Social media algorithms are like complex puzzles waiting to be solved. But for many, they can be a daunting challenge.

Algorithms are pinpointed as the reason behind low-performing content. On the other hand, many see algorithms as helpful and harmless. As they deliver users content that is relevant to them, rather than random posts shown in chronological order. 

But how does this work? And how can I get my content seen? This is every marketer’s greatest task. 

Without fully understanding algorithms, this can cause constant struggles when it comes to creating and promoting your content. In this blog, we will introduce you to the inner workings of social media algorithms, to help you to champion them to top your competitors and get seen by your customers.

What are Social Media Algorithms?

In short: social media algorithms are a way of sorting posts in a user’s feed. However, these posts are based on relevancy instead of publish time. This means that social media platforms care more about their users seeing content they actually like, rather than working on a first-come-first-served basis. 

What are Social Media Algorithms and How Do They Work featured image

Algorithms are behaviour-led. They operate on signals, like who you interact with and the type of media you respond to the most. For example, a platform might put posts from your close friends and family front-and-centre in your feed because those are the accounts you engage with most often.

While this is beneficial for an oblivious user, it is a curveball for those who create content. Algorithms have long been blamed for ‘hiding’ content, while favouring others. Yet, algorithms can help content achieve the unthinkable, causing it to spread like wildfire after being presented to the right audience

Whilst this is a working definition, algorithms are constantly evolving. This means content creators and marketers alike must experiment and alter marketing strategies to see what works, and what doesn’t. 

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Social media algorithms tailor a user’s feed to ensure only relevant content is displayed. Image credit: Unsplash

How Do They Work?

Truthfully, algorithms are founded on highly specialised machine learning and data science that the average marketer will probably never comprehend. Yet, there are other ways to grasp understanding and stay ahead of the game. 

To know how they work requires both trial-and-error processes and listening to what networks are saying themselves. To help, this is what we currently know about the algorithms for each top social media platform


Instagram occupies over one billion users worldwide. Therefore, it is worth getting to know the core elements of this platform’s algorithm. 

In the past, Instagram has been very transparent about the function of its algorithm. This is handy to be aware of when the next wave of changes come into play.

For now, according to Instagram, there are six key factors that influence the algorithm for feed posts:

  1. Interest e.g. who and what you have ‘liked’ in the past.
  2. Relationship e.g. people whose content you like, direct message, search for and know in real life.
  3. Timeliness e.g. when you post and how fresh your content
  4. Frequency e.g. the more you open the app, the more chronological it will look. The less you open the app, Instagram will show you what it thinks you’ll like.
  5. Following e.g. the more accounts you follow, the more choice Instagram has.
  6. Usage e.g. the more you use it, the deeper Instagram will search to show you the best posts since your last visit to the app.

To improve your content rank on Instagram, we recommend that you embrace its latest features, such as Reels, encourage engagement and interaction through Stories, comments and DMs, and promote across all of these. By adopting this strategy, you can cleverly drive different audiences from different places to your content, while building a genuine relationship with your followers. 

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The Instagram algorithm is user-centred with interaction at the fore. Image credit: ProfileTree


Facebook is the biggest social media site around, with more than two billion users. Many marketers can feel defeated at the mere thought of cracking down the social media giant’s algorithm. Luckily, we already have insights into how their algorithm works.

Facebook says that it uses thousands of ranking signals to determine how content is shown and seen. Still, over the years Facebook has consistently mentioned the same four ranking signals as the most important when it comes to how high up in the news feed a post appears. These signals include:

  1. Relationship e.g. is the post from a person, business, news source or public figure that the user often engages with?
  2. Content type e.g. what type of media does the user interact with most? Video or photo etc.
  3. Popularity e.g. how are people who have already seen the post reacting to it? Are your friends sharing, commenting, or ignoring it?
  4. Recency e.g. How new is the post? Newer posts are placed higher.

To get ahead of the algorithm, we advise that you post in a timely manner when your audience is active, and connect with them by asking questions, commenting back, and driving for ‘love’ over ‘like’ reactions on all your posts. This will tick the boxes in terms of building relationships and boosting popularity in Facebook’s eyes. 

