets more exposure. Go live! Facebook loves when you stay on Facebook. Share your live video on your personal account and just like that, the algorithm begins to think you’re hot shit!

We have to accept that we’ll never beat the system, but we can do our darndest to try and keep up by understanding and ever adjusting our strategies.