How Do Social Algorithms Work and What Social Media Already Knows about You?

How Do Social Media Algorithms Work?

If you use social media very well, you've probably heard about how the algorithms are responsible for who sees your posts. They determine whether your post will reach many people or just a handful, and what influences them vary from one platform to the other.

For example, on Instagram, hashtags are king, while on Facebook, tagging the right people can make all the difference.

This lack of uniformity in algorithms on social media is mildly annoying for regular users, but for those who want to market a business or promote themselves, it is a great nuisance, especially if they don't know how it works.

So, the important question is, how do social media algorithms work? That is what this article is going to answer. By the time you're done, you'll be able to know how algorithms affect social media marketing and what algorithms to watch out for on different platforms.

What Are Social Media Algorithms?

According to Statista, there are currently 4.15 billion social media users around the world. This is a lot of people to manage especially when they are all coming online to post something. The data input is too much and left alone, everything is going to be a mess.

This is where algorithms come in. They are sets of mathematical rules which guide how data will appear. On Google, they help to define the hierarchy of relevancy between what is searched and the result. On social media, they maintain order and ensure that what users see is relevant to their past and present searches.

Understanding how all these work can make the difference between a successful account with several followers and one with few likes and followers.

How Does Instagram Algorithm Work?

Since Instagram stopped using the reverse-chronological feed order in 2016, it has never looked back. Since then, everything has been different, and special algorithm signals have been responsible for ranking posts.

This means that the time you posted something stopped being important and factors such as relevance, and interest replaced them. These factors have been used by influencers and marketers to promote one product or the other. It has also prompted users to curate quality content. The result is that Instagram is a better platform than it was in 2016.

The factors that affect the hierarchy of posts on Instagram are.


Contrary to popular opinion, Instagram posts are not ranked on how far they have reached. Rather, they are ranked on how relevant they are to the people who will see them.

For instance, if a user is always looking at natural hair products and influencers on social media, that's what will always appear in the user's search or feed.

This is a mistake marketers and business owners sometimes make when picking influencers to represent their brands. Instead of picking influencers that have already created a niche in the field, they pick influencers with large followers with no guarantee of interest in their products.

For example, it will be easier to promote skincare products from an account like @theBeautyBloss than from an account without selling or beauty products history.

Watching this video will help you learn more about how Instagram algorithms work:


The posts you mostly see on your feed are from people you are following. This is the work of Instagram algorithms. Once you follow someone, it automatically assumes that you have a personal relationship or there's a vested interest in what the user has to post.

So, posting engaging things that can get you more followers is one of the faster ways to get more views and appear or more people's suggestion pages.


This has to do the time the post was shared. As much as Instagram is not using the reverse chronological method anymore, the new algorithms still pay attention to how recent a post was shared.

If a post has been on Instagram for two years, chances are it'll not be that relevant anymore. So, for relevance, timely consistency is required. This is exactly the method influencers who seem to post all the time use to promote their posts.


This has to do with the engagements a post has been able to generate. A post that has been liked or reshared by people will reach a wider audience than one that hasn't been 'liked' at all.

They'll also show in the suggestion page for those who are following the users who have interacted with your posts.

How Does Facebook Algorithm Work?

Social Algorithms Work

Facebook also uses algorithms to rank its posts, and like Instagram, it also pays attention to relevance.

Although there are no fixed algorithms on Facebook and the signals are more or less an aggregate of many factors, there are still certain things you should watch out for if you want to boost your post's ranking on Facebook.


Instead of followers, Facebook has Friends and this is effective as having a lot of followers. Once someone accepts you as a Friend on Facebook, they become eligible to see your posts are every other thing you share with them on your account.

There are also other types of relationships on Facebook. The people you constantly engage with and those you tag will instantly get notifications about your posts once you share them.

Type of Content

This has a close meaning to relevance on Instagram. Facebook algorithms will check the kind of post you have shared, whether it's text or picture, and analyse the users that are likely to find it interesting.

If you're trying to reach a particular group of people, it'll be better to tailor your post in line with what they are likely to search for, or the things they like.


What are the reactions of the people who have already seen the post? Are they interested in it? Are they just scrolling without interacting? Are they angry about it? Are they clicking the like button and leaving comments? All these things matter when it comes to ranking your post on Facebook.

A post with no comment or interaction means not many people will be interested in it. Thus, it'll rank lower than a post with comments, likes and reposts.


Facebook has a large pool of users who post things every minute. So, the algorithms make sure that new posts don't get lost and old posts don't get buried. This means the Feeds are arranged in a descending order with the new posts that are relevant, and have engagement first.

How Does TikTok Algorithm Work?

TikTok is fast becoming one of the largest social media platforms in the world. Unlike Instagram, things are a little different here, because the main thing on the platform are videos.

Just like Facebook, TikTok has something that looks like a Feed page. It is called the For You page and it is the aim of many TikTok users to have their videos appear on many people's For You Page in order to boost views, and interactions.

Having your video on TikTok's For You page is not that difficult. The factors that affect TikTok's algorithm are pretty simple, and they are.

Social Algorithms Work

User Interaction

This means likes, comments, and shares. If there's a particular user or category of posts that a TikTok user interacts with very well, the algorithm will ensure that the user sees more of it.

However, this is a minor fact beside the video completion rate. Think of it like this, TikTok doesn't want to promote boring videos that will make users lose interest in the platform pretty easily. One of the ways to measure interest is when people actually watch the video to the end instead of for a second or two.

Influencers have been paying attention to this factor to make their videos rank high on TikTok.


This refers to both account and device settings. Your location, preferences, language and device play a large role in who sees your videos.

