You’ve probably heard people complaining about the “algorithm” if their followers didn’t see some of their content on social media. The algorithm can seem like an ever-changing, mystifying element. And while everyday users are not normally concerned with the algorithms, social media marketers need to understand the importance of these algorithms and how to work with them to ensure their content gets seen by as many people as possible. 

What are Social Media Algorithms?

The Digital Marketing Institute defines it perfectly: “An algorithm is a mathematical set of rules specifying how a group of data behaves. In social media, algorithms help maintain order and assist in ranking search results and advertisements.” And Sprout Social breaks it down into even more simplified language: “Social media algorithms are a way of sorting posts in a users’ feed based on relevancy instead of publish time.” In other words, social networks like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter determine which content a user will see first by the likelihood that they’ll want to see it. 

Social media feeds used to be in reverse chronological order—that is, you’d see the most recent posts first, and the farther you scrolled, the older the posts got. On Facebook and Twitter, you can still choose to see your feed in chronological order, but it’s not the default setting. Now, what gets shown is based on past behavior, such as accounts the user most frequently interacts with, or what other people with similar interests are engaging with.

Why Are Algorithms Controversial? 

Social media algorithms exist (in theory) to help sift through the massive amount of content available across social media platforms and deliver what you want to your feed. However, social media networks and algorithms in particular have received a lot of attention of late, because often these networks want businesses and brands to pay them for advertising and boosts, rather than relying on organic reach, and they tweak their algorithms in ways that can impact a business’s ability to connect with users. Plus, since algorithms are constantly evolving and changing (presumably to tweak them to allow more people to see more content), it can be hard for marketing professionals to get a handle on it and stay ahead of it for long, meaning they will always be experimenting with different strategies and techniques to connect with the most people.

Explore Each Network’s Algorithm 

Social networks are notoriously vague about the parameters of their algorithms. But there are a few helpful hints to follow when it comes to getting the most out of these algorithms. Understanding what you’re working with and using that information to make the algorithm work for you is a much better tactic than trying to fight against them.


According to the 2019 Sprout Social Index, Facebook remains the top platform for both consumers and marketers. Facebook’s algorithm works to show you what it thinks you’ll be interested in or is relevant to you. 

However, in recent years, Facebook has received a lot of pushback on its algorithm and policies in general, and in 2018, the social media giant made an update to focus content around users’ close friends and family members, rather than sponsored content, ads, or spam from businesses. In 2019, Facebook added a “Why am I seeing this post?” update to be more transparent. In more recent years, since Facebook (or Meta, as the parent company is now called), has come under fire for spreading “fake news” and misinformation, it has implemented more fact-checking and shared ways it is working to fight misinformation. Facebook also contacted users directly, asking them to fill out surveys about the kind of constant they want to see. This feedback helped shape the next iteration of its algorithm.


As with other social media platforms’ algorithms, Instagram’s has evolved over the years, from a chronological feed to prioritizing what it thinks you are interested in, to reigning it back in to show you friends and family first. Instagram has shared that it takes such elements as usage, following, interest, relationship, recency, and frequency into consideration when deciding what to show you. 

In 2021, Instagram shared some information attempting to demystify what the algorithm is and how it works. Some key takeaways are that there is not just one algorithm that governs content site-wide. There are separate algorithms for Feed, Explore, and Reels, all of which contribute to who is seeing what and when. 

The post also broke down its feed-ranking criteria and shared that the most important signals for ranking include information about the post (likes, location, when it was posted), information about who posted it (such as if you’ve interacted before), your activity (such as likes, searches, and amount of interaction), and your history of interaction. Then the algorithm begins to make its predictions—what Instagram refers to as “educated guesses at how likely you are to interact with a post in different ways.” 


LinkedIn has more than 774 million members worldwide, solidifying itself as one of the most widely used social media networks. As with the Instagram and Facebook algorithms, the LinkedIn algorithm prioritizes what you see in your feed based on your past activity such as shares, comments, and likes. The reach your content gets (i.e. how many others see what you post) is prioritized this way as well. On LinkedIn, you can still opt to see posts in chronological order, though it’s not the default setting.

