What social media algorithms mean for your business

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Facebook and Instagram prioritise content that sparks meaningful interactions. Find out what that means and how your business can get the most out of each algorithm.

Brittany Daniel

It is important as a business to understand the social media landscape and ensure you have the tools and knowledge to build a successful campaign. A focus on relationships, audience loyalty and consistent engagement from followers will be more important than ever in 2020.

We’ve discussed how to plan your social media strategy on the blog before. Once you have that strategy in place, it’s time to implement it, understand the algorithms, track insights and achieve a return on investment (ROI). 

Understanding the Facebook and Instagram algorithms

The Facebook and Instagram algorithms change constantly, and it’s best to keep an eye on the Facebook Newsroom to stay up-to-date on anything that could affect your brand.

A major change that is still having an impact on Facebook today happened at the start of 2018. Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritise “meaningful interactions”. Basically, if a user is likely to have a more positive reaction to a post, then the algorithm will push it higher up the news feed. Content posted by friends and family is also boosted over public content.

Mark Zuckerberg said the network made this change because "posts from businesses, brands and media... [are] crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other".

The Instagram algorithm is similar. It dictates the order of the posts that show up on a user’s news feed based on relationship with the user, interest the user has expressed and how recent the post is.

According to Zuckerberg, “pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution”.

While in the past, paying to boost your posts would have been an easy fix, this no longer helps. The algorithm change also impacts paid content.

So how do you make the algorithms work for your business?

There are a few things that you can do to keep your content present in people’s user feeds.

Start by increasing your brand’s value

Demonstrate how useful your brand can be through storytelling. Lululemon Athletica did this well when it launched its #justmymat campaign. The campaign started with a quick video on Instagram that showed a woman doing yoga in different places around Vancouver, with the caption “Every mat has a story to tell.” Lululemon then encouraged fans to use the hashtag #justmymat to share their own experiences. Not only did this allow the brand to align itself with a positive story – it celebrates fitness no matter who you are – but it could also show its products in action without being overly promotional.

It’s important to have a clear idea on what your audience is interested in so that you can create content that will resonate like this. Keep an eye on your analytics to find out what content drives click throughs and engagement. 

Post like a person

With the algorithm in mind, remember to post like a person and also engage with posts from relevant users and brands. The algorithm relies on signals such as comments, likes and shares to confirm whether or not a post is popular, because these things drive meaningful interactions. So treat each post as an opportunity to start (and maintain) a conversation.

Having a Facebook Group in conjunction with your business page can be a great way to foster relationships and build a community. However, ensure you have someone monitoring the page and engaging in a timely manner – Groups that aren’t updated on a frequent basis can quickly stagnate.   

Encourage action

You can tailor your content to promote positive engagement by asking a question at the end of your post and encouraging comments from your audience. Including a call-to-action will prompt followers to respond and allow you to connect with your audience at the same time. 

However, according to Social Media Examiner, be careful not to use the words “like” “comment” “vote” and “tag” in your posts as the algorithm considers these “engagement bait”. Facebook now also has a filter that identifies phrases common in clickbait titles, such as “this”. If you include these words, the algorithm will assume your content is poor in quality, so craft your headlines accordingly.

Make sure you’re experimenting with all of the formats available to you. This will keep your content new and exciting, and ensure your audience stays more engaged. Videos are a great way to show audiences behind the scenes and success stories that make your brand more authentic and personable, while Stories let you to be a little bit more irreverent.

Use hashtags (on Instagram)

Hashtags are essential because they allow your content to be searchable. A post is far more likely to appear on a new user’s feed if it includes a hashtag that they are interested in. You can use a tool like Seekmetrics to discover the most used hashtags in a particular category. 

Follow the data 

Make sure you’re regularly looking at your Facebook and Instagram insights to find out when your audience is active and ensure you’re posting during those times.

ROI and reaching your goal

It’s important to track insights and referral traffic on your website so you understand which posts are performing well and why, as this will shape future campaigns.

It’s also helpful to survey customers or clients and ask them which channel they saw you on, because this might show you that some social channels are working better than others. 

According to Altimeter Group 88.3% of all corporate marketing strategists have social media ROI as their most important focus in 2019 and 2020.

Return can be measured in many ways depending on the goals you set, such as developing brand awareness, database collection or sales.

Once you know your overall marketing goals, ensure you’re setting actionable and campaign-specific social media goals. Measure the success of your goals though monitoring tools such as Google Analytics, where you can track how many users have converted into customers from your posts.

While the concept of algorithms can be daunting, understanding the importance of meaningful interactions is key. Businesses that tell their stories, are interested in their audiences and engage are the ones that will succeed in 2020.

Brittany Daniel, publishing executive   

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