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Social media algorithm markers for 2024

It is necessary for brands to understand the ins and outs of each platform’s algorithm so they can leverage them effectively and drive real, impactful results

Photo by Roman Samborskyi on Shutterstock
Photo by Roman Samborskyi on Shutterstock

Emily is a thought leader in Digital Journal’s Insight Forum (become a member).


Social media can make or break a brand. From the potential to go viral and increase brand awareness to the ability to create shoppable content to create a seamless buying experience for your fans, there are many exciting ways to leverage social media to achieve your organizational goals.

Despite marketers referring to social media as a collective, each platform is like a unique individual with preferences and secrets to unlocking its full potential. 

It is necessary for brands to understand the ins and outs of each platform’s algorithm so they can leverage them effectively and drive real, impactful results.

As the Founder and Principal of Ptak & Co., a Calgary-based digital marketing agency, I understand the frustrations brands can experience trying to ‘win’ on social media. I hear it all the time from clients:

“I’ve been on LinkedIn for seven years, but I’ve never made a sale from it.”

“My niece is very good at Instagram, so I’m letting her decide what to post.”

“I am not sure what to post, so I don’t bother.”

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Keep reading to discover the algorithm markers you need to understand to be successful on LinkedIn, Twitter (“X”), and Instagram, plus tips on how to gamify the algorithms and deepen your success.

LinkedIn

Consider LinkedIn like an always-open digital networking event. Its mission is to enrich its users with the knowledge and updates they need to advance their careers. And, as a result, it wants you to share content that helps it achieve its mission.

Before your content can make its mark, it must first pass the all-important spam test. LinkedIn is vigilant against spam polls designed to boost engagement — think tapping an emoji to vote — and other less savoury tactics such as requests for likes, and comments or the barrage of excessive and irrelevant messages. If your content clears the spam hurdle, that’s when the real magic begins.

LinkedIn then introduces your post to a select network, initiating a crucial testing phase. Here, the platform scrutinizes the kind of engagement your content garners. Are people merely liking the post, or are they adding thoughtful comments and sharing it further? LinkedIn’s algorithm loves meaningful engagement — responses that go beyond surface-level interactions.

The LinkedIn algorithm

From here, the algorithm assesses who else might find your content compelling based on three primary ranking signals:

  1. Identity: First-degree connections see more of your content. It’s logical — people who know you are more likely to engage with what you post. LinkedIn considers how closely connected you are to a follower, with factors like shared skills and geographical proximity enhancing your content’s visibility.
  2. Content relevance: The relevance of your content is judged on several fronts. How often is it viewed and interacted with? Does it align with the professional interests of your audience? Is it framed in language that’s professional yet accessible? And, perhaps most importantly, does it offer genuine knowledge or advice that can help others excel professionally?
  3. Member activity: The final piece of the puzzle is gauging the user’s interest through their activity on the platform. What groups, hashtags, or pages do they follow? How actively do they engage with similar types of content through likes, comments, or shares?

LinkedIn’s algorithm has two overarching goals: to surface content that genuinely shares knowledge or professional advice and to strengthen the bonds among users who are already connected. By focusing on these ranking signals, your content not only reaches more viewers but does so in a way that fosters genuine professional growth and community building.

Now that you know more about the algorithm, it’s time to learn how to gamify it to win on LinkedIn.

To truly “game the system,” it’s essential to create content that resonates deeply with your audience and leverages the platform’s unique features effectively. 

The cornerstone of any successful LinkedIn strategy is the alignment between your content and the interests of your target audience. Begin by conducting a thorough analysis of your ideal audience’s professional needs and interests. This might involve examining common skills, industry trends, and professional pain points that are relevant both to you and to them. 

By pinpointing these areas of overlap, you can tailor your content to ensure it not only catches the eye but also strikes a meaningful chord with your audience. This strategic alignment helps your posts reach beyond your immediate network, amplifying your influence and engagement rates.

Varying your content format serves multiple strategic purposes. It caters to the diverse consumption preferences within your audience—some may prefer the quick digestibility of infographics, while others may engage more deeply with comprehensive long-form articles. 

Different content formats can highlight various aspects of your message—videos might be more effective for personal storytelling or product demonstrations, while articles could be better suited for detailed analytical discussions. This diversity not only enhances the overall appeal of your content but also boosts engagement by providing fresh and interesting ways for your audience to interact with your ideas.

While it’s tempting to measure the success of your posts by the volume of comments they generate, true engagement is about quality, not quantity. Focus on fostering meaningful interactions; comments that demonstrate a thoughtful engagement with your content are far more valuable than surface-level remarks. 

Substantive comments often provoke further discussion and can lead to deeper relationships with your followers. They signal to LinkedIn’s algorithm that your content is generating genuine interest, thereby increasing its likelihood of being shown to a broader audience.

As the creator of your content, your role in the discussions it generates is paramount. Active participation in the comment sections of your posts can transform a one-sided broadcast into a vibrant dialogue. Respond to comments thoughtfully, acknowledge different opinions, and ask follow-up questions to deepen the conversation. 

