When thinking about the algorithm and how it works you first have to understand why instagram and facebook and all of the other platforms have created it. There are 2 main reasons:
1. User experience
User experience is always going to be important. Without users there is no platform. I know what you’re thinking— well please name one user that likes the algorithm… go ahead we will all wait. Chirp chirp *crickets*
Well, the likelihood of this feature going away is slim to none. Why? PROFITS.
2. TO MAKE MONEY
When an algorithm limits views it creates opportunity for people to want to pay to play, or pay to be seen.
If you have a Facebook business page your reach is almost .01%. The reason being is that they know for certain that brands want to be seen by their customers and are willing to pay for it.
Facebook reported advertising revenue at $16.6 billion for the final quarter of last 2018, up 30 percent year-over-year.
Since we understand that the algorithm is there to limit views in order to force people to pay for advertising, let’s look at the second piece that we have a little bit more control over– User Experience
Instagram can not see images. All it can do is read text and analyze numbers. Since we all hate the algorithm, it will always do it’s best to give us the best feed possible to keep user experience as high as possible. So, what does it look for?
Who you interact with most (flipside, who interacts with you most) and the actions they take (or don’t take) on your posts will tell the algorithm:
- Whether or not they like your posts in general and if they should stop showing them
- Whether or not it is a good post
DM’s: Dm’s show that someone is really engaged with you and probably cares about your content.
Comments: Comments show the algorithm that someone is engaged with your post enough to start a conversation about it.
Likes: Likes show the algorithm that someone likes your post. Plain and simple.
Saves: When someone saves your post it tells the algorithm that is was a good one worthy of saving to look at later.
Ratios: The ratio of followers to likes/comments will give you an engagement rate. The higher your engagement rate the better.
Timing: If your posts starts picking up traction fast within the first hour this triggers the algorithm to favor you and potentially hit the explore feed of top relevant posts.
Pro Tip: Make sure to utilize our Facebook Group engagement pod for this very reason.
View Time for Videos: The longer someone watches your video the better it looks. If someone only watches 1% of your video it looks like they were not interested. However, if someone watches 100% it looks like you loved it!
Reactions: When people react to your post it shows IG that it is liked. I encourage you to turn this feature on and make sure to use it! React to other peoples stories and help them out!
Comments: Comments to a post show that it is liked. The more comments a story posts receives the more it will be shown to people. I encourage you to turn this feature on and make sure to use it! React to other peoples stories and help them out!
Shares/ Sends: The more shares a post gets the more it shows it is liked. Again, I encourage you to turn this feature on and make sure to use it! React to other peoples stories and help them out!
Pro Tip: Tag people in your posts so they can re-share!
Skips: If people are skipping your posts or exiting, it shows instagram that you are not interested in that person or their posts.
Can you know see how you can break each action on instagram down and look at it like an algorithm. What do these features show it subjectively? Think about this for all other platforms and for everything that you do.
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Complete Episode Transcript:
Hey there, welcome to The Daily Influencers podcast. My name is Erica Marie Daily- former marketer and brand manager, turned your influencer marketing coach. On this podcast, we help both influencers and brands, maximize their collaboration, grow on social media make more money and waste less time. Speaking of which, let’s jump right into today’s episode. Okay, today I want to chat with you guys about the big and bad algorithm. And I say that because I feel like everyone wants to know about the algorithm. And so many people don’t actually understand how it really works and why it works the way it does. And so I kind of want to take you guys inside of my brain and how it works with things. And I am very much about reverse engineering and trying to figure out why something works the way it does. And so when thinking about the algorithm and how it actually works, you first have to understand why Instagram and why Facebook and all these other platforms for that matter, have created an algorithm. And there’s really two main reasons why they do this. So number one, which is the one they like to tell you it’s for is user experience. And user experience is always going to be super important to a platform, because without users, there is no platform. And I know you guys are thinking right off the bat, because this is what I think too, is well, if nobody likes the algorithm, then how is that making a good user experience. And literally, no one likes the algorithm. But the likelihood of this feature going away is slim to none because of profits. And that’s the next point we’re going to talk about. But the algorithm does help to make a better user experience, even though it annoys us. And so we’ll get back to that in a second. But I want to talk about the second main reason that these platforms have an algorithm, which is to make money, and you can’t blame them. So when an algorithm comes in it what it does, it limits your views and creates opportunity for people to want to pay to play, which is really the term that we use in the marketing world. And what it means is you have to basically be paid pay money to the algorithm in order to be seen by more people. And I’m sure you guys remember back in the day before the algorithm, anyone who followed you basically saw your posts as long as they caught up in their feed. But ever since the algorithm came around, like 10% of people see your feed. And I’ll give you an even better example. If you look at Facebook, and they have business pages, business pages have the lowest reach of anything, and it’s literally the worst.
