The Algorithm Explained

A woman looking at Instagram on her mobile in the sunshine
12,645 likes on your latest post – now wouldn’t that be AMAZING?!

In reality, those likes are hard to come by and many small business owners here in the UK are blaming this on “The Algorithm” (dun dun duuuuun – can you hear the scary music?!!!).

In this post I’m going to de-bunk some myths, share some facts and give you some tips on how to get your accounts performing a bit better, to give you more control and put you in a better position to receive those squillions of likes.

However, it will take a little bit of work on your part….but I’ll hold your hand, I promise my lovely!

A woman looking at Instagram on her mobile in the sunshine

But I don’t UNDERSTAND what the algorithm is?!!! 

Facebook and Instagram are now one and the same company and have been since 2012, so the algorithms (yes, there are more than one!) work in the same way; although Instagram is a bit more convoluted as there are so many different aspects of that platform.  

Let’s keep this brief and to the “need to know” facts, I know you’re busy. 

First up, let’s think of the algorithms as a wee room full of people.  They are busy beavering away watching what we’re up to on social.  They have a VERY important job – they want to keep you on FB or Instagram for as long as is humanly possible.  To do that, they need to know what you like. 

Imagine them all standing there with iPads in their hands analysing your data.  They are shouting messages back to FB HQ like a little team of shouty Stockbrokers on a trading floor.  

“Sarah loves photos, give her some more!!!” 

“Nicola is a HUGE fan of Reels, send more her way!!”

“Jen loves a story, there’s a beauty over on XXXX right now, get it over QUICK!!!”

The longer people stay on their platform consuming content, the more ads they can show them.  The more ads they can show, the more money they can make. FB are then happy, it’s pretty simple, right?  

The algorithms help them to understand what we all like and what we don’t like.  This in turn, makes us stay on for as long as possible. 

Business woman looking at laptop

 So how does it work?

How they do know what to show you? Well, I’m glad you asked.  Roughly in order of importance, they are looking at:

  • Information about the post
  • How popular is the post overall? Are people liking, commenting, sharing or saving? When was it posted? How long is the video? Where was it posted?
  • Information about the person who posted
  • How often do you engage with their posts? Do you chat with them in DMS? Are they marked as “close friends”?
  • Your activity
  • How often do you engage? Do you regularly like certain posts and comment on others? What makes you share or save?

After that, the busy little dudes will make some predictions based on what you will enjoy – those things that will make you engage.  They will then show you those posts they think you will love. 

There are around a dozen “signals” they look for, but the main five things they will focus on for your feed posts are how likely you are to:

  1. spend a few seconds on that post
  2. comment on it
  3. like it
  4. save it 
  5. tap on the profile photo to see the full profile

Now, sometimes these rules are cast aside; situations like when you’ve shared inappropriate content, you’ve breached one of the community guidelines or if they just don’t want to show you loads of content from the same people in a row.  So it’s not always quite so straightforward.  

How does this help my business? 

So how can you use this information to help you get more from each of your posts?  

1. Use your insights – find out what type of posts your fans enjoy (single images, carousels, IGTVs, videos or Reels) & do more of them

2. What encourages people to spend more time looking at your post? (having text on a graphic, using video, detailed carousels?)

3. Which posts get the most comments? (I often find that engaging captions get the best comments, especially with great Calls To Action)

4. What type of post gets the most likes? (I find that the beautiful photography shots/people’s faces get the most likes)

5. What do people save? (Most often they are posts people want to either – come back to later (recipes or DIY tutorials) or COPY!!)

6. How do you get the profile taps? (Is it when you do a sales post or maybe when you share educational content to show you’re an expert, etc?)

All circles back to target market…

So in order to get the algorithm working for you, you really need to understand your audience.  Isn’t it funny that the marketing message ALWAYS circles back to your ideal customer?

There is SO much more to understanding the Algorithm but these tips will get you started. 

If you don’t know how to check your insights, drop me a comment below or send me a DM on Instagram and I would be more than happy to help.

Jo x

(Disclaimer: this information has all come straight from FB and is not some of the generic toot you hear banded about on YouTube etc that is all smoke and mirrors – this is all facts straight from the good folks at FB. 

Jo King

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