You’ve likely heard that term a lot, but it usually doesn’t come with much explanation because search engines and social media sites like to keep their unique algorithms more secretive than KFC’s original recipe.

But not everything is a giant mystery. Here’s everything that is known so far:

The Definition

First, algorithms are a collection of rules and data that determine what users see in their feeds.

Algorithms sort posts based on relevancy, not chronology. The idea is that you will more likely see posts that actually interest you instead of sifting through random information until you strike gold. 

For example, posts from the accounts you interact with the most will usually top your Facebook and Twitter feeds. The same thing goes with YouTube—those “recommended” videos presented to you are based on what you watched in the past and what users with similar interests are watching. The purpose is to make it easier to find the content you’re most likely to enjoy.

The Purpose

If you follow hundreds or thousands of accounts on a social network, it would be impossible for you to sort through all of this content without social media algorithms. They do the work of delivering what you want and weeding out content that’s not likely to interest you.

It’s also a way for those platforms to make money. Want to get more exposure? Pay Facebook for the privilege of having your content seen by exponentially more people.

How they Work

While algorithms are designed to provide users with relevant content, they run on data science. How Google, Facebook, or TikTok then use that data is still relatively unknown, mostly because they don’t want users or accounts to purposely manipulate the data to work to their advantage.

This all just seems like another marketing obstacle to overcome; however, take it as a challenge to create the content those platforms favor. Doing that involves striking a balance that gets results. Here are a few things you can do to help:

  1. Tag other accounts in your posts
  2. Encourage audience engagement
  3. Use hashtags
  4. Post consistently
  5. Lean on video content
  6. Track your results

No matter how you feel about algorithms, they are here to stay. Taking the time to learn what algorithms are and how they work is essential to building a long-term social presence. Once you reach that level, staying current as the algorithms evolve can keep you on the road to success.