And the reason they do that,
which by the way, I think right now, like the average business page, there reaches like a fraction of a percent, which is horrible. But
the reason they do this is because they know
for certain that brands and businesses want to be seen by their customers and they’re willing to pay for it, you got to think about how businesses work, they normally have a budget for marketing, they know they have to spend money on advertising. And we know that they want to reach their customers. So as a business, it’s kind of shady, but they limit how many people and how many of your customers see your content,
because they want you to pay to get them to see it.
And while it’s kind of shady, you can’t blame them, because they spend a lot of time and a lot of effort making these platforms that give us the ability to reach our customers. So just to give you guys an idea, and this is a really old stat but I’m going to use it because it’s still really a good one is that Facebook reported advertising revenue at 16 point 6 billion with a B for the final quarter, which is only one fourth of a year in 2018. And that is up 30% year over year. So you can only imagine what it is now in 2020, especially now after COVID hit, people aren’t going to stores their shopping online more than ever. And smart businesses know they should be spending more on advertising. And so I can only imagine what that number is going to be this year. So since we understand that the algorithm is there to limit views in order to force people to pay for advertising. Let’s now look back at that first thing I talked about. And this is really the thing that we have a little bit more control over and that is user experience. So now let’s think about the algorithm. And you know, the algorithm, essentially is actually an equation that takes into account everything that’s going on to figure out which posts are the best that most people will like so that they can provide the best user experience because again, we want to keep the people on our platform happy. And we want to be giving them content that they like because if they get bored, they’re just gonna go somewhere else. So thinking about the algorithm, Instagram can’t see your images and I always use this example but Instagrams algorithm can’t just look at my picture and be like wow, Erica looks great today. I’m going to show her picture to more people. No, all it can do is read text and analyze the data. And so since we all already hate the algorithm, it’s always going to do its very best to give us the best feed possible to keep the user experience as high as possible. So what exactly does the algorithm look for? And so kind of just real quickly, the things that it really looks for is who you interact with the most. And on the flip side, who interacts with you the most. And what they’re doing is looking at the actions that these people take, or that they don’t take on all of your posts. And that’s going to tell the algorithm exactly what it needs to know. It’s going to tell them whether or not that person likes your posts in general. And if they should stop showing them to them, or if they should show more of them to that person, or whether or not it’s a good post. And so you’re probably wondering, okay, well, how does the algorithm know that? Like, how do they know I like your posts? Well, what it does is it reads our actions. And so what I want to do now is go through all of the actions that people can take on our posts on our stories to let the algorithm know whether or not they like it or don’t. And what I want you to do is put on your creative hat. And think with me right now that if Instagram hired you to be their algorithm as a person, and the only information you had to go on was the actions that people take, how would you rate each action to say whether or not somebody liked your post or didn’t like a post, and whether or not you should show that post to more people or less people, because if we show it to more people, and it’s a bad post, that’s going to create a lower user experience. But if we show it to more people, and it’s a good post, that’s going to create a good user experience. So put your hat on, keep those things in mind. And let’s go through some of the most important actions to the algorithm. So first, we’re going to look at feed posts, because there are some different actions for both of those, I guess this actually goes for both feed posts and stories and just your account in general. But one thing that the algorithm looks at is who you’re dming with, because you got to think about this, I mean, think about who you dm with most of the time, it’s with my best friends, people I really know, or people that I’m engaged with in the moment. And so you can probably deduct that if somebody is talking to somebody else in the DMS, they’re probably interested in that person in their life and in the content you’re posting. So it kind of goes without saying that if somebody’s dealing with somebody else, the algorithm thinks that that person cares about their content. So that’s going to be an action that they look at when they say, Do I want to show this content to them? Or do I not? And so the people that you are dming with are the people that you’re going to see the content of if you’re following them, and they’re gonna see your content if you are following, or if they’re following you. Now, the second thing, which is kind of similar, is comments. So again, comments really show the algorithm that someone is engaged with your
