Cracking the Code: Understanding Social Media Algorithm Updates
Marketing & Advertising

Cracking the Code: Understanding Social Media Algorithm Updates


In recent years, social media has become a beloved platform for millions of people across the globe. It is believed that it might have up to 5.85 billion users by 2027. 

One of the key reasons for this huge popularity of social media is relevancy. Consider, will you ever spend hours of your day scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or TikTok, for that matter, without it being interesting? No, right!

So, how does your favourite social media platform know what you want to see next? This is where social media algorithms come into play. They are responsible for lightening up your social media experience. On the other hand, these same social media algorithms work to help you gain visibility and traction if you are an influencer or marketer.

But the problem is that algorithms are always changing. Keeping up with them isn’t as streamlined as it might sound. Fortunately, there are ways to work around and align your marketing strategies with the algorithms. 

Wondering how? Keep reading!

This blog uncovers everything about social media algorithms so you know what to do in order to win over them. 

Key Takeaways

  • Importance of Awareness:
    • Stay informed about social media algorithm changes.
    • Understand their direct impact on engagement and visibility.
  • Strategy Adjustment:
    • Adapt strategies to align with evolving algorithms.
    • Optimise content to maintain performance amidst changes.
  • Enhancing Engagement:
    • Implement tactics to improve engagement despite algorithm shifts.
    • Utilise content optimization and audience targeting techniques for better results.

Overview of Social Media Algorithms

Before we dive into understanding the complexities involved, it is best to gain a little information on the basics. Let’s determine what social media algorithm is and how it works in this section. 

A. Understanding the basics of algorithmic systems

A social media algorithm is like a set of rules that decides which content shows up on your feed. It ranks posts based on what it thinks you’ll like and engage with. Because of this, even if two users follow the same accounts, they won’t see the exact same content.

On social media, algorithms are responsible for maintaining order. They assist in ranking search results and even advertisements. 

More than 60% of the world’s population utilises social media, which is, of course, a massive task to manage and monitor. Algorithms come in handy in identifying the validity of social media accounts. That’s why algorithms are vital for deciding if social media accounts and content and their placements are authentic. 

Although there isn’t a guidebook on all the algorithms and how to keep up with them, we have gathered enough knowledge to navigate the social media environment and achieve success. A significant change in recent years has been a focus on user-friendliness, similar to how Google ranks content. This encourages social media users to share relevant, top-notch content and interact with their audience.

B. Key platforms and their algorithmic models (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/X)

a. Facebook

Facebook, with over 2.9 billion users worldwide, holds immense importance for brands and marketers aiming to expand their audience reach. To succeed on this platform, consider these key factors:

  • Friend and follower connections: Facebook prioritises content from friends and followed pages.
  • Engagement level: Content with high likes, shares, and views receives a boost from the algorithm due to increased engagement.
  • Content format: The algorithm tailors your feed based on the content formats you interact with most frequently. For instance, if you engage with reels often, you’ll see more of that content.
  • Content quality: Authenticity, informativeness, and accuracy play crucial roles in ranking. Meta employs independent fact-checkers to flag and reduce the visibility of false or misleading content.

b. Instagram

Instagram’s algorithm, divided into feed, reels, and explore sections, tailors personalised content for each user. Here’s how it works:

Feed and Stories:

This section showcases recent posts from followed accounts and suggested content based on past activity. The algorithm enhances user experience by ranking content according to:

  • User activity: Your engagement on the platform helps the algorithm understand your interests, including your interactions with specific accounts.
  • Interaction history: Your past interactions with accounts indicate your preferences, influencing the content displayed.
  • Post details: Factors such as post likes, posting time, length, and location impact visibility in feeds.
  • Account information: The algorithm gauges the relevance of content creators based on their engagement history and recent activity.

Instagram’s Explore 

This section helps users discover new content based on their recent interactions, such as views, likes, and comments. For instance, if you liked reels from @XYZ, Instagram may suggest content from @ABC if many users who liked @XYZ also liked @ABC’s content.

Instagram Reels

In Reels, Instagram aims to entertain users by showcasing content from accounts they don’t follow. The algorithm selects and orders Reels based on predicted interest and entertainment value. It also gathers user feedback to improve its predictions, prioritising content from smaller creators.

