Guide to Social Media Algorithms and How they work

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Social media algorithms are the backbone of all social networks, and understanding them is essential for marketers.

However, understanding the complexities of social media algorithms can be a challenge, given their frequently changing nature and the vast number of available platforms.

We have put together a guide containing four major platform’s (Instagram, Youtube, Linkedin, and Facebook) most influential ranking signals, plus tips on creating content that will get noticed by not only the users but also the social media algorithms.

Let’s dive in.

What is a social media algorithm?

Social media algorithm is a set of rules and data designed to personalize each user’s social experience. They measure a user’s behavior and likes, then tailor the content it provides based on those preferences.

Social media sites create unique algorithms so that users get the most accurate and relevant content each time they open their social accounts.

How Does The Instagram Algorithm Work?

The Instagram algorithm affects everyone who uses the platform — especially brands.

In June 2021, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post entitled Shedding More Light on How Instagram Works:

“Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”

Here’s how the Instagram algorithm distributes different types of content.

Key Ranking Signals for your Feed and Stories

Information about the post

How much attention a post gets, as well as how many people and how quickly they like, comment, share, and save a post.

Information about the person who posted

How often have users interacted with that person in the last few weeks?

User Activity

The amount and nature of posts a user has interacted with gives Instagram a hint as to what kinds of posts they might be interested in seeing.

Key Ranking Signals for the Explore tab

Information about the post

When selecting content to be featured in the Explore tab, Instagram considers the overall popularity of a post, taking into account signals such as the number of likes, comments, shares and saves, as well as the speed at which this activity is generated.

User Activity

It includes information regarding users’ interactions with Explore posts, such as those they have liked, saved, or commented on.

Information about the Poster

How many times have users interacted with that person in the last few weeks?

Your history of interacting with the person who posted

How willing a user is to see posts from a specific person.

Key Ranking Signals for the Reels

Information about the Reel

The video’s popularity, audio track, and video data, such as pixels and whole frames, are taken into consideration by the Instagram algorithm when deciding what video to show next.

User Activity

Which Reels has a user recently liked, commented on, and engaged with.

Information about the Poster

How many times have users interacted with that person in the last few weeks?

Your history of interacting with the person who posted

Reels (like Explore) will likely serve up videos from creators you’ve never heard of.

However, if you have previously interacted with them in some way, Instagram also takes that into account.

For more tips and advice check out the article, How to Use Instagram Reels For Business.

How Does The YouTube Algorithm Work?

YouTube is an oft-overlooked social network in the world of digital marketing; however, it can be extremely powerful. With over 2.6 billion users worldwide, YouTube has a broad reach and uses a complex algorithm to determine the position of videos in its recommendations and lists.

What factors does YouTube consider when determining which videos to show its viewers?

Every traffic source is unique and delivers its own unique result; however, the success of your video ultimately lies in the combination of personalization, performance, and external factors.

Personalization takes into account the history and preferences of the viewers.

Performance deals with a video’s success over time – how often it’s watched, shared, and commented on.

External factors consider things like audience size or existing market conditions.

How does YouTube determine its homepage algorithm?

Videos get selected for the homepage based on two types of ranking signals:


YouTube tracks performance using the click-through rate, average view time, average percentage viewed, likes, dislikes, and viewer surveys.

Essentially, the algorithm displays the video to a small segment of users on the homepage, and if the video engages and satisfies those viewers, it gets offered to a larger audience.


YouTube personalizes a user’s video recommendations based on their past viewing behaviors and how frequently they interact with a particular channel or topic.

How YouTube determines its suggested video algorithm?

Suggested videos appear on the right-hand side of the screen when you start watching a video on YouTube and offer a personalized selection of videos they are likely to be interested in.

In addition to performance and personalization, the algorithm is likely to recommend:

  • Videos often watched together
  • Topically-related videos or videos the user has previously watched

PRO TIP 1– Creating a sequel to your most successful video is a tried and true technique.

PRO TIP 2– A call to action to watch another video should be included at the end of each video to keep viewers engaged and generate important user satisfaction signals.

PRO TIP 3– Keep your video titles and thumbnail style consistent.

External Factors Impacting YouTube Rankings

Marketers should be aware that external influences may affect their video rankings on YouTube’s homepage and suggested sections.

Such aspects are beyond the control of content creators and can include:

Topic interest

Different topics appeal to different audiences and determine the size of relevant viewership; niche topics often have limited exposure due to their specialized interest.


The amount of time an audience spends on content from other sources can affect how much of your content is recommended to them.


YouTube viewership fluctuates throughout the year and usually goes down during holidays. Seasonal changes can affect topic interest.

PRO TIP– People’s interests change as time passes, so keep experimenting to find out what they like. If you produce content regularly on a specific topic, then moving to a different topic may raise impressions.

How Does The LinkedIn Algorithm Work?

While LinkedIn is often seen as solely about business and a professional environment, it is actually a form of social network.

Like all other social networks, it relies on its own algorithm to help users connect with other people and find interesting content.

LinkedIn has 810 million members and counting. Now let’s see how the LinkedIn algorithm works.

