Humans have been meddling with the concept of digital social networking since the 80s, then, through the 90s we saw the rise of various chat rooms and the short lived Six Degrees, the first social network in the format that we are used to today. 1999 saw the launch of LiveJournal, the first mainstream blogging platform, a type of social media and the start of a now overwhelming huge industry. It wasn’t until the post-2000 that modern day social media really kicked off, whether you remember LunarStorm, Friendster, LastFM or Myspace first these were the seeds sown for the social media industry that we know now.

It’s 2018 and social media has engulfed society, with 2.6 billion social media users globally, set to increase to 3 billion by 2020, that’s a lot of voices to be heard and a lot of eyes for adverts too. As social media continues to be big business whilst battling backlash about the negative impact and dangers or fake news, it’s the platforms’ goals to keep us all interested by curating our content streams.

This year, we saw many algorithm changes – an attempt to strike a balance between advertisers and user happiness. With the rapidly changing environment of digital, it’s difficult to keep up, so to lend a hand we’ve created a guide to the current state of social media algorithms and a few tips on how to make the most out of each of the main platforms.

To combat complaints from users and the worrying drop in active users, Facebook announced an algorithm change at the start of 2018. This was an attempt to prioritise content from friends and family over brands. So, to get seen on Facebook organically, you should be aiming for conversation generating, shareable content. The more meaningful comments you gain the more likely you are to be seen. It now takes a little creativity for brand content to be consistently seen. Sure, you can whack a chunk of advertising spend behind your Facebook content to push it further, but ensure you have your ROI focus right for your business before you get started. Just because you have a lot of fans doesn’t mean this will always translate into sales or traffic, in fact some brand pages have reported that surpassing the 10,000 fans mark has actually harmed their reach and their overall performance online.

Facebook continue to tackle the problem of fake news and poor quality content with a growing toolkit of AI and algorithm changes, which means previous Facebook reach ‘hacks’ such as clickbait titles and ‘Hit like if you found this funny’ type copy are more likely to harm a page than help it. And what about GDPR? Well, Facebook was one of the first companies to receive a massive penalty fee, just one day after the changeover. Although the platform is working hard on continuing to be GDPR compliant, many Facebook Advertisers are reporting a decrease in efficiency post-GDPR due to new restrictions on user data access.

Want to succeed on Facebook? Quality video content continues to reign supreme, as the platform continues to compete with YouTube. If you’re struggling to post daily, consider switching up your approach to focus more on quality than quantity, because if the post isn’t going to generate any engagement, there’s no point you putting it on Facebook.

What about Instagram and its seemingly confusing combination of chronological and algorithm driven content visibility? Instagram is analysing three core factors before deciding what content to show you: Interest, Timeliness and Relationships. Instagram uses machine learning to show each user content that they are most likely to interact with. So, if you watch a lot of Instagram videos you’ll see more of them, you’ll also see more content from the people you interact with the most. How often you open Instagram, who you follow and how long you spend on Instagram also impacts what you’ll see. So, how do marketers take advantage of this? Basically, you’ve got to be the popular kid! And that could be why Instagram Influencers have created their own industry, allowing brands to tag onto existing influence… for a price.

As with Facebook, Instagram success will come from consistent, quality content that is targeted to the right audience using a healthy mix of hashtags and authentic engagement. It’ll also come with interaction and conversation, so ensure your approach is proactive and of a high standard, bots don’t cut it.

Twitter remains proud of its real-time content algorithm elements, iconic in breaking news and documenting instantaneous reactions to current events and causes. However, the Twitter algorithm still prioritises content it thinks you will like best, rather than a straight chronological feed. With huge global communities in various timezones represented on social media, it makes sense to mix real-time and algorithm ranked content. In 2016 the ‘in case you missed it’ feature was added, showcasing content from your favourite profiles that you may have missed whilst you were online.

With these algorithm factors in mind and limited data on your followers, it’s best to prioritise posting at peak times with engagement driving content to ensure you’re seen. Twitter is the ideal platform for instant conversation, granting you direct access to a variety of brands, activists, influencers and more.

To conclude, the quality over quantity rule holds true across all social media platforms. If your content isn’t interesting enough to warrant a comment or a share, there may be little point in publishing it. Video content continues to prove popular on a number of platforms, so any opportunity to shift towards moving images is a winner.

Most importantly of all is to stay clued up on future algorithm changes and adapt as you go along.