Key predictions include whether users are likely to watch a Reel fully, like it, or engage further by visiting the audio page.

c. Twitter/X

Twitter employs various ranking signals to organise content on its platform. These ranking signal include –

  • User interactions: This includes accounts and tweets you frequently engage with, shaping your personalised experience.
  • Recent topics: Twitter prioritises recent topics featured in the “What’s Happening” section, while location influences trending topics.
  • Popularity: The algorithm considers the current popularity of topics, trends, or tweets, factoring in engagement and activity from users in your network.
  • Recency: Twitter’s algorithm emphasises recency, favouring recent tweets in your timeline. Newer tweets appear higher, pushing older ones down as they’re posted.

C. Factors influencing algorithmic ranking

Social media algorithms consider various signals and ranking factors to match users with relevant content:

  • User engagement: Likes, shares, and comments indicate content interest and relevance to users.
  • Relevance: Keywords and hashtags provide context and enhance content visibility.
  • Timing and frequency: Consistent posting at optimal times increases visibility to an active audience.
  • Recency: Recent posts are prioritised over older ones.
  • User interactions: Following accounts, interactions, and click-through rates indicate relevance and content quality.
  • Profile authority: Follower count, consistency, and engagement affect organic reach.
  • Location: Algorithms consider user location and demographics to personalise content.
  • Content type: Different formats, such as videos, images, and text, are treated based on user engagement, with videos often favoured for their higher engagement.
  • Virality: Popular content and shares indicate relevance to the algorithm.
  • Watch time: The duration users spend watching videos, such as IG Reels and YouTube Shorts, influences algorithmic ranking.

Common Social Media Algorithm Components

To succeed on social media, stay up-to-date with algorithm changes

Understanding the intricate workings of a social media algorithm is key to navigating the digital landscape effectively. These algorithms are multifaceted constructs. They are designed to curate content tailored to individual users’ preferences and behaviours. 

In this chapter, we delve into the common components that constitute these algorithms, shedding light on their mechanisms and significance.

A. Engagement signals

At the core of a social media algorithm lie engagement signals, the digital footprints left behind by users interacting with content. These include –

a. Likes, comments, shares – These actions serve as pivotal metrics. They indicate the resonance of a post within the community. 

b. Click-through rates – This metric reflects the percentage of users who click on a link or post. Click-through rate or CTR offers valuable feedback on content quality and relevance.

B. Relevancy and user preferences

Social media algorithms are adept at deciphering the intricacies of relevancy and user preferences, leveraging data to personalise content delivery.

a. Content relevance – Algorithms prioritise content that aligns with users’ interests and past interactions. This, in turn, enhances the overall user experience.

b. User history and behaviour – Through thorough analysis of past interactions and behaviours, algorithms discern patterns and preferences. And this is what facilitates the delivery of personalised content. 

C. Timeliness

The timely delivery of content is another critical factor in social media algorithm. Freshness and recency play pivotal roles in determining the visibility of content within users’ feeds.

a. Freshness of content – Newly created or timely content is prioritised to ensure users are presented with up-to-date and relevant information.

b. Recency of engagement – Recent interactions carry more weight in algorithmic calculations. They reflect the transient nature of user behaviour, interests and preferences.

Recent Algorithm Updates

Social media algorithms update quite frequently. In fact, every major social platform now has at least 2 to 3, and sometimes even more, algorithm updates every year. Let’s take a look at them and how they impact everything below –

A. Overview of recent changes on major platforms

a. Facebook

Facebook posts within events and groups

When it comes to Facebook, its recent algorithm gives priority to posts within Groups and Events, highlighting their significance as “the two primary reasons individuals frequent Facebook daily.” 

With their recent redesign, Facebook has intensified its focus on these areas. Moreover, Facebook now offers recommended tag suggestions when composing posts.

b. Instagram

Instagram reels have take the platform by storm

Despite ongoing concerns about Instagram potentially devaluing content from business profiles, evidence continues to support this notion. In 2024, an increasing number of users will encounter content from profiles they don’t follow directly in their main feed rather than solely through the Discover tab. To optimise the likelihood of this occurrence, it’s crucial to prioritise engagement from your core followers.

Instagram has provided insights into the criteria influencing content recommendations. Key points include:

  • Posts employing clickbait or engagement bait are not recommended.
  • Contests or giveaways are not recommended.
  • Repurposed content from other sources, lacking additional value, is not recommended.

Additionally, Instagram has introduced Reels, its counterpart to TikTok. Some Instagram accounts have experienced substantial growth by utilising this feature. Therefore, allocating time to create Reels content may yield significant returns.

c. Twitter/X

Twitter/X focuses on prioritising tweets with substantial engagement.

Twitter (X) will persist in prioritising tweets with substantial engagement and recent activity, emphasising the continued significance of volume and frequency on the platform.

