Six-plus years ago, social media marketing was simple. You posted your content, and if your audience was online at that time or a few hours later, they would see the post. The social media world was smaller, and it seemed easier to connect with your audience back then.
But that’s not the case anymore.
Now, algorithms have taken over our social media feeds. They’ve become a major factor in determining what content our followers see. Many of us have been at the receiving end of those mysterious algorithm changes that caused our posts to reach fewer people than before or completely disappear from our feeds.
The reason things have changed? competition.
The simple fact is that more people and brands are creating content, making it harder for anyone to get noticed. You aren’t just competing with other businesses in your industry on social media. You are competing with the news cycle, TV show theories, celebrity gossip, your own friends and family’s pictures of their kids, and, of course, adorable cat videos.
This is where algorithms come in.
Algorithms work like a filter. They deliver content that AI considers relevant or engaging to the right viewer. As a person uses the app more, the algorithm learns more about what they like and don’t like based on actions (like how I lingered on one adorable cat video for too long, and now 50% of my feed on TikTok is currently cat videos).
So if your content isn’t optimized for algorithms, then you could be missing out on connecting with your target audience.
You might have guessed it: not everyone enjoys these algorithms. Some people feel they’re being censored or complain that the content from the pages they follow is not shown to them.
I feel this pain myself, with my own content seeing 300% less engagement than it’s used to. Yes, you read that right… Maybe because I have become less consistent with when I post or because I started drinking wine less often (sorry to my wine friends) and haven’t been sharing as many wine pictures or videos as many.
Or possibly because there is so much competition out there that the algorithm simply isn’t favoring my content anymore.
Allison Smith Story, owner of Smith Story Wines in Healdsburg, feels similar to me. In fact, my favorite quote from my interview with her is: “Nobody who started a winery wanted to also start a new media company to help run the winery!”
Alison added, “I’m in the mindset of staying consistent no matter what. Storytelling and communication with our fans is a long game. We are obsessed with our current customers and sharing our stories with new potential ones. Still, we are often told that our posts barely appear in feeds these days, even though we are constantly posting.”
This frustration is understandable for small business owners—their stories are their livelihood, and social media should be one of the best ways to tell that story to customers directly.
Algorithms aren’t all doom and gloom.
They have also opened up new opportunities for businesses to connect with their audience more specifically. It’s important to remember that algorithms are designed to provide a better user experience, not to punish or censor anyone.
For example, Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes content from accounts that users engage with the most. This means that by focusing on connecting with a loyal following, businesses can increase their chances of their content being shown to their most engaged and interested audience members.
TikTok’s algorithm is based on user behavior and preferences, showing content to users that are similar to what they have engaged with in the past. This presents an opportunity for businesses to tailor their posts to the interests of their target audience and increase their chances of being discovered by new potential customers.
Thankfully, there are a few things marketers can do to optimize their social media content for maximum visibility and engagement:
Best practices for navigating social media algorithms
1. Reconnect to your original passions. When you are passionate about something, it shows in the content you create. Your audience is more likely to engage with content that comes from a place of authenticity and genuine interest. Spend some time away from your desk and write down what you are passionate about regarding your business or work.
This can help you establish a unique voice and point of view that resonates with your audience.
2. Know your audience.
Understanding your target audience is key to creating meaningful content. Are they millennials who are interested in sustainable food? Are they wine enthusiasts who love to travel? By aligning with your audience’s preferences and behaviors, you can increase the chance of your content being shown to them.