Understand Social Media Algorithms and Build Customer Relationships Online
In the past, social media platforms arranged content in chronological or reverse chronological order, but today timelines and news feeds are constantly changing based on user behaviors. With the rise of spam and product- and brand-centric posting, platforms have updated their algorithms to better curate what users see in their feeds. These new algorithms favor individualized, relationship-driven content, so many B2B marketers need to rethink their approach to social media.
Social Media for B2B Marketing
It’s not necessarily news that social media can be an effective marketing and advertising tool. Consider that social spending is set to outgrow TV ad spending for the first time in history (Spout Social). Despite its popularity, businesses sometimes misunderstand how users are spending their time on social media platforms, especially in the B2B space.
If you’re looking to add some clarity to your social marketing approach, a good place to start is understanding how social media algorithms influence the reach of your content. Below, I’ve provided a quick overview of algorithms for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
The preferred social media platform for the B2B space has also implemented upgrades to their algorithm by incorporating a spam filter and tier system. These changes determine if timeline content is enticing and user-friendly.
When content (e.g., a status update, video or photo) is posted, it is fed through a computerized filter. Bots flag content as spam, low-quality or clear. If your content is flagged as low-quality, it will take longer to reach your target audience’s feed.
Once through the computerized filter, content enters the feed. All LinkedIn users have the option to mark posts as spam based on their own judgement or they can “hide” content from their feed. If users mark your posts as spam or hide them, your content has a higher chance of being buried by the algorithm.
Computers perform a “virality” check to identify spam accounts. Spam accounts use a network of spam pages to like and share content, giving companies and users the impression that real accounts are interacting with their content. In this stage of the screening process, content can be demoted to a lower tier (back to the first computerized filter, for example) if content is determined to be spam.
The final stage is an actual human review. LinkedIn editors review posts to ensure the quality and usefulness of the content. After all, the best algorithm can still let things slip through the cracks. Posts continuously sift through this entire process. If the content still matches user preferences and is deemed useful, it will continue to appear in your audience’s feeds.
As of 2018, Twitter scores tweets based on what the platform considers the most interesting and relevant for an individual user, i.e., content from accounts users don’t follow can still appear in their feed based on the type of content they interact with. Twitter determines if a tweet is relevant based on three user characteristics: content engagement, authors with whom they interact, and their recent Twitter activity.
Authoring information of a tweet
- Twitter feeds show the most recent tweets, graphics and videos toward the top of a user’s feed from accounts they follow.
- Tweets with a greater number of likes, retweets and other engagement factors are more likely to be ranked higher.
- Twitter recognizes a user’s relationships with authors and how often they interact with an author’s content.
- This means users will see content from accounts they interact with more frequently at the top of their feed.
- If a user shares followers with the author of a tweet or engages with similar content types, Twitter can add tweets to a user’s usual activity, even if it’s from an author they don’t follow.
A user’s recent activity
- The type of content a user engages with on Twitter can influence what appears in their feed.
- For example, if you frequently interact with B2B marketing content, Twitter will display content related to this subject in your timeline.
- Tweets matching user preferences and engagement history determined by the algorithm are dispersed into three different sections of your timeline:
- “Top ranked tweets”
- These tweets are what users see on a regular basis because of strong, relevant content and timeliness.
- “In case you missed it”
- This section is dependent on the number of relevant tweets published since a user last logged in to Twitter. The longer a user has been inactive on the platform, the larger this section will be.
- Reverse chronological timeline
- These are retweets, promoted content or suggested tweets.
Users have the option to turn off Twitter’s algorithm and see only the reverse chronologically ordered timeline. Despite the option to remove the algorithm, content creators should optimize their strategy for Twitter’s algorithm. To learn more on how to optimize your Twitter profile and tweets based on the algorithm, you can learn more in this Search Engine Journal article.
Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes content from friends, family and groups. With these changes, a company that chooses to use Facebook to connect with potential customers must emphasize relationship building over traditional sales tactics.
The algorithm is sophisticated enough to differentiate between “quality time” users spend with content versus the overall time spent interacting with a post. This is influenced by real interactions instead of “engagement bait” like “SHARE this post if you LOVE our products!”. In order to encourage real interactions with your audience, determine what quality time looks like for your company based on the following:
- Active interactions, where users spend time commenting on and sharing social media content
- Conversations and replies
- Post likes and reactions to comments
- Shares through Facebook Messenger
- Passive interactions, which include likes and click-throughs
- Engagement rates once content is shared (Hootsuite)
Other ranking signals include:
- Average time a user spends engaging or viewing a post
- What time the content was posted
- The completeness of a Facebook profile sharing a post
- How informative the content is
- The type of content
Because of its ability to instantly generate conversation, Facebook favors video content, which includes both Facebook Live videos and long-form videos (Facebook). The next time you’re putting on or attending an event, instead of a status update, consider using Facebook Live to interact with customers in real time.
Understanding Social Media Algorithms
Algorithms aren’t the only thing that determines social media success. Using optimized character counts, creative graphics and videos, engaging audience interactions and other strategies, your company can achieve significant success using social media as part of an overall marketing strategy. But it’s still important to understand how these algorithms work to better create and align content with what the algorithms favor. Across all platforms, placing an emphasis on relationship building and thought leadership content can form a mutually beneficial relationship with your audience.