Moreover, observations indicate heightened engagement rates under the following circumstances:

  • Tweets incorporating up to two hashtags and limited to 100 characters.
  • Tweets featuring an embedded image link.
  • Directly prompting followers to retweet the tweet.

B. Impact on content distribution and reach

The most common impacts that social media algorithm brings are as follows –

a. Decline in organic reach – Changes in algorithm typically lead to a decline in organic reach. This is why it becomes harder for content to be seen by a wider audience. 

b. Prioritisation shift – Content priority is now no longer on posts from brands and creators, but it is on highly engaging posts and content from friends and family. 

c. Business posts – If the new algorithm change focuses on friends and family’s content, then business posts will no longer receive the engagement they should. 

C. Case studies illustrating the effects of algorithm updates

Let’s take a look at some generic case studies that provide insights into the real-world ramifications of algorithm updates.

a. Instagram’s Algorithmic Shift Towards Reels – This update instantly resulted in a surge of visibility for short-form video creators. In fact, Reels occupy prominent positions within users’ feeds. 

Content creators adept at leveraging this algorithmic change witnessed a substantial increase in reach and engagement. This clearly underscores the pivotal role of adaptability in capitalising on evolving platform dynamics.

b. Facebook’s Crackdown on Misinformation – This algorithmic adjustment aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation exerted a discernible impact on content distribution. Posts containing dubious or misleading information have diminished a lot. 

This change led to content creators and publishers prioritising accuracy and credibility. 

Adapting to Algorithm Changes

To make the most out of this ever-shifting terrain of social media algorithm, you need to take a proactive approach, including –

A. Regularly monitoring platform announcements

Staying informed is paramount. This means you should stay vigilant and monitor platform announcements and updates. Besides, platforms often provide insights into forthcoming algorithmic changes. Such information offers invaluable guidance on how to adjust content strategies accordingly. 

Also, when you stay abreast of these announcements, you pre-emptively adapt your approach. This, in turn, ensures alignment with evolving algorithmic criteria.

B. Analysing data and performance metrics

Data serves as the compass. It guides content creators through the labyrinth of algorithmic intricacies. It also offers actionable insights into content performance and audience engagement. 

Analysing metrics such as reach, engagement rates, and audience demographics enables content creators to discern patterns and trends. It facilitates informed decision-making in response to algorithmic shifts. 

C. Experimenting with different content strategies

Agility and experimentation are fundamental to thriving amidst algorithmic changes. Embracing a culture of experimentation allows content creators to test diverse content formats, posting schedules, and engagement tactics to ascertain their impact on algorithmic visibility.

Individuals and businesses can uncover innovative approaches to content creation and distribution by adopting a mindset of continuous improvement and adaptation. It can help capitalise on emerging opportunities and mitigate the risks posed by algorithmic uncertainties.

Strategies for Success Amidst Algorithm Changes

Besides adapting to the shifts and changes, it is crucial to create strategies that align with these changes, too. Here are some proven strategies to tackle the changes easily and reign on social media platforms. 

A. Creating high-quality, engaging content

Quality reigns supreme in the digital arena. It serves as a cornerstone of success amidst algorithmic fluctuations

Crafting compelling, high-quality content that captivates and resonates with audiences is paramount. Whether through captivating visuals, thought-provoking narratives, or entertaining multimedia, content creators must prioritise excellence in content creation to foster meaningful connections and elicit engagement. 

By maintaining consistency in delivering value and relevance, content creators can forge strong bonds with their audience. This, in turn, will transcend algorithmic constraints and cultivate a loyal following.

Social media platforms are dynamic ecosystems. They are ever-teeming with opportunities for innovation and experimentation. 

Leveraging platform features and trends enables content creators to capitalise on emerging opportunities and amplify their reach. You can do so through –

  • harnessing the power of live video
  • embracing ephemeral content formats
  • or participating in viral challenges

Remember, adapting to platform nuances empowers creators to stay ahead of the curve. It helps harness the full potential of algorithmic visibility. Also, by remaining agile and attuned to platform dynamics, content creators can harness the momentum of trending topics and features to enhance content visibility and engagement.

C. Building meaningful interactions and community engagement

The power of community and connectivity is paramount in social media. 

Fostering meaningful interactions and engagement cultivates a sense of belonging and authenticity. It also fosters a vibrant digital community around one’s content. Hence, content creators must prioritise building genuine relationships with their audience. They must actively engage with comments, messages, and feedback to nurture a sense of camaraderie and reciprocity.

