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Social Media Algorithms – The Reason Behind Uncontrolled Addiction

Mar 18, 2018

It’s amazing how interconnected the world has become thanks to social media. People from all around the globe are socializing and connecting because of it. You can stay abreast of what your friend is doing in one part of the world while sitting on the complete opposite side of the world. Also, its surprising how intensely social media can get its users hooked, its almost as if every other content or post is of interest to them. But how can that happen? Not everything interests a particular people, and they might not be interested in everyone in their friend circle. That’s where social media algorithms come to play. They take into account multiple factors including users likes, dislikes, and preferences and displays them feeds, which they would like the most. Consequently, it leads to users getting addicted to social media and spend hours scrolling through feeds – a phenomenon coined infinite scrolling. However, it was not always the same in the past, as posts would be ordered in chronological order, which could cause you to miss posts from your close friends. So how did we progress from seeing everything to see only the things we like?

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Social Media Algorithms

Leading social media platforms use algorithms to determine if the user will like a particular kind of post or not. They go through all the posts in a user’s feed and sort the posts that are popular and relevant to them. If users are shown all kind of posts from everyone, then their feed will get overflooded with unwanted stuff, subsequently losing interest and quitting the app. However, such intelligent feeds pose a challenge to the marketer who needs to come up with original and refreshing content to fight for some real-estate in the users’ feed. So how leading social media platform’s use social media algorithm to keep their users happy?

Facebook Algorithm

Facebook has abundant metrics to determine user preferences. They always look into what users like, share, comment on, and post on their site. The Facebook algorithm makes sure that users see posts they most likely will engage with. Facebook takes into account the content available, considerations about the content, and considerations about friends to come up with an overall score. Such a score enables Facebook to sort posts based on users likeliness. For instance, considerations about the content factors in signals such as time spent on the content, number of comments, story type, engagement with the publisher, nature of information, the person sharing a link, and the time of post. Each factor is given weight as per its importance in order to calculate the overall score. Also, content shared by friends and family sparks more interest and engagement from the user. To drive such user engagement, Facebook killed its EdgeRank algorithm and now has close to 100,000 weight factors to rank news feed.

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Instagram Algorithm

Instagram is another social media platform owned by Facebook itself and focuses mostly on image-sharing. Instagram also recently started sorting posts based on user preferences rather than chronology. For big businesses with thousands of followers, it is estimated that only 10% of the audience actually sees the posts. The Instagram algorithm reviews the number of likes, comments, video views, hashtags, saves, shares, and DM’s to calculate the relevance of the post. This can be quickly confirmed by going over to the search bar in Instagram, which will show you relevant posts from unfollowed people or pages. It also takes into account the time of day content was posted and the engagement it gets. For brands looking to reach their customers, it will now be essential to know when a majority of their user base is active so they can generate more engagement.

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Twitter Algorithm

Twitter reports that more than 500 million tweets are sent each day – and the number can go as high as 150,000 tweets in a single second. On a platform such as Twitter, updates can be easily lost in the shuffle. As a result, the Twitter algorithm helps ensure the most essential tweets appear at the top of the user’s timeline. Twitter can figure out if a user is always replying, retweeting, or liking someone’s tweet and show that account’s tweet first. However, unlike other social media, Twitter may also show tweets from people user’s don’t follow based on signals which indicate its popularity and how people in the user’s network are interacting with it. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, users can choose to revert to chronological feed in their settings. The Twitter algorithm factors in total engagement, post timings, use of rich media, location, hashtag, and pictures and videos to make it more relevant.

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