post enough to start a conversation about it. And I know for me, I’m not going to, you know, comment on somebody’s post if I’m not actually interested in or engaged in it. And so when ever you get a comment on your post, that tells the algorithm that this is a post that people are liking, they’re at least engaged with it. So it’s entertaining in some way, whether or not it’s they absolutely hate it, and it’s creating a buzz, or they absolutely love it. And that’s why they’re commenting. So when the algorithm sees a lot of comments, it says, Okay, this is creating some buzz, let’s show it to more people. The next one is pretty obvious, and it’s likes. So this is a quick one, and it doesn’t hold as much weight because it’s easy to just double tap and move on. Whereas like a comment, you have to really put a lot of time and energy into writing a comment. And it’s not a lot, but compared to a like, it’s a lot more time. So likes literally show the algorithm that somebody likes your posts, plain and simple. When you like a post, you’re going to see more of that person’s post. And you know, I’ve been dabbling in tik tok and my friends were like, I was telling them, I was like, well, I just get like random dancing videos, I don’t even like those. So I kind of stopped going on it. And honestly, I waste my time on it. But they told me they’re like, well, you got to like the content you like. So the algorithm can learn what type of content to show you more of. And the same thing goes with Instagram or any platform for that matter. When you’re liking certain content, the algorithm is keeping track of that. And they’re going to show you more of that person’s content and more content that’s similar to it. Now another important one that I feel like it’s often overlooked is saves saves hold a lot of value to the algorithm because when somebody saves your post, it tells the algorithm that was a good enough post that somebody felt it was worthy enough to save so that they can look at later. And most people don’t go back and look at content later unless it’s something really important or something really valuable. And so when the algorithm sees that your post is getting saved a lot They’re gonna say, Okay, this is a good post, let’s show it to more people. And so that’s a really good one to keep in mind. And when we wrap this section up, we’re going to come back to these because I want you to then think about, okay, if these things are good for the algorithm, how can I encourage people to do more of them so that my post gets shown to more people, but we’ll get back to that. Okay, the next thing we want to look at is ratios. And you guys are gonna have to do a little bit of math on this. But the ratio of your followers to likes and comments is what gives you your engagement rate. And I know a lot of you influencers know this term, you probably know your engagement rate. But the higher your engagement rate is, the better. So let’s just say the algorithm is tracking two different people and one person gets a 1% engagement rate, and the second person gets a 5% engagement rate. If you were the algorithm, which person do you think would get more people engaged and more people liking their posts, so that you can create the best user experience will probably the person that has a 5% engagement rate because 5% of their audience is engaged, whereas the other person only has 1%. So that’s why we always say engagement rate is so important. And we want to drive engagement, because that’s what really ultimately tells the algorithm whether or not somebody’s content is good or bad. And if you have a really good engagement rate overall, it’s just going to know right away when you post something like hey, let’s show this to more people, because she always gets really good engagement. So the next thing that I want you guys to think about his timing, and this kind of goes back to engagement rate. So timing is really important, because the algorithm is really looking at your piece of content singular piece of content within the first hour. And whatever happens in that first hour can really trigger the algorithm to make your post go viral, or to make it not go viral. And I call this the snowball effect. So let’s say your post starts really picking up traction within the first hour, and you’re getting all this engagement. And you know, it’s seeing that it’s going really well, well, the algorithm is going to then show it to more people, which in turn is going to get even more engagement, which in turn is going to get more people. And you can see how it creates this snowball effect. So something that’s really important to keep in mind is that the first hour you post is the most important to your engagement. So pro tip. That’s why we want you guys to engage in engagement pods within the first hour. And if you’re one of my students, make