2015: The Year of the Social Media Algorithm

January 20th, 2015 in Social Media 3 minute read

From the death of Facebook reach to the introduction of Pinterest’s Smart Feed, 2014 was the year social media networks started making bigger plans for their newsfeeds and for social search in general.  With Twitter’s recent test of their new ‘While you were away’ feature, it’s clear that social media algorithms are only going to become more important in 2015.

What’s changing?

Put simply, instead of a newsfeed showing content in chronological order, posts will be shown to users based on how relevant the social media site deems it to be for them – this will all be judged by the social media site’s algorithm.

Facebook has been doing this for years; however the likes of Twitter and Pinterest have recently started to climb on board too. Twitter has promised to introduce a host of new changes in 2015, these include the recent trial of the site’s ‘While you were away’ feature which claims to show users the ‘most interesting’ tweets which they’ve missed since they’ve been logged out. Although this doesn’t seem like such a big step, it’s the first major Twitter change beyond promoted tweets and adverts to sort tweets in a non-chronological way.

Why it’s changing

Despite Facebook turning 10 last year, social media is still in its infancy and nothing can really stay the same forever! As the number of social media users grows, so too does the amount of content being posted, naturally social media networks are going to want to give users an alternative to having to trawl through hundreds of posts that they might not really want to see.

Although they’re all very different, social media sites are still in competition with each other! Facebook is still the leading platform with 1.3 billion users but other networks know that the chances of this lasting forever are slim, so they’re constantly thinking of new ways to attract more users.

Lastly, by developing their newsfeeds social media sites are not only creating more advertising opportunities but also developing the need for social media advertising. Last year Facebook received numerous complaints as brand pages saw the reach of their posts halved virtually overnight, yet the network still reported a 64% increase in revenue from advertising in Q3 of 2014.

Swings and roundabouts

Using algorithms to determine what appears in a user’s newsfeed clearly has its benefits; for users it means that they will supposedly see content which is of more relevance to them, hopefully putting an end to trawling through thousands of irrelevant posts. For brands, it means posts will be shown to users who don’t necessarily follow you, stronger and well performing old content will be repurposed and shown to a wider audience, and brands who can afford it will enjoy a host of new advertising opportunities.

But there are also some negatives; users will likely see more and more ads in their newsfeeds and will have an equation deciding for them what does and doesn’t appear in their newsfeed, thus making it crucial for social media sites to get these algorithms right. For brands it means that social media reach will drop significantly as posts will automatically be given a weighting and any poor performing content will get buried. Brands without the budget to produce high quality content or pay for social media advertising will have to put more thought into their social media strategy and will likely struggle to reach the audience numbers they were previously used to.

What to do about it

Although it can be disheartening when social media reach drops off, there are things brands can do to ensure that their content is seen.

Create a variety of high quality content. The more varied the content you produce, the more likely that it will appear in newsfeeds. If you see a post performing well then assess what it is that is making users react with it and produce similar content.

Actually talk to people. You need to spend just as much time reaching out to people as you do creating branded content, by engaging with someone you’re creating a story in their audience’s newsfeed too. Plus you’re being social – which is always nice, it is SOCIAL media after all!

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about our approach to social media.

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