Similar to Instagram’s and Facebook’s attempts to clear the air around the mystery of the algorithm, LinkedIn shared an article detailing why you see the content you do. Although the article mentions some generic social media marketing principles such as asking questions and creating content that invites engagement, an important takeaway (especially for LinkedIn, which is the most business-forward social network) is to capitalize on authentic connection rather than using jargon or simply congratulating yourself. Yes, LinkedIn is a place to strut your professional stuff, but it’s also a place for people to deepen relationships—and you can't do that if you’re too busy promoting yourself.

LinkedIn’s algorithm prioritizes event-based content, question-based posts, industry news and updates, image and video-based posts, and content where companies share their human side (like spotlighting an employee), and yes, some elements of self-promotion, like sharing special awards and recognition—just don’t make every post all about you.


As mentioned earlier, and just as with most social networks, Twitter originally showed you Tweets chronologically. Now, Twitter uses a variety of ranking factors (like the Tweet’s recency, likes, the author, your past interactions, the types of Tweets you have engaged with in the past, and how often you use the platform) to show you posts they think you’ll like. Twitter also throws in a mix of real-time content. Just like the algorithms of other networks, Twitter’s is ever-changing. However, unlike with other networks, you can choose to turn off the algorithm and go back to their original, chronological feed if you so choose. Once you do this, you’ll see some Tweets selected by the algorithm as the most relevant, but then the rest will flood your feed in reverse chronological order.

Best Practices for Outsmarting Social Media Algorithms

While there is no way to be completely on top of every network’s constantly changing and evolving algorithm, there are a few ways to stay ahead of the game. 

Create a Plan

Timing is a huge part of social media marketing success. Bottom line: you want to post at optimum times to get the most interested eyeballs on your content. Creating a plan is the first step. This plan should include what to post, when to post, and how to stay engaged with your current and potential followers. 

Whether you’re a small business just starting or a large company working to attract new followers, adding and sharing content is integral to your company’s success. But it’s not as simple as sharing spontaneously—planning out the optimal time and how often to publish on your social media channels to reach the most people is key. Understanding your audience, knowing when and what to publish, and being consistent will help keep your followers engaged and drive more traffic your way. There are even scheduling tools available so you can plan your posts ahead of time.

Make Engagement Your Top Priority 

The number one way to keep ahead of the algorithm, no matter the platform, is engagement. The more interaction (in the form of likes, comments, and shares) a post or a Tweet gets, the more people see it, and the farther it goes organically. Think about using calls to action or asking questions in your content as a way to encourage engagement and interaction.

Handpick Your Hashtags

Another way to enhance your reach is by using the right hashtags. According to Hootsuite, “precise, accurate, thoughtful hashtags signal to humans and the algorithm what’s in your post, and who might be interested in it.” Using the right ones for your brand can help you find and connect with more members of your community, no matter the platform. 

A hashtag is a series of numbers or letters preceded by the # symbol (e.g. #nobledesktop). Hashtags are more than just funny additions to a post; they help users discover and categorize posts and other content. Hashtags help build community because some people may follow a hashtag even if they don't follow you. Using niche hashtags unique to your company, brand, or product can help you stay ahead of that pesky algorithm. Take a look at what hashtags your competitors and your target audience are already using and engaging with, and consider creating your very own hashtag (often called a branded hashtag) to promote your brand or campaign.

Tag & Tag Some More 

Another way to boost engagement and outsmart the algorithm is by tagging others. This means that not only will your followers see the content, but the followers and fans of whoever you tag, as well. Tagging someone also acts as an invitation for them to share your post, which ranks it higher in any algorithm. 

A post or status update isn’t directed at anyone specific. By tagging another business or user you’re initiating an exchange. This dialogue can be seen by both their followers and yours. Bonus: anyone can chime in on that conversation—thus giving you more reach and more clout in terms of the algorithm.

Incorporate Video Content 

With a whopping 75 million people in the United States watching a video online every day, incorporating video into your social media marketing strategy is a must to survive the algorithm of just about any social media network around. With the continued rise of mobile devices, video content is constantly available. According to Wyzowl, 69% of consumers say they prefer to learn about a brand through video. Video content is a way to hold the interest of your followers, lead to more conversions, and yes, stay one step ahead of the algorithm. 

