Social media algorithms 101: Understand Facebook and Instagram to maximize your reach

‘Social media algorithms are against my brand’s content’ that’s what some clients might say. But no, Mark Zuckerberg does not stay awake every night to block some page’s content on both Instagram and Facebook.

If you are creating qualitative content, more followers — and non-followers — are going to see it.

Social media algorithms 101

How social media algorithms work? Good question, they are not rocket science, but some factors influence the performance of your posts.

1. Engagement

Both Facebook and Instagram algorithms work the same way. You publish a post, and the algorithm would show it to a sample audience and analyse how the audience reacts to it. If positive feedback from the audience right away, the algorithm would push it further.

Let’s take an example: if you post a picture of one of your happy customers on social, it gets seen by a group of people and then pushes it more to other people because the sample audience liked, commented, viewed or shared it.

2. Relevancy

Instagram used to be a chronological platform: the most recent photos were showed at the top your feed. But, in March 2016, Instagram announced it would move from a completely reverse-chronological feed to incorporate the use of an algorithm.

The order of your content (pictures and videos) in your newsfeed is based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person or brand posting and the timeliness of the post.

Facebook and Instagram know your interests based on what you liked and followed in the recent past (e.g. travel, friends, dogs pictures or profiles).

Facebook is similar than Instagram. Other factors might be timeliness and trends. Think of Facebook Trends topics on the right-hand side of your newsfeed. For bands, it means create engaging and relevant content following these significant trends.

3. Relationships

Both Instagram and Facebook share the same view: No matter who you follow, you should see your latest friends post first. You will get serve more content from your family, your friends, the people you care that brands on social media.

4. Timeliness

Both Instagram and Facebook want to show the most recent and therefore more relevant content. They rarely serve you content from 6 days ago – even they got more engagement.

Best practices for brands is to push your content when your fans are online – check the Facebook Insights and Instagram to know when is the best time.

5. Time spent

Facebook says:

Based on the fact that you didn’t scroll straight past this post and it was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, we infer that it was something you found interesting, and we may start to surface more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future.

Facebook discovered that if “people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them”, even if they didn’t like or comment on it.


So what does it mean for brands? Many factors impact your visibility in your newsfeed, and you think that no algorithm will be better for you. Potentially but without the algorithm, you would post all the content you want, but your organic reach of each post would fall. With the algorithm, you are encouraged to post the best of your content – and fewer times than you think.

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