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Facebook’s algorithm is focused on relationships, content type, popularity and recency. Image credit: ProfileTree


One of the newer kids on the block, TikTok consumes 689 million monthly active users worldwide. Many believe that because of its recent boom, the video-sharing app may not have an algorithm. Yet, TikTok’s ‘For You’ section is entirely built on behavioural data.

For a long time, TikTok had been very secretive about the influences behind its ‘For You’ page, that is until it posted a blog last year detailing how the recommendations are generated. According to TikTok, the algorithms are based on the preferences and activity history of individual users, taking into account these top three factors:

  1. User interactions e.g. video likes, shares, accounts followed and comments posted.
  2. Video information e.g. length, captions, sounds, stickers and most importantly, hashtags.
  3. Device and account settings e.g. factors that are tracked to optimise app performance, like language preference, country setting and device type.

To beat the TikTok algorithm, research is key. We recommend that you spend time on the app to see what is trending, such as songs, filters and hashtags as this will help drive interactions up. We also advise that you create short, snappy videos, as the algorithm rewards videos that are watched from start to finish. This way, you’ll have a greater chance of boosting your video’s traction, while also saving you time.

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TikTok’s algorithm takes into account user interactions and device information in order to be fully optimised for the algorithm. Image credit: ProfileTree


You might be surprised to learn that LinkedIn has an algorithm. Yet, this professional platform still shares the same goals as all the other apps in wanting to ensure useful, relevant content is showcased to users. 

But what gets ahead on LinkedIn? Luckily, LinkedIn boasts one of the most highly engaged audiences, as it is filled with qualified, like-minded people who share the same industry and insights. 

However, to ensure your profile and posts receive maximum impact, marketers far and wide have pinpointed the following factors you should implement for your LinkedIn social strategy:

  1. Text-focused content e.g. detailed, valuable information on posts.
  2. Timeliness e.g. finding the best times to post.
  3. Hashtags e.g. using up to three hashtags to make your content more trackable.
  4. Comments e.g. boosting interactions through insightful conversations under a post. 

If you have a strong network on LinkedIn, make the most of your connections by commenting regularly, whether it be a compliment, or an opinion. This way, you are appearing more frequently in others’ feeds and notifications. See what hashtags they are using, and trial and test these for your own posts to see what works. 

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For LinkedIn, trackability and interactivity are key to beat the algorithm. Image credit: ProfileTree

The Impact of Social Media Algorithms: Balancing Benefits and Challenges

Social media algorithms play a significant role in shaping our online experiences, impacting users, brands, and content creators in various ways. Let’s explore the positive and negative effects of these algorithms:

Positive Effects:


  • Personalized Content: Algorithms can curate content based on user preferences and interests, potentially leading to a more engaging and relevant experience.
  • Discovery of New Voices: Algorithms can help users discover new creators and content they might not have found otherwise, promoting diverse perspectives and information flow.
  • Community Building: Algorithms can connect users with like-minded individuals, fostering communities around shared interests.


  • Targeted Advertising: Algorithms enable brands to reach specific audiences with tailored messages, potentially increasing marketing effectiveness and ROI.
  • Brand Awareness & Engagement: Algorithms can help brands amplify their reach and connect with potential customers, driving brand awareness and engagement.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Algorithms provide valuable data and insights into user behavior and preferences, allowing brands to refine their strategies and optimize content effectively.

Content Creators:

  • Increased Visibility: Algorithms can help content creators reach a wider audience by promoting their content to relevant users based on engagement and interests.
  • Building a Following: Algorithms can facilitate audience growth for creators by suggesting their content to users who might enjoy it, leading to a larger and engaged community.
  • Monetization Opportunities: Increased visibility and engagement can open doors for creators to monetize their content through brand partnerships, sponsorships, or other opportunities.

Negative Effects:


  • Filter Bubbles & Echo Chambers: Algorithms can create filter bubbles where users are primarily exposed to content reinforcing their existing beliefs, limiting their exposure to diverse perspectives and potentially leading to polarization.
  • Misinformation & Fake News: Algorithms can amplify the spread of misinformation and fake news, particularly if they prioritize engagement over factual accuracy.
  • Addiction & Mental Health: Concerns exist about the addictive nature of social media algorithms, potentially leading to excessive screen time and negative impacts on mental health.


