Understanding Social Media Algorithms in 2021

By Ally Schauer

Algorithms help social media platforms deliver the most relevant content to their users. However, some business owners and marketers don’t fully understand how social media algorithms work, causing a constant uphill battle. Understanding how to use social media algorithms to your advantage isn’t as hard as it sounds, so keep reading if you’re ready to grow your online audience!

Understanding Social Media Algorithms

Social media platforms use algorithms to serve users content that they will is relevant to their unique interests. There are many factors used to determine the order of posts in your timeline. Even though each social media platform has its own algorithm, they all share some commonalities.


The Facebook algorithm uses three main factors to create a relevancy score for each post uploaded to the platform: 

  1. Relationship: Facebook will show you posts from your closest friends and family first. 
  2. Interest: Facebook makes predictions about how likely you are to engage with a post. Content that racks up many views, likes, comments, and shares will have a higher relevancy score. 
  3. Other Signals: Facebook considers factors like the recency of your post and even the internet connection speed.

Facebook places content with high relevancy scores at the top of a users’ timeline, making it more likely that other users will see it.

Learn more straight from Facebook itself: How News Feed Works | Post Order Influence


The Instagram algorithm focuses primarily on these factors to determine a post’s relevancy score:

  1. Relationship: Instagram predicts your closest friends and places their content at the top of their timeline. This prediction is based on who you tag in photos, DM, or engage with most.
  2. Interest: This factor is based on users you follow, the content you engage with frequently, and hashtags you follow.
  3. Recency Factor: Instagram will only show very recent content.

Content with high relevancy scores will be placed at the top of a user’s timeline and may also be shown on the Instagram Explore page. The Explore page helps users reach people that aren’t already following them.

Learn more: The Instagram Algorithm – Shopify


Twitter’s top three factors in determining the ranking of posts 

on a user’s timeline are

  1. Relationship: Twitter gives priority to accounts that have an active and engaged audience. Twitter will prioritize showing you tweets from accounts that you interact with regularly.
  2. Interest: Posts that receive high engagement are prioritized by the algorithm. Twitter will also add tweets to your timeline if they predict the content is of interest, so sometimes you may see content from accounts you don’t follow.
  3. The Tweet itself: Twitter focuses on recency, use of rich media, and post engagement.

There are two ways to organize content on Twitter, either by most recent or most popular tweets. It is important to remember that the Twitter algorithm does not affect the timeline when displaying the most recent tweets.

Learn more: Twitter’s Deep Learning Algorithm

Mastering Social Media Algorithms

Even though different social media platforms have different algorithms, there are things you can do to ensure you’re using the algorithms to your advantage instead of falling victim to “the void,” as we like to call it.

  1. Post video content
  2. Post consistently & frequently
  3. Use hashtags strategically (read our hashtag blog)
  4. Reply to your followers’ comments
  5. Ask your followers questions / create a poll
  6. Post when your audience is online

By playing nice with the algorithm, you can increase your social media engagement. Having an active and engaged audience is one of the best ways to build your online presence.

We know that “the algorithm” is confusing and often seems vague or even arbitrary.  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our digital marketing experts. We stay up to date with all the latest digital marketing trends and social media algorithm changes so that you don’t have to. Contact us by phone or email today. You can also send a carrier pigeon, but we can’t guarantee it’ll return to you… *cough* Terrence *cough*


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