How Do Social Media Algorithms Work?

Social media algorithms may seem evasive to understand because they seem to always be changing. Also, if you don’t work directly in the digital media world, you may just know algorithms by how Instagram chooses whose profile’s to place on your feed page. However, if you are going to take advantage of social media for business – most are these days – then it’s important to know what these algorithms mean for you. 

Social media algorithms are a way of sorting posts in a users’ feed based on relevancy instead of publish time. Each social media network has a unique set of technical elements, intricate logic, and usage analytics that make up the algorithm that delivers content to its users. Social media algorithms are always changing, making it difficult to keep up with marketing codes of conduct. There’s no way to know every detail that goes into every change, but researchers have a good idea.  Depending on the platform you use, your social media expectations will differ. The algorithm in play dictates where you rank in social media ads and content placement. 

One of the major shifts witnessed in the past few years is a user-friendly focus, much like the one Google ranks by. This encourages social media users to submit relevant, high-quality content, and engage with consumers.

According to the Instagram Help Center:

“Instagram’s technology uses different ways, or signals, to determine the order of posts in your feed. These signals are used to help determine how your feed is ordered and may include:

  • “Likelihood you’ll be interested in the content.
  • “Date the post was shared.
  • “Previous interactions with the person posting.”

These algorithms are managed by dedicated teams of software engineers, data scientists, content strategists, and more, so nothing you see is an accident. 


In January 2021, Facebook released new details about its algorithm.

The Facebook algorithm decides which posts people see every time they check their Facebook feed, and in what order those posts show up. For its part, Facebook would like to remind us that there is no single algorithm, but rather “multiple layers of machine learning models and rankings,” built to predict which posts will be “most valuable and meaningful to an individual over the long term.”

In other words, instead of presenting every available Facebook post in chronological order, the Facebook algorithm evaluates every post, scores it, and then arranges it in descending order of interest for each individual user. This process happens every time a user refreshes their newsfeed.


The Instagram algorithm decides which content gets seen. Every single time a person opens the app, the algorithm instantly combs through all available content, and decides:

  • Which posts go to the top of the newsfeed, and in what order;
  • Which posts are featured on the Explore tab;
  • In which order Stories, Live videos, Reels, and IGTV videos show up, in the feed, and their respective tabs, etc.

Instagram says that before the algorithm was implemented in 2016, people used to miss 70% of the posts, and 50% of their friends’ posts. The Instagram algorithm decides what posts to show by ranking relationship, does the user interact frequently?; intertest, does the user usually engage with this type of post?; timeliness, was it recently posted; frequency of use, how often does the user check Instagram?; following, how many people does the user follow?; and session time, how long does the user spend on Instagram each day? 


The algorithm intelligently matches relevant content by analyzing various factors such as the engagement rate, relevancy to users, and post type. It also uses different ranking factors that determine whether a user will like the content. Brands and marketing agencies utilize various Twitter analytics platforms for getting this data. Twitter’s algorithm underwent a major makeover in 2017 with the introduction of the relevance model when it replaced ‘While You Were Away’ with ‘In Case You Missed It’.

If you are following hundreds or thousands of users, it becomes quite difficult to catch up on the content that you might have missed. The changes that were introduced in the algorithm in 2017 still influence the content that is displayed in the user’s timeline. 

Twitter states that right after a tweet is posted, it is ranked on the basis of a relevance model. This relevance model is based on algorithms that define whether a particular tweet will be relevant for you. The excerpts below are a direct quote from Twitter’s official blog:

  • The Tweet itself: Its recency, presence of media cards (image or video), total interactions (e.g. number of Retweets or likes)
  • The Tweet’s author: Your past interactions with this author, the strength of your connection to them, the origin of your relationship
  • You: Tweets you found engaging in the past, how often and how heavily you use Twitter

Whether you’re using social media for your own marketing needs, or you’re representing a client, these platforms are a major benefit to traffic and ROI. Social media algorithms can help you, you just have to understand them. If your business is looking for help managing the social media landscape, contact TriSpark Media today. Our team of talented marketers can help get your content seen and heard.