  • Reaching the Right Audience: Reaching the intended target audience can be challenging due to algorithm changes and competition, requiring constant adaptation and optimization strategies.
  • Organic Reach Decline: Declining organic reach due to algorithm prioritization of paid content can make it difficult for brands to reach their audience without paid advertising.
  • Negative Sentiment & Brand Reputation: Algorithms can amplify negative sentiment and criticism towards brands if not managed effectively, potentially damaging brand reputation.

Content Creators:

  • Algorithmic Bias & Unfair Treatment: Some creators express concerns about algorithmic bias against certain types of content or creators, leading to unequal opportunities and visibility.
  • Pressure to “Game the Algorithm”: The focus on optimizing for algorithms can lead to inauthentic content and prioritize virality over quality or value, potentially stifling creativity.
  • Job Insecurity & Uncertain Earnings: Content creators often face unstable income and job insecurity due to the unpredictable nature of algorithm-driven reach and engagement.

Unveiling the Mystery: How Different Platforms Leverage Algorithms

While the core objective of social media algorithms remains connecting users with relevant content, each platform tailors its approach, leading to unique user experiences. Let’s delve into the specific algorithms of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok:


  • Prioritizes meaningful interactions: Facebook emphasizes comments, shares, and reactions over simple likes, aiming to promote content that sparks conversations and engagement.
  • Considers user history and connections: Your past interactions with specific friends, groups, and content heavily influence what shows up in your feed.
  • Factors in news value and timeliness: Recent, trending topics and breaking news often receive higher rankings to keep users informed.
  • Combats misinformation: Facebook employs fact-checking initiatives and demotes content flagged as false or misleading.


  • Focuses on visual content and exploration: Photos and videos dominate Instagram’s algorithm, prioritizing visually appealing and engaging content.
  • Leverages hashtags and location data: Using relevant hashtags and geo-tags can significantly increase your post’s discoverability.
  • Rewards consistent creators: Posting regularly and interacting with your audience helps your content appear higher in feeds.
  • Embraces short-form video: Reels and Instagram Stories, with their immersive and fleeting nature, are heavily promoted within the algorithm.


  • Master of the “For You” page: TikTok’s algorithm personalizes each user’s experience to an exceptional degree, considering watch time, completion rates, and shares.
  • Prioritizes entertainment and engagement: Funny, relatable, and visually stimulating content reigns supreme, often overshadowing purely informative videos.
  • Trends and challenges play a major role: Participating in trending challenges and using popular sounds can propel your content to a wider audience.
  • Community building flourishes: Duets, stitches, and live streams encourage interaction and foster a strong sense of community within the platform.

Key Differences:

  • Content type: Facebook leans towards text and news, while Instagram prioritizes visuals, and TikTok thrives on short-form video.
  • Engagement metrics: Facebook values meaningful interactions, Instagram rewards consistency, and TikTok emphasizes watch time and completion rates.
  • Discovery mechanisms: Facebook relies on social connections and groups, Instagram leverages hashtags and location, and TikTok personalizes its “For You” page through user behavior analysis.

Adapting to the Algorithm Shuffle: Strategies for Businesses and Individuals

The ever-evolving nature of social media algorithms can feel like chasing a moving target. However, by understanding the core principles and adopting adaptable strategies, businesses and individuals can stay ahead of the curve and continue to thrive online. Here are some actionable tips:

For Businesses:

  • Content Quality & Value: Focus on creating high-quality, informative, and engaging content that provides genuine value to your audience. Prioritize authenticity and storytelling over solely chasing trends.
  • Format Diversity: Experiment with different content formats like videos, images, live streams, and polls to cater to varying user preferences and algorithm priorities across platforms.
  • Engagement & Community Building: Actively engage with your audience by responding to comments, asking questions, and hosting interactive sessions. Foster a sense of community around your brand.
  • Data Analysis & Insights: Regularly analyze your content performance and engagement metrics to understand what resonates with your audience and adjust your strategies accordingly.
  • Stay Informed & Flexible: Keep yourself updated on the latest algorithm changes and trends through industry publications and platform announcements. Be prepared to adapt your approach as needed.
  • Paid Advertising: Consider incorporating paid advertising strategies alongside organic content creation to reach a wider audience and achieve specific marketing goals.