By adopting these strategies, you position yourself not just as a participant on LinkedIn but as a thought leader and influencer within your professional community. The key is to be proactive, engaged, and strategic in every interaction on the platform.

Twitter (“X”)

While Twitter (“X” as its new ‘Chief Nothing Officer’ likes to call it) has been plagued with issues around trust, wonky algorithms, and disappearing useful features (like, hello, can we ever get functioning analytics back?!), it is still a time-tested platform you may want to engage with.

Twitter’s mission is ambitious and futuristic: to serve as a global marketplace of ideas, goods, services, and opportunities, all centred around unlimited interactivity through audio, video, messaging, and even financial transactions

This mission shapes how content circulates and interacts on the platform, ensuring that every tweet has the potential to spark significant connections and conversations.

Twitter offers three primary feeds: ‘For You,’ ‘Following,’ and ‘Explore.’ 

‘For You’ is the default setting, catching most users’ eyes with a blend of recommended tweets based on their interactions. On the other hand, ‘Following’ provides a more intimate experience, showcasing tweets only from accounts one chooses to follow. This distinction allows users to engage deeply with preferred content or discover new interests and voices.

The Explore section broadens a user’s horizons, presenting tweets aligned with their geographical location, trending topics, and personalized hashtags. This feature enhances the discoverability of your tweets, making it a strategic spot for your content to land as a recommendation (if it passes the algorithmic sniff test).

Mastering the algorithm: Engagement and visibility

Twitter’s algorithm thrives on engagement. Factors such as recency, follower count, the type of content, frequency of posting, and keyword relevance play critical roles. Fresh, engaging content that encourages interaction tends to climb higher in user feeds. Visual media, including GIFs, images, videos, and even well-placed emojis, significantly boost a tweet’s visibility and shareability.

Interaction is not superficial on Twitter. The platform meticulously tracks how users engage with specific topics, phrases, or hashtags. Content that resonates with a user’s past interactions receives higher placement in their timeline, making relevancy a key to visibility.

Frequent and consistent tweeting increases the chances of your content staying atop your followers’ timelines. Twitter favours not just any content but quality content from credible sources. Accounts with a long-standing record of high-quality engagement and a solid follower base receive prioritization. This credibility is derived from several factors, including the account’s age, engagement history, and the regularity and quality of tweets posted.

It is also important to note that on today’s Twitter, verification plays a crucial role–somewhat controversially so. Recently, Elon Musk announced that new users will be forced to pay a fee before tweeting. I suspect this is the lowest-hanging-fruit method of confronting Twitter’s massive bot problem. Musk’s overhaul has led to a pay-to-play model where verified accounts get an algorithmic visibility boost, making the blue checkmark more valuable than ever in ensuring that your content gets the attention it deserves.

Now that you know more about the algorithm, it’s time to learn how to gamify it to win on Twitter.

To truly “game the system,” you must share content from the intersection of immediacy and influence. 

Getting verified on Twitter can significantly enhance your visibility by adding influence and credibility. Tweets from verified accounts are more likely to be surfaced by Twitter’s algorithms and are generally perceived as more trustworthy by users. 

However, if you prefer not to pay-to-play, you can still try the techniques below.

I call Twitter “the CNN of social media” due to its real-time, news-driven nature. The platform prioritizes current events and trending topics, making it essential for you to stay informed and engaged with these discussions. Monitor trends that align with your interests and those of your audience to ensure your content remains relevant and engaging. Regularly analyze the engagement and metrics associated with your tweets on trending topics to refine your strategy and improve future interactions.

Since it is such a fast-paced platform, show-stopping visuals are important for catching the eye of scrolling users. Incorporate relevant media such as images, GIFs, and videos into your tweets to increase their appeal and engagement rates. Even simple visuals added to replies can significantly boost interaction, making your content more noticeable..

When retweeting, add your own commentary to the original post to provide additional value to your followers and keep them engaged with your perspective. This strategy helps maintain your audience’s attention on your account and can foster deeper connections by contextualizing the content within your own narrative.

Maximize the impact of your most successful tweets by repurposing them into other formats such as blog posts, infographics, or videos. This not only extends the life of your original content but also reaches different segments of your audience who may prefer one content type over another. Plus, it allows you to work smart and not hard, getting extended runway from one content piece.

Leveraging these Twitter strategies elevates your profile from a participant to an active voice and increases your visibility.

Instagram

Instagram’s mission is simple: to capture and share the world’s moments. Over time, this has evolved from artsy photos of your sandwich to viral, show-stopping videos.

Instagram has evolved beyond a single, uniform algorithm, deploying a suite of sophisticated algorithms each tailored to enhance specific features and user interactions on the platform. This multifaceted approach ensures that users enjoy a personalized and dynamic experience across Stories, Explore, and Reels, each designed with distinct objectives and user behaviours in mind.

  • Stories are for staying connected with close friends 
  • Explore is for discovering new content and creators.
  • Reels are for being entertained (and to compete with TikTok).