LinkedIn places your post in one of the three buckets after you publish it

  • 1. Spam
  • 2. Low Quality
  • 3. High Quality

Here’s how LinkedIn determines where your post belongs:


Inappropriate grammar and multiple links in a post may result in being flagged as spam.

It is recommended to avoid posting too frequently (more than every three hours) and tagging more than five people in your post.

Utilizing hashtags such as #comment, #like, or #follow can also trigger the system to flag a post as spam.

Low Quality

The algorithm will rate your post as low quality if you can’t make it engaging. In other words, if your post isn’t following best practices for content, it will be marked as low quality.

High Quality

If you want your post in the ‘High Quality’ category, keep these things in mind:

  • Only tag those people who are likely to actually respond
  • Use strong keywords
  • Don’t use outbound links; instead, put them in the comments
  • Use three or fewer hashtags

LinkedIn tests your post

After your post has been deemed appropriate by the algorithm, it will be pushed to a small selection of followers in order to gauge any initial engagement, such as likes, comments, and shares.

If there is a significant activity, the post will be shared with broader audiences.

However, if there is minimal activity or even flagging as spam in the first hour after you share the post, LinkedIn will not share it further.

Here are some tips to make the most of this time test:

  • Post at a time when your followers are online (Check out the LinkedIn analytics guide for assistance)
  • Encourage engagement with a question or prompt
  • Follow a consistent posting schedule, so your audience knows when to check for new posts
  • Respond to any questions or comments

LinkedIn delivers your content to a wider audience

If your post is receiving engagement, then the algorithm will distribute your content to a broader audience.

LinkedIn has three ranking signals to determine who gets to see your post:

How closely you’re connected

The level of connection between you and your followers is a key factor in determining how likely they are to view your content. This includes individuals you have a professional relationship with or those you have had previous interactions with.

Interest relevance

The LinkedIn algorithm determines a user’s interests by evaluating what groups they’re in & the hashtags, people, and pages they follow.

It’s great news if your post mentions topics or companies that align with a user’s interest.

Probability of Engagement

When it comes to the likelihood of engagement, two key measurables come into play.

First, what is the likelihood that a user will engage, given their past behavior in regard to your posts?

The second signal involves how much engagement your post as a whole is receiving – if it is popular, driving lots of discussions, then more people are likely to join in too.

How Does The Facebook Algorithm Work?

The average organic post from a Facebook Page is typically only able to generate 0.07% engagement – surely, there must be some way to beat drastic odds like these, right?

The answer lies in understanding how best to signal the algorithm, as what works and what doesn’t is constantly changing. Be sure to take notes. Here we go.

Facebook states that its Feed feature “displays stories that are both meaningful and informative.”

By 2023, the Facebook algorithm will be able to identify these stories by utilizing three primary ranking signals.


First, Facebook scans through all the content that could be displayed on your Feed. This includes content from people you’re connected to from Pages you follow and groups you’ve joined.


Signals are a critical component of the Facebook algorithm that provides Facebook with information regarding posts. These signals are further divided into active and passive categories. Active signals are those that promote user engagement, such as likes, shares, and comments. Passive signals, on the other hand, are non-active metrics.


The algorithm then utilizes the above signals to make predictions about what the user would like to see. By analyzing the user’s past interactions and behavior, the algorithm can understand the likelihood of the user engaging with a certain piece of content.

Relevancy scoring

The algorithm will score each content based on its relevance to the user. The greater the score, the higher the chance of it appearing in the user’s Feed.

Facebook also provides users with options that let them tweak their feeds and train the algorithm:


Users are able to choose up to 30 people and pages to add to their Favorites which will result in posts from these accounts appearing higher in the Feed.

In Feed Posts:

To limit the types of posts that appear in your Feed, click on any post and select the “I Don’t Want To See This” option. After selecting the option, Facebook will present you with options to describe why you want to hide the post.

Wrapping Up

Whether we love them or hate them, social algorithms are here to stay.

Developing a keen eye for algorithmic nuances can help boost visibility, engagement, and, more importantly, long-term growth, so staying updated on their ever-changing rules and conditions is important.

Doing so will enable you to consistently get the best out of the algorithms and make sure that the content you share continues to reach the biggest possible audience.


Social Media platforms rely on various algorithms to enhance user experiences and deliver personalized content. These include:

  • Feed Algorithm: Prioritize posts in your feed based on engagement, relevance, and recency. Facebook uses the EdgeRank algorithm. Instagram and Twitter use similar algorithms.
  • Recommendation Algorithms: YouTube and TikTok use this algorithm to suggest tailored content to users.
  • Content Ranking Algorithm: LinkedIn and Reddit use this algorithm to rank posts and comments for visibility.
  • Ad Targeting Algorithm: Target ads based on user interests, demographics, and online behavior.
  • User Engagement Algorithm: Detects spam and ensures user safety.

Social Media uses algorithms to enhance user experience and content relevance. These algorithms analyze user behavior, preferences, and interactions to show you posts you find interesting. They prioritize content based on likes, comments, and shares. They filter and moderate content to maintain community standards and keep out misinformation. They make the ads that are relevant to your needs. These algorithms learn and get smarter over time, refining content suggestions based on evolving user activity.