For Individuals:

  • Find Your Niche: Identify your unique interests and expertise, and create content that caters to a specific audience or community.
  • Authenticity is Key: Be genuine and true to your voice in your content creation. Authenticity resonates with audiences and builds trust.
  • Consistency Matters: Post regularly and consistently to stay visible in feeds and establish yourself as a reliable content creator.
  • Collaboration & Interaction: Collaborate with other creators, participate in relevant conversations, and actively engage with your followers to build connections and expand your reach.
  • Utilize Relevant Hashtags: Research and use popular and relevant hashtags to increase your content’s discoverability on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
  • Experiment & Analyze: Try different content formats, engagement strategies, and posting times to see what resonates best with your audience and adapt based on your data insights.
  • Embrace New Features: Familiarize yourself with new features offered by platforms and integrate them into your content strategy to stay ahead of the curve and capture audience interest.

The Future of Social Media Algorithms

Predicting the future is anything but foolproof, but here are some potential trends and advancements in how social media algorithms might evolve:

Focus on Personalization: Algorithms are likely to become even more personalized, utilizing advanced AI and machine learning to tailor content not just to individual preferences but also to specific contexts and emotional states. Imagine feeds adapting based on your mood, current activity, or even the weather!

Content Authenticity & Trust: With growing concerns about misinformation and deepfakes, algorithms might prioritize content demonstrably authentic and trustworthy. Expect increased verification measures, integration with fact-checking initiatives, and algorithms rewarding creators with established reputations.

Immersive & Interactive Experiences: The rise of AR/VR technology could lead to algorithms recommending experiences rather than just content. Imagine algorithms suggesting virtual tours, interactive simulations, or personalized 3D spaces relevant to your interests.

Ethical Considerations & User Control: As concerns about algorithmic bias and data privacy intensify, expect more transparency and user control over how algorithms curate their experiences. Imagine granular preference settings, algorithmic explainability features, and even options to “detox” from personalized feeds for a while.

Decentralization & Algorithmic Choice: With the potential rise of decentralized social media platforms, users might have more choice in the algorithms they interact with. Imagine subscribing to specific algorithmic models based on values, transparency levels, or content moderation preferences.

Multimodal Understanding: Algorithms might move beyond just text and image analysis, incorporating audio, video, and even user behavior data to glean deeper understanding and suggest truly relevant content. Imagine your music preferences influencing your news feed or your workout routine shaping fitness content recommendations.

Evolving Metrics & Engagement: As user behavior evolves, engagement metrics might also shift. Algorithms could move beyond likes and shares, focusing on dwell time, emotional responses, content completion rates, and even real-world actions inspired by content.


These are just potential scenarios, and the actual future of social media algorithms remains uncertain. However, staying informed about these trends and actively engaging in discussions about responsible algorithm development can help shape a future where algorithms serve users ethically and enrich their online experiences.


1. Can I avoid social media algorithms altogether?

While completely avoiding algorithms is difficult, you can minimize their impact. Use privacy settings, diversify your platforms, and engage critically with content. Remember, algorithms are tools, and responsible use is key.

2. Are all social media algorithms the same?

No, each platform uses unique algorithms with different priorities. Understanding their differences helps you tailor your content and engagement strategies for each platform.

3. Can I “game” the algorithms to get more followers/likes?

Short-term tactics might work initially, but prioritizing authenticity and valuable content leads to more sustainable success. Focus on building genuine connections and providing value to your audience.

4. How can I stay informed about algorithm changes?

Follow industry publications, platform announcements, and social media experts to stay updated. Experiment, analyze your results, and adapt your strategies as needed.

5. What can I do to promote ethical social media algorithms?

Support platforms committed to transparency, demand data privacy protections, and advocate for responsible AI development. Be mindful of your online behavior and critically evaluate the information you consume.

Key Takeaways

One thing we can take away from the learnings in this blog is that interaction and consistency is paramount to being favoured by the algorithm. This makes sense because the longer you keep someone engaged the app, the more you are meeting that platform’s goal. 

You will have several things to master first, like working out when is best to post and what type of content performs best. But you can always be in control of your engagement, even if it means messaging followers, commenting on trending posts, or sharing curated content that you think will benefit your audience. By putting your audience first, you will build a community that social media algorithms won’t want to suppress.  

For more information, contact the ProfileTree team today. 

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