Video content consistently performs well and engages users across social media platforms.TikTok has 800 million monthly active users. YouTube is the second-largest search engine (coming in just behind its parent company, Google). Videos on Instagram get the most engagement. Videos can be a whimsical and entertaining way to connect with your target audience. Consider adding some video content to your social media marketing repertoire as a dynamic way to engage with current and potential followers, build community online, and rank higher within the algorithm. 

Embrace Trial & Error

Because the algorithm is constantly changing, so must be your strategy. While it can feel frustrating to be kept on your toes by the networks, continuing to tweak your strategy can also be a way to connect with more users and more diverse demographics. Figuring out how to use these tricky algorithms to your advantage is a win in itself! Trial and error is one sure way to figure out what parts of your strategy are working, what to keep trying, and what to toss. 

Utilize Analytics 

Demographics and analytics are very much entwined with algorithms on social media, so it’s important to stay on top of yours to stay on top of the algorithm. Getting to know your target audience on social media is the most important element when working to get your content in front of people who want to see it—which is just what most algorithms are looking for. Analytics makes it easier for you to do just that. 

Social media analytics involves collecting, tracking, and analyzing user data on your social media accounts. You’ll glean crucial information on engagement such as your content’s reach, what kinds of positive (and negative) mentions you’re getting online, how many people are seeing your posts and if they’re being shared, if your brand’s hashtag is performing well, and other details to help improve or change your strategy. Having access to this data allows you to make better choices to satisfy the algorithm. 

Many channels have tools designed especially for their platform, such as LinkedIn Analytics and Facebook’s Business Suite Insights, which are great ways to dig deeper within each platform and learn how to tweak your content to satisfy the ever-elusive algorithm. Since you’ll likely be working across platforms, it can save time and streamline your strategy to use a social media analytics tool that works across them all. The most well-known and widely-used of these is Google Analytics (or GA). GA collects and tracks user data, compiles it into useful reports, and provides valuable insights to improve performance.

No matter which analytics tool you choose, the valuable information provided shows how your brand, product, or business is performing from a social media perspective. Use that information to maximize the algorithm.

Learn Social Media Marketing

Want to dig deeper into various platforms and tackle understanding their algorithms? Enroll in Noble Desktop’s 30-hour Social Media Marketing Certificate. The curriculum gives participants a comprehensive overview of the industry. Hands-on training over five distinct units allows students to master various elements of social media marketing. Certificate program participants will learn how to determine the right social media platform for their goals, develop a successful social media strategy, and create content that increases engagement and drives sales. Expert instructors teach participants how to gain a following and underscore the importance of market positioning and using social media analytics to improve results. Noble even offers students a chance to retake the class for free within a year to drill down on challenging concepts or refresh their skills. 

If you want to take a shorter course or focus on a specific platform, look into Noble’s wide variety of social media marketing classes. Individuals can attend in-person classes at Noble Desktop’s New York City location or attend live online social media marketing courses from anywhere in the world. 

Noble’s Facebook Marketing class provides an in-depth look at creating targeted ads, leveraging Facebook groups, and creating business pages within the platform. The Instagram Marketing class helps students learn about advertising on Instagram as well as how to build a following by creating resonant content. The course delves into the Instagram algorithm and how to use it to develop content and posting strategies as well as increase engagement. The course’s expert instructors go over best practices and tools like Instagram Stories, marketing, and advertising. 

With Noble’s LinkedIn Marketing class, you’ll learn how to craft a marketing strategy for LinkedIn, create dynamic content, and advertise on the platform. The course also covers prospecting with LinkedIn search as well as how to use LinkedIn analytics to your advantage. Finally, Social Media Video Marketing: TikTok & YouTube teaches how to use the platforms for video-based campaigns and techniques for creating content. Students will also learn how to monitor video trends, and identify and engage their target audience.

You can also find local and live online social media marketing courses, bootcamps, and certificate programs in your area using Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool.

Other social media marketing resources offered by Noble Desktop include its blog which has detailed articles about various social media marketing topics, and the Intro to Social Media Marketing seminar on YouTube, which gives in-depth descriptions about various social media platforms and strategies.