sure you’re utilizing our Facebook groups engagement pod that we do every single day because it’s literally a free and easy way for you to get more engagement within that first hour to start that snowball. Okay, the last one I want to talk about in terms of feed posts. And this actually now applies to like igtv, ease and anything that you can create these video content. And that is your view time for your videos. So the longer somebody watches your video, the better it’s going to look to the algorithm. And again, I want you to put your creative hat on and think about, if you are Netflix, for example, and you had a movie on your platform, and majority people were watching all the way to the end, well, that tells you Okay, people really liked this video because they watched the whole thing. And let’s say you have another video where people keep pausing it and going off of it after like 15 minutes. Well, that’s going to tell Netflix like hey, people are not liking this video. Same thing applies to your video content on the platform. So if somebody only watches 1% of your video, it’s going to look like they weren’t interested. However, if somebody and multiple people are watching 100% of your video, it’s going to look like people are loving your video. And so the algorithm is going to go, oh my gosh, this is a great video, people are loving it. They’re watching the whole thing. Let’s show it to more people. Because again, user experience. So earlier I was talking about I want to talk to you guys about how you can really think about how the algorithm works and figure out what it’s looking for to rate your content as really good. And then how can we do more of that. So I’m going to give you an example with the view time for videos. So we know that the algorithm is looking for people to watch more of our video, how can we kind of hack the system and get people to watch more of our videos and watch the whole thing? Well, quickly off the top of my head, something that I would think of is right away in the beginning of the video, depending on what the topic is just teaser, like hey, stick around with me to the very end because I’m going to tell you X, Y and Z or I’m going to show you x y and z. And then right away they already planted in their head. Okay, I got to watch till the end because the really cool parts happening till the end. Or even just saying like, hey, make sure you guys watch till the end. And I know I see that like on stories or normally I just like click through. But whenever I see on the story, like Hey, watch till the end, I’m like, Alright, I got to watch till the end like something really good is gonna happen. And so kind of again, why it’s so important to understand what the algorithm is looking for. We can use that to be special. Strategic in the way that we create content to make sure that is favorable in the algorithms eyes. So I want you guys to really sit down with all of these things I talked about and come up with these ideas for yourself. Okay, now I want to talk about stories, because there’s some different types of actions with stories. And you know, some of them are actually negative actions, and is not something we really talk about with feed posts. Because kind of the negative action on a feed post is a no action. However, it was stories, there are negative actions, but we’ll get to those in a second. So some of the positive things are reaction. So when people react, we post it shows Instagram, that is a liked post. And I encourage you guys to turn this feature on and make sure that you use it, because reactions are that thing where you can like click an emoji. And then when someone does that, to your post, it like shows a bunch of emojis like raining down. And I know at first, like some people told me, they’re like, okay, that’s super annoying, because I get a DM about it. And I feel like it’s wasting my time. But reactions are crucial to the algorithm knowing that your fi posts are liked. So turn that feature on if it’s not on, because it is going to help you in the algorithm, because again, it’s showing that you are engaging enough with it that you’re reacting to it. And another one is comments. And you can’t really comment on a story, but you can like send them a message and it goes to their DMS. And again, I had friends who were like, Oh, it’s so annoying, I turn that off. But I encourage you guys to turn this feature on and make sure that you’re using it because, again, this just tells the algorithm that people are engaged with your content, so it should show it to more people. And I know for a fact I have tested this. And on the posts where I get the most comments or DMS about that story post, that story gets exponentially more views than my average stories. So this one is huge. Now another important thing to the algorithm is shares and cents. And you can do this with both of feed post and a story post. But you can’t share a story post unless people are tagged in it. So I want to make sure that you guys tag anyone who might be in your story so that they can reshare your story. Because that again tells the algorithm that people like it, people want to see this content. Plus, whenever somebody