Even though TikTok is set up in a way that makes it easy for videos to become viral and visible to a global audience, the first set of users that are going to get your videos are people in your immediate location. The idea is that they'll be more interested in your video since they may be location sensitive.

Video Information

TikTok's algorithm uses the information you post with your video to push it on a user's For You Page. The information helps the platform determine whether the user will be interested in it or not. For example, if a user has been searching for videos with #Bussitchallenge a lot, videos with the hashtag are more likely to be in the user's For You Page.

How Social Media Algorithms Use Your Interests?

The answer is simple. Social media algorithms use your interests to give you a better experience on the platform.

Social media is a large pool. People are more interested in seeing the things they like and can relate to. The only way social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok can predict this is through activities such as likes, reposts and comments.

That is why you mostly see posts similar to those you interact with on social media platforms. If you've been looking for accounts that discuss football, you'll see many more of them than other accounts.

What Social Media Already Knows about You

Social media is set up to explore your interests and present them to you in the form of videos, texts, pictures and ads. But the question is, exactly how much does social media know about you? The answer is a lot.

Social Algorithms Work

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram pay attention to your searches, likes and dislikes to create something called ad preferences. This is almost like Google ad preferences where the platform collects data on you to analyse the things you're likely to be most interested in.

This collection of data is systematic and it can be across several platforms, including websites that are not related to Facebook or Instagram at all. Because of this, social media knows the following about you.

Your Favorite Band or Musician

This may be from a search years ago, a recent search or how much you've listened to it on an app. The point is, the internet remembers, even when you don't.

Of course, this doesn't mean social media is always accurate. Sometimes, you can search for songs you don't like or stop liking a particular song. That is why you can edit your likes and ad preferences to fit your current likes.

The Things You Want to Buy

Most shopping websites make use of sponsored ads on social media platforms to help you make that purchase even when you're no longer on their website. So, they work hand in hand with social media platforms to make your interest in the website available. This is why some websites like Etsy may be in your Facebook ad preferences.

Can I Trick Social Media Algorithms?

There's no way you can "trick" social media algorithms. But there are ways you can use the signals to rank high, and get more views.

If you're an influencer or a marketer, you will need to know these techniques to leverage your posts on social media.

How Can You Beat Instagram Algorithms?

Paying attention to the four factors that affect Instagram algorithms is the fastest way to have your posts appear to Instagram users. But there are other ways you can use when they are not giving as much result as you'd like.

Use New Features

When Instagram releases a new feature, they want people to use it so that it can become popular. So, at that point, the algorithms are designed to promote contents and posts that have used the new feature. Think of it as a subtle way of advertising what is new on their platform.

Therefore, jumping onboard from the onset is not a bad idea. It'll also help you reach a wider audience

Use Instagram Stories Stickers to Improve Engagements

One of the most effective ways people are influencing Instagram algorithms in 2021 is with the use of Instagram Stories Stickers.

They are usually used to generate opinions or ask questions that will prompt viewers to answer. The most popular are question, poll and emoji slider stickers.

These stickers are great for many business and personal accounts.

Watch this video to learn more about beating Instagram's Algorithms:

How Can You Beat Facebook's Algorithms?

Like Instagram algorithms, there are also some steps you can follow to beat Facebook's algorithms, and have your posts appearing to a larger number of people in no time.

Give Replies

People don't want to just comment under your post without getting acknowledgements or replies even if it's in the form of an emoji. Think of it as having a conversation with someone. If it is only one sided, you won't be too happy or motivated to have another conversation.

However, the more comments and interactions with your post, the more likely it is for the algorithms to rank it higher. Not to mention, your future posts will appear to people who have interacted with your past ones.

Therefore, try to encourage more interactions by replying to the comments. If there are questions, answer them. If it is necessary to be funny, try to be.

Target When Your Audience Will Be Online

The best way to get more engagements is to strategically post when you know your target audience will be online. This way, they'll see it and be able to share their views about it.

Furthermore, you should also post regularly so that your posts will appear on top. You don't have to spam your followers. As long as you're consistent, Facebook algorithms will handle the rest and show your posts to your 'friends' even when the post has been on Facebook for a while. This is the work of Facebook's "unread bumping logic" algorithm.

Use Facebook Stories

Since Facebook Stories are not part of the news feed, this technique will skip the whole algorithm process completely.

They appear to your friends and many Facebook users actually check them. The only thing you have to do is to make them interesting enough to drive people to your account. If you're a brand, you can try giving advice or introducing new products and if you're individual, you can try sharing funny stories.

How Can You Beat TikTok's Algorithm?

Knowing how TikTok's algorithm works is not enough. You still have to understand how to leverage that knowledge in order to appear in the For You Page. Some of the things you can try are.

Creating Short Videos

TikTok gives you the opportunity to make videos between 15 to 60 seconds. Choosing the shortest time is one way to keep attention on TikTok.

The attention span of an average person is still very short. You can't magically expect it to become higher on TikTok. So, strategically making videos they are likely to watch to the end will help you rank higher.

Keep in mind that the video completion rate is a really important signal on TikTok. It is even more important than getting likes.

Create Interesting Video Intros

You have approximately 3 seconds to capture the attention of someone on TikTok before the scroll to the next video. So, you have to make good use of it.

If possible, record the intro over and over again until it is impactful. A boring or interesting intro can destroy the chances of your video getting to For You Page.

Write an Interesting Caption

With a 150-character limit, you really don't have enough room to impress or capture attention, but you still have to, especially if you have a slow intro.

One way to capture attention with captions is to promise an exciting thing at the end of the video. You can also ask an interesting question or show surprise.

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Lucas Martley