We’re connected to hundreds of people, maybe even thousands, on social media. But when we log in to our accounts, we don’t want to be bombarded with every update from every single connection we have made.
The developers at the heart of these social networks feel the same, and a considerable amount of user research validates that feeling.
To combat content bombardment, all three of web’s biggest social networks have pledged allegiance to algorithm-based feeds in an effort to create better experiences for their users.
The trouble is, each algorithm works differently. What’s worse, they’re constantly changing, making it hard to keep up.
Facebook’s goal is to build “the perfect personalised newspaper for every person in the world” – showcasing the content that matters to you most.
Whereas Facebook makes the majority of decisions on your behalf, Twitter has historically taken a very different approach with their timeline.
Your timeline is the stream of tweets from the users you follow. Our timelines used to consist of every tweet from every user we follow, displayed in chronological order. But Twitter found that, like Facebook, users felt they were missing out on the very best content from the people they care about most.
The changes Twitter made to their algorithm aren’t nearly as polarising as the ones Facebook has made, but it is a significant departure from the real-time element that has largely defined Twitter since its inception.
Of the three big social networks, Instagram is the most recent to back an algorithm-based feed. Although acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram didn’t tamper with the content surfacing process to users until April 2014, when they tweaked the ‘Explore’ tab to display posts specifically tailored to each user.
More recently, there have been rumblings about an impending change to Instagram’s algorithm that will alter your feed pretty drastically. A post on Instagram’s official blog in March said: “To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you care about most.”
As with Facebook, the end goal for this change is to improve the wider user experience.
Ultimately, the key thing to take away from these changes is that success boils down to the quality of your content.
Social algorithms are designed to filter out irrelevant posts so that the quality can shine through to the user. Control over what users see is shared between the platform and the user, and unsurprisingly, some do this more equally than others.
It’s your job to post content that is interesting, engaging, informative and relevant to your audience. This means sourcing relevant topics, writing persuasive copy and complementing your efforts with compelling images and visuals.
That way, your posts have a far better chance of being surfaced to users – allowing you to inspire, delight, and educate.