else shares your story onto their feed, that’s now going in front of all of their audience, which is a great opportunity to bring some of their followers back to your page. So make sure you guys turn that feature on as well, because that’s one that a lot of people have turned off. Now I want to talk about the negative actions in that is skips, which is whether you’re just like tapping the screen and skipping to the person’s next story. Or if you’re swiping to just go to the next person stories and completely passing over that person. So you got to think about what we were talking about with like video views, when your Instagram story is playing, and people are skipping through it, or they’re completely skipping over you to go to the next person. Well, if you are the algorithm, what would that tell you? Well, it’s going to show that people aren’t interested. And it shows that you’re just not that interesting. So it’s gonna think I need to not show as many people this post. So something that I tend to do is i’m really long winded in my stories. And I know for a fact that when I talk too much people skip over my posts. And so I always try to make sure I’m like condensing my message down, so that I’m not getting a lot of skips. But something else I want to point out, and I’ve talked about this before, is that if you guys follow me, you know, I put captions on every single post that I put up. And when people are watching your stories, and it’s more than you would think I think the numbers like 50% of people that are on Instagram are listening to stories on silent. And so if 50% of the people can’t hear what you’re saying, odds are, they’re going to skip your post, not because it’s not interesting, but just because they can’t hear you. And so if you’re not putting captions, which Instagram, please make this a feature. So you can save us all a lot of time and make sure that people can actually watch our content. But if you’re not doing this, you are going to get a lot of skips from people that just aren’t listening on sound. And so this is something that’s really going to help you in the algorithm if you are putting captions, because you’re going to avoid those skips just because people can’t hear you. So can you guys really see now how you can break down each action that Instagram has, and really look at it like you’re the algorithm like you’re the person that has to decide whether or not that action means the content is good, or whether it means the content is bad. And then what you can really think about is what did these features show it subjectively, again, subjectively, if you’re looking at this post, you’re just looking at the data, what does the data say? Is this good? Is this bad? Should we show it to more people? Or should we show it to less people, and I want you to think about this for all of the other platforms you’re on because it’s important on all of them, and for every single thing that you do, and when you understand what the algorithm is looking for, to rate your content. Good. Bad, you can be strategic and make content that gets people to take the positive actions that are going to make you look good. And there’s one for everything. I mean, you guys, another great example. And we know engagement is really important. And we know that, you know, saves are really important. So I’m gonna give you two for this. If you’re trying to get more engagement and more comments on your posts, what would you do to get people to comment? Number one, I always tell people I have a whole episode about this is ask people a question. When I’m asked a question. I can’t help but answer especially if it’s something like, are you a pineapple on pizza person or a pineapple or not pineapple on pizza person asked that question. I kid you not, you will get so many responses. People feel very passionate about pineapple on their pizza. But when you ask a question, you automatically get more comments, or something I always preach as well is use a call to action. If you say, Hey, leave me a comment about this, then people are going to leave a comment. Or if you say for the example of saving, save this post for later so you can access it later. I see this a lot with fitness accounts who do like workouts, they’ll say, hey, do you like this post, if you’re looking for booty workouts, make sure to save this post. So you can come back and do it later. That’s a great way to get people to do the action that you want.
Tell them to do it.
I call this my for dummies method. But you have to really spell it out for people. Because if you don’t, they might not think of it. And if you do, they’re like, Oh yeah, duh. Let’s save this post because I want to do that workout later. It’s really that simple. You guys, the algorithm really isn’t that big and bad. And this big beast that you think it is. It’s actually quite simple. If you really can put your head into what the algorithms thinking and work for the algorithm, not against it. Thank you so much for listening. If you liked what you heard, it goes a long way if you could take 30 seconds and leave me a five star review and share this podcast with your friends. Alright you guys, I’ll see you on the next episode.