Understanding How Social Media Algorithms Work: Impact on Digital Marketing, Paid Ads, Targeting, Activity, and Reach

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Social media algorithms determine the kind of content that users see. However, this has been evolving over the years. In the early days of social media(the late 2000s), the algorithms would show posts in chronological order from the people they followed. Later, the platforms started to use the algorithms to recommend posts to users. 

Today, they all show posts of people and brands that they think interest us. This means that for your brand to be visible on social media, you should understand how the algorithm works, how it keeps evolving, and how to leverage it to increase brand visibility.

How Social  Media Algorithm Works

Social media algorithms analyze the user data to determine their interest, previous activity, and interactions before showing them posts they believe are of interest to them. On top of this, the algorithm uses information such as:

  • Data collection. This includes data like the posts you engage with, search for, or spend much time on.
  • Quality, relevance, and engagement potential of posts
  • Personalizing data as per the user’s feed
  • The level of Interest that content generates in social media users
  • Presentation. The algorithm also presents content to the user in a particular order.

However, how the algorithm works will depend on the individual social media site.

The Impact of Algorithm Changes on Digital Marketing

The algorithm changes have had a profound effect on social media marketing. These include:

A Push for Paid ads

Social media algorithms have made it harder for businesses to reach their audience organically. This has led most businesses to rely more on paid searches. While this can affect your marketing budget,  it can take your marketing efforts to the next level when used correctly. The changes in social media algorithms have the goal of causing users to move from organic ranking to paid rankings. Therefore, reaching customers organically is getting harder, particularly on Facebook. Some of the ways in which businesses cna leverage paid ads are:

  • Optimizing ads depending on the time of the day
  • Ensure their ads are mobile-responsive
  • Experiment with ads on different social media sites
  • Tracking results to see what is working and what isn’t

More Advanced Targeting

With the introduction of AI and machine learning technology, the algorithms are now providing users with more targeted and personalized content. This also means businesses should focus on creating high-quality content for a highly targeted audience. They should try to understand the content their followers want and create the same for them.

Increased Activity

Social media algorithms are now prioritizing showing accounts that post regularly. While there is no proof of this notion, there is overwhelming evidence that the more you post, the more visibility you will receive. Some ways that social media sites can increase activity are through:

  • Posting more regularly
  • Responding to  comments
  • Giving priority to viral content to get more visibility
  • Commenting on posts in your niche to gain more visibility

In the recent past, social media algorithms have started recommending posts that are not necessarily from your friends or people you follow.  This is happening on platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. To have their posts recommended on people’s timelines, social media marketers can:

  • Create the kind of content people want to see
  • Create authentic and accurate content
  • Post at the right time
  • Stay active and consistent
  • Ensure that their posts are set to public.

Reduced Reach

With algorithm changes, it has become harder for people to notice your content organically. This has led to a reduction in engagement and interactions. When engagement reduces, it also means less sales as your post’s visibility reduces. You cna use the following measures to increase your social media engagement.

  • Focus on creating high-quality content that your audience will love to drive engagement. The more people engage with your post, the more likely they will be shown your posts in the future.
  • Work with influencers
  • Optimize your social media profile
  • Show your human side

Preference for User-generated Content

Social media algorithms prefer user-generated content(UGC) as it is more authentic and resonates better with audiences. This means marketers should also focus on UGC to get more visibility on social media. Some of the ways in which they can do that are:

  • Encouraging their followers to create content 
  • Request customers to use your company brand names
  • Reward customers for sharing photos or videos
  • Credit original creator
  • Observe the best practices


It can be challenging for businesses to keep on navigating the ever-changing social media algorithm. But since it’s already here, businesses have no option but to stay abreast and adjust their marketing strategy to reflect the changing algorithm. Using the above tips makes it possible to leverage social media algorithms for better marketing results.

Benjamin is a writer with over ten years of experience in the content writing field. He holds a Bachelor's degree in  Journalism from Strathmore University. He writes on various niches such as product reviews, self-improvement, and making mone online. You can find him curled on his couch with a self-improvement book when he is not blogging.