Social media has become a central part of our daily life routine; we turn to it for everything from connections, entertainment to news and solutions. While we get more dependent on these platforms, those who build them are enjoying financial gains and constantly driven revenues and that too when they do not have to create the content, we have that onus bared upon us!
Nevertheless, the fact that these companies enjoy user-generated content stream doesn’t excuse them from curatorial accountabilities. In order to keep the users coming back, social media networks have to construct a user experience (UX) that makes the whole content enjoyable and easy to digest. And apparently, to do this, almost every social media platform, following one another, have started shifting to an algorithmic feed from what was once chronological. While a chronological feed presented content simply in an order based on the time a piece was posted, the algorithmic one shows posts in the order of their relevancy.
Google was the first major player to have used a sophisticated algorithm to regulate the relevancy in search results. Now, all social media platforms use their own algorithms to automatically rank and reorganize posts that come through on the user’s feed. There are some systems that simply organize content in reverse chronological order with the latest content on top of the feed, while others prioritize content as per the likes, shares and comments it has gained. Plus, with digital advertising blooming, most platforms now prioritize sponsored posts that are paid by brands to be placed at eye-catching spots.
Every platform is different when it comes to algorithms and they are constantly changing. Let’s see how the algorithms for the three most noteworthy platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter works and how the algorithm shifts first went over with their respective audiences.
In social media, Facebook was the first one to shift from chronological to an algorithmic news feed. Similar to the system of Google page ranking, Facebook uses a points-based scheme that defines which posts are to be shown first to the users. Social interactions are the most important part of Facebook’s algorithm. So, the news feed filter takes 1000s of factors into consideration to decide on the posts that seem most authoritative and relevant, certainly making it difficult to exactly explain why some posts gain more traction than others.
However, there are some factors that are clearly favored by Facebook’s algorithm including:
- How often have users liked or commented on a specific type of post in the past
- If the post has been marked hidden by people before, and how often
- How much engagement has a page previously received from users
- How well has a post has performed with users who have already viewed it
Considering that Instagram is owned by Facebook, its new algorithm shift shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. It’s clear that Facebook sees chronological streams as an outdated format and moving towards the same line of approach, Instagram has already added an Explore tab. The tab is designed to give users ideas about what’s popular among fellow users and their friends by suggesting new accounts to follow through an exhibition of non-chronological posts.
The outrage over Instagram’s algorithm change plans were pretty swift and intense at first, but seems like it has worked out pretty well now. Instagram is predicted to grow at a 15.1% rate this year, which is huge, compared to the 3.1% growth predicted for the social sector as a whole. It’s surely a result of Instagram‘s overwhelming content.
Remember when Twitter announced its new algorithm last year? Users went crazy declaring to quit on the platform by using the hashtag #RIPTwitter. But playing smart, Twitter made the new introduction, ‘best tweets you may have missed’ section optional, and many users opted out for it.
While users must be unhappy, the new algorithm can be really good for brands to nurture its customer base. Brands that produce engaging content can get more reach within the latest algorithm feed, also keeping that engaging content in feeds for longer, giving consumers more chances to interact with it.
Algorithms are supposed to enhance user experience but…
If your Facebook timeline is an ever-changing stream that comes up with new, more and more relevant posts, you’ll likely spend more time on it. This is the thing with almost all platforms today; one can spend hours scrolling down the wormhole, constantly refreshing and being presented with new and freshly prepared pieces of content again and again and again!
But if we get deeper into the issue, it’s possibly darker than it seems. Isn’t relevancy subjective? Does a like actually always mean we ‘like’ something? Not always, right? Do I need to see something instantaneously only because a few of my acquaintances from school are engaging with it? Please, No!