Content creators can cultivate a loyal fanbase that serves as a cornerstone of resilience amidst algorithmic changes by fostering a culture of dialogue and inclusivity. 

Navigating Content Distribution Challenges

Content distribution presents both opportunities and challenges for content creators. In this section, we will navigate content distribution challenges. 

A. Understanding potential content reach limitations

Content creators must grasp the nuances of potential reach limitations imposed by algorithmic constraints and platform dynamics. While algorithms aim to surface relevant and engaging content to users, they may inadvertently limit the organic reach of certain posts based on various factors. These include content type, engagement levels, and audience preferences.

With proper comprehension of these limitations, creators can –

  • adjust their strategies
  • and optimise their content for maximum visibility 

B. Techniques to boost organic reach

Despite algorithmic complexities, organic reach remains a coveted asset for content creators seeking to amplify their message without relying on paid promotion. Leveraging techniques to boost organic reach is essential for maximising content visibility and engagement. 

Strategies such as –

  • optimising content for search intent
  • fostering audience engagement through compelling calls to action
  • and utilising relevant hashtags

All these can help enhance the discoverability of content and broaden its reach organically.

Content creators can augment their organic reach and foster sustained audience growth by employing these techniques thoughtfully.

C. Balancing organic and paid strategies

Achieving an optimal balance between organic and paid strategies is crucial for navigating content distribution challenges effectively. While organic reach forms the foundation of a robust content distribution strategy, paid promotion can augment visibility and extend reach beyond organic limitations.

Content creators can leverage the strengths of each approach to maximise their overall impact by strategically allocating resources to both organic and paid initiatives. 

Also, striking a balance between organic and paid strategies empowers creators to navigate content distribution challenges with agility and efficacy.

Tools for Analysing Algorithmic Impact

A. Social media analytics tools

Social media analytics tools serve as invaluable resources for content creators seeking to dissect the intricacies of algorithmic impact. These tools offer comprehensive dashboards and metrics illuminating key performance indicators, including engagement rates, reach, impressions, and audience demographics. 

Using analytics platforms such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and Instagram Insights, content creators can gain actionable insights into the effectiveness of their content strategy and identify areas for optimisation.

B. Monitoring changes in key metrics

Vigilant monitoring of key metrics is essential for discerning the impact of algorithmic changes on content performance. Content creators must track shifts in engagement metrics, reach, and audience behaviour over time to identify trends and patterns indicative of algorithmic fluctuations

Also, by monitoring changes in key metrics, marketers can proactively adjust their strategy to capitalise on emerging opportunities and mitigate the impact of algorithmic constraints.

C. Utilising data to inform content adjustments

Data-driven decision-making lies at the heart of effective content strategy optimisation. Marketers can iteratively refine their approach to content creation and distribution by harnessing insights gleaned from social media analytics tools and monitoring changes in key metrics. 

Utilising data to inform content adjustments enables creators to tailor their strategy to –

  • align with audience preferences
  • optimise engagement
  • and maximise reach within the ever-evolving landscape of social media algorithm.

Collaboration and Networking

A. Building relationships with platform representatives

Cultivating relationships with platform representatives offers content creators invaluable opportunities to:

  • gain insights into algorithmic changes
  • access beta features
  • and collaborate on promotional initiatives. 

Also, engaging with platform representatives through direct communication channels, such as email or social media, enables creators to establish rapport, share feedback, and garner support for their endeavours. 

Properly nurturing these relationships can allow content creators to harness the resources and expertise of platform stakeholders. This, in turn, can help optimise their content strategy and maximise their impact.

B. Engaging with the community and industry peers

Community engagement serves as a cornerstone of success within the social media ecosystem. It fosters connections, collaboration, and support among content creators and industry peers. 

Also, actively engaging with the community through comments, messages, and collaborations cultivates a sense of belonging and camaraderie. It helps in amplifying reach and fostering mutual growth. 

Moreover, participating in industry-specific groups, forums, and online communities provides opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking, and mentorship. This, in turn, enriches the collective expertise of content creators and fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation.

C. Staying informed through forums and industry events

Staying informed about industry developments, trends, and best practices is essential for content creators seeking to navigate the dynamic landscape of social media effectively. 

Participating in industry events, conferences, and webinars provides opportunities to glean insights from thought leaders. It helps exchange ideas with peers and stay abreast of emerging trends and technologies. 

Also, engaging in online forums and groups helps creators learn from others, share experiences, and get advice on dealing with algorithm changes and improving content impact.