The Feed algorithm

The Feed algorithm evaluates signals to determine which posts appear in your personal feed. Here’s how it works:

  • Post popularity: How many likes does a post receive? When was it posted? Where was it taken? These elements help Instagram assess the initial popularity of a post.
  • User relationship: The algorithm pays close attention to your interactions with others. It considers how frequently and recently you’ve interacted with a user or brand to gauge the importance of their posts in your feed.
  • User engagement: Your past activity — what you’ve liked, shared, and commented on — helps Instagram predict what you might like to see more of.
  • Interaction history: How you engage with content — whether you comment on posts or share them — also influences what you see, tailoring your feed to fit your demonstrated preferences.

The Explore algorithm

The Explore algorithm fine-tunes itself to offer a more expansive view of Instagram. Here’s how it works:

  • Engagement weight: Likes, comments, and saves on a post weigh more heavily here than in your regular feed, aiming to surface content that is broadly appealing.
  • Past interactions: Even if a post is from someone you don’t follow, previous interactions with similar content influence whether it appears in your Explore feed.
  • User activity and poster popularity: The more you engage with various posts and the more interaction these posts have received historically, the more likely they are to appear in your Explore suggestions.

The Reels algorithm

Reels has its own set of rules, designed to democratize content visibility. Here’s how it works:

  • User engagement: The Reels you interact with give Instagram cues about what might catch your interest next time.
  • Interaction history: Engagement with previously viewed accounts, even if they are new to you, helps Instagram tailor your Reels experience.
  • Content signals: Specific elements of a Reel, such as the audio track and its popularity, are crucial. These help determine the potential reach of a video.
  • Equal opportunities: Instagram aims to level the playing field, giving smaller creators and newer accounts a chance to shine, ensuring a diverse range of content is available to users.

Now that you know more about the algorithm, it’s time to learn how to gamify it to win on Instagram.

When it comes to Instagram, diversity in content types is not just beneficial; it’s essential. Sharing only single images may fall flat, leaving much of your audience’s potential untapped. To truly captivate and engage a broad spectrum of followers, incorporating a variety of formats such as carousels, reels, stories, and live broadcasts is key. 

This approach does more than just attract attention — it allows for creative repurposing of content. Imagine transforming a dynamic reel into a captivating carousel, or distilling a carousel into impactful single posts, and then weaving those into the ephemeral charm of stories. Each format serves a different purpose and reaches different audience segments, enhancing your overall engagement and presence.

Beyond the variety of your content types, the core of successful social media interaction is authentic engagement. Platforms are designed to reward genuine interactions. Responding to direct messages, engaging actively with comments, and expressing gratitude for likes are not just courteous—they’re strategic moves that foster real relationships with your followers. These interactions signal to the algorithm that your content is engaging and worthy of further promotion.

But it’s important to note that genuine interaction goes beyond responding; it also involves inviting engagement. Traditional calls-to-action (CTAs) can sometimes feel stale or uninviting. To invigorate your audience, try direct and fun engagement prompts. For instance, asking followers to “Share a rocket emoji if this episode taught you something” or querying “Would you rather work in Calgary or Edmonton?” can spur interaction more effectively. 

Additionally, leveraging interactive elements like stickers and polls not only enriches the user experience but also boosts your content’s visibility and engagement through increased user activity.

By embracing a strategy that includes diverse content formats and cultivates authentic interactions, you position yourself not just as a broadcaster but as a brand builder. This approach ensures that your content does more than just exist; it resonates and fosters a genuine connection with your audience.

To learn more details about algorithmic markers, you can download my free PDF guide. 

About Emily Ptak

Photo courtesy of Emily Ptak

When Emily was a little girl, her teacher told her parents that she was either going to grow up to become a fantastic lawyer or the dictator of a small country. Thankfully for the world, she is neither. Yet the underlying message was true: she is an assertive, results-oriented woman.

After graduating from the world’s most expensive book club (Honours B.A. of English Literature from the University of Ottawa), Emily became a copywriter and social media manager at OfficialCOMMUNITY. There, she peaked early by writing copy for Elton John, George Michael, Billy Talent, Il Divo, Mark Knoepfler and many more. She earned her stripes at Match Marketing Group and other agencies, where she continued copywriting and social media managing for brands like Pepsi and ConAgra Foods.

Fast-forward to 2017, and Emily decided to take her biggest leap yet. She founded her marketing company, Ptak & Co., to demystify digital marketing and help brands and businesses with their content needs. 

Ptak & Co. offers strategic consulting, copywriting, paid advertising, and social media services. They also provide digital marketing training to individuals looking to grow their skills. Emily can help non-marketers understand the benefits of digital marketing and how it applies to their business.

Reach out to Emily to learn more.

Emily Ptak
Written By

Emily, Founder of Ptak & Co., transforms brands with copywriting and digital marketing strategies. Formerly writing for icons like Elton John, she now empowers businesses and marketers. Emily is a member of Digital Journal's Insight Forum.

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