Case Studies

Let’s dissect a few hypothetical examples to understand its real-world valuable lessons –

A. Examining successful strategies post-algorithm updates

After algorithm updates, savvy brands pivot their strategies to maintain or enhance their social media presence. 

Take, for instance, Company X, a fashion retailer. Following a major Instagram algorithm update that prioritised authentic engagement, Company X shifted its focus from generic promotional posts to user-generated content and influencer collaborations. 

Through genuine interactions and by leveraging influencer partnerships strategically, Company X can witness a significant uptick in engagement and brand loyalty.

B. Learning from challenges and adjustments made by brands

However, not all transitions are seamless. Brand Y, a tech startup, encountered hurdles after a Twitter algorithm update. The update favoured timely and trending topics, challenging Brand Y’s pre-planned content calendar. 

In response, Brand Y embraced real-time engagement, swiftly capitalising on trending conversations within its niche. Despite initial setbacks, this adaptability allowed Brand Y to maintain visibility and relevance amidst the algorithm shift.

C. Implementing key takeaways in one’s own social media strategies

The lessons gleaned from these case studies are invaluable for crafting effective social media strategies. Whether it’s prioritising authenticity, embracing real-time engagement, or optimising content for algorithmic preferences, brands can leverage these insights to refine their approach. 

Brands will have to stay nimble, monitor algorithm updates, and continuously iterate on tactics to proactively navigate the ever-evolving landscape of social media algorithm.

To stay ahead of the curve, you need to anticipate future algorithm changes. How? Let’s find out!

A. Predicting potential future algorithm changes

It is impossible to predict algorithm changes with absolute certainty. But, observing industry trends, platform updates, and user behaviours can offer valuable insights.

You can also,

  • Keep a close eye on announcements from major social media platforms
  • analyse past updates for patterns
  • and monitor discussions within the digital marketing community.

Additionally, understanding overarching societal trends, such as shifts in consumer preferences or advancements in technology, can help anticipate potential directions for algorithmic adjustments.

B. Adapting strategies for long-term success

Rather than solely reacting to immediate changes, cultivate a proactive approach by building adaptable strategies for long-term success. Focus on creating high-quality, relevant content that aligns with your audience’s interests and values. Also, diversify your social media presence across multiple platforms. It will help mitigate the impact of algorithm shifts on any single channel. 

Lastly, invest in building a strong community and fostering genuine connections with your audience. This is because these factors can help sustain engagement and loyalty amidst algorithmic fluctuations.

C. Staying agile in the ever-evolving social media landscape

Flexibility is key in navigating the ever-evolving social media landscape. Hence, embrace a mindset of continuous learning and experimentation. Also, remain open to testing new tactics and adjusting strategies based on performance data. Similarly, develop a feedback loop. It will come in handy in monitoring the effectiveness of your efforts and gathering insights to inform future iterations. 

Moreover, stay attuned to emerging trends and evolving user behaviours. Accordingly, adapt your approach to maintain relevance and resonance with your audience.


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Bottom line

Marketing, in general, is a complex process, irrespective of where you aim to do it. Thankfully, there is always a loophole that you need to tackle to prevail. The same is the case with social media marketing. The algorithm is the biggest concept you need to understand first to ensure your marketing strategies are delivering the expected results. 

With the details listed above, we are sure you might have an idea of where to begin and how. However, we understand that marketing is not an easy task, especially digital marketing. The complexities involved can be overwhelming. Hence, delegating your needs to an expert is always a sound choice. 

Work with Sortlist to find social media marketing professionals from anywhere across the globe. With experts at aid, you will have the upper hand in this competitive digital landscape.  


How does social media algorithm affect us?

Social media algorithms affect us by determining the content we see on our feeds. They prioritise posts based on relevance, engagement, and other factors, shaping our online experience. These algorithms influence what content we interact with, how we perceive information and even our purchasing decisions.

Do social media algorithms use AI?

Yes, many social media algorithms incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to analyse user behaviour, predict preferences, and optimise content delivery. AI helps these algorithms adapt and improve over time by learning from user interactions and feedback.

What algorithm does Instagram use?

Instagram uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the order of posts in users’ feeds. While the exact details of the algorithm are not publicly disclosed, it considers various factors such as relevance, engagement, recency, and the user’s past interactions with content.

Who designs social media algorithms?

Social media algorithms are designed and implemented by teams of engineers, data scientists, and algorithm experts employed by the respective social media platforms. These teams work to develop algorithms that serve the platform’s goals, such as maximising user engagement and advertising revenue, while also considering factors like user experience and ethical considerations.


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