The power of social media cannot be denied, but the landscape is complex and constantly changing. It’s easy to get frustrated with the various algorithms that control how much of your messaging gets to the masses. Every major platform leverages a different formula, and understanding how they work can be helpful in getting more of your content viewed. In this post, we’re covering the basics for the platforms you’re most likely to use. Let’s look at the all-important social media algorithms for law firms for Twitter (X), Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn.
What is a Social Media Algorithm In the First Place?
Let’s start at the beginning: a social media algorithm is a unique compilation of rules and statistics that inform decisions about how to display content to users on a social media platform. Social media sites create algorithms for each person (or company) who uses the site, and that means that no two people will ever have exactly the same feed. Basically, these algorithms analyze user behavior and prioritize content that the channel believes the user is most likely to engage with. Additionally, the algorithms are always changing, so you may need to perform more research as you continue to use major social platforms.
Some of the factors that these algorithms take into account are:
- Engagement – Social platforms quickly learn your interests and how you engage with content. From there, they can prioritize what shows up in a user’s feed.
- Time on platform – Remember that the goal of a social media platform is to have people spend more time there. The more time that you spend there, the more likely you are to respond to advertising.
Facebook’s NewsFeed Algorithm
You might think what shows up on Facebook comes down to the “like” button, but things have gotten much more sophisticated. The most complicated of the algorithms we’ll mention, Facebook uses a four-step process to prioritize what will be most important to a user at the top of their feed.
Facebook looks at four factors:
- Inventory – This is how many posts a person might see when they open Facebook (essentially what is available).
- Signals – For each post, the algorithm looks at who posted it, how you’ve interacted with similar posts in the past, the format, how popular it is with factors like your friends’ interactions with it, and what pages have reshared it.
- Predictions – This is where Facebook tries to determine how relevant a post is to you, based on how likely you are to interact with it or if it came from friends or family. Additionally, a quality indicator for original content is assessed.
- Relevancy Score – Calculated by weighing signals and predictions, a relevancy score means something is more likely to be placed higher in your feed.
Think of it this way: every time you log into Facebook, the first post you see is specifically chosen over thousands of others because it was deemed most likely to make you react and engage. It’s also worth noting that advertising is given relevancy scores too, which is supposed to provide a better user experience (but also helps the business paying for the ads).
Twitter (Now X) Timeline Algorithm
Twitter takes a different approach to showing users content. There is a “following” timeline and a “for you” timeline.
Your following timeline is simply a stream of tweets from the people or accounts that you follow. While they used to be in chronological order, they are now ranked based on a combination of interactions, recency, and activity.
The “For you” timeline displays suggested content from accounts you have shown an interest in, or are likely to have an interest in. The algorithm for this looks at a few factors:
- Candidate sourcing – Supposed to be a 50% balance of tweets from people you follow and people you don’t.
- Ranking – Based on a predictive score of relevance to your interests.
- Heuristics, filters, and product features – After ranking candidates, Twitter applies product features such as accounts you’ve muted before, author diversity (so not too many from one person appear) and content balance.
Technically, Twitter has moved away from what some people call a “real” timeline where things are displayed chronologically and now relies on these systems to display content to users in the hope of raising engagement.
Instagram’s Feed Algorithm
Instagram actually uses machine learning to decide which content you’ll like most. The platform prioritizes content from people you follow, recommended accounts, and ads. The signals, or ranking factors, that it uses are:
- Your own activity – Posts that you’ve liked, saved, shared, etc.
- Information about the post – How popular or engaging a post is outside of your own activity (likes, shares, etc).
- Information about who posted content – Gauges how interesting the person who posted might be to you, and who else liked their content.
- Your interaction history – How interested you’ll be in seeing posts from a particular person.
At a basic level, this algorithm takes into account how likely you are to take action based on viewing a post. The more likely you are to engage on some level, the higher it will rank in your feed. Additionally, each Instagram feature – such as Reels, Shop, and Explore pages – all have their own algorithm. These are based on who you have viewed before and what you are unlikely to want to miss. It also attempts to predict how valuable and relevant you will find the content and looks at things like past likes, shares, comments, etc. When it comes to Reels, Instagram accounts for how inspired you might be to make your own Reel, in addition to how likely you are to share or save one.
TikTok “For You” Page Algorithm
This recommendation system relies on content that each user is most likely to be interested in and is relevant to their interests. As time goes on, TikTok weighs things like user interactions, video information, and device and account settings. In this case, video information covers hashtags, sounds, and captions, while device and account settings refer to language, country, type of device, etc. This latter factor is weighed with less importance than the other signals.
The LinkedIn Algorithm
Arguably one of the most important platforms for law firms and attorneys, the LinkedIn algorithm is becoming less of a mystery (although we will never know exactly what goes on behind the curtain).
LinkedIn does promise that if you create content relevant to a specific audience, they will see that content. Similarly, audiences are told that if they engage with content, that is what they will see more of.
One of the most important features of the algorithm was requested by users, and that is the fact that content from their own network tends to be most valuable. That also means that the quality of your network is crucial: if you want to engage with your audience, you should be connected with them on LinkedIn.
Furthermore, the algorithm rewards knowledge-rich posts beyond their immediate reach. Even non-connected users may find posts that they could find useful. One of LinkedIn’s goals was to highlight more expert content, and they determine what expertise is relevant by identifying a user’s interests based on their profile information and activity. In specific terms, LinkedIn is looking at:
When creating content, marketers should aim to appeal to a specific niche and offer truly valuable insights. Underscoring your expertise and encouraging genuine engagement will help you to reach more users on the platform.
A Note on Cross-Promotion
It’s also worth noting that some of the major platforms are making efforts to decrease cross-posting, with a focus on more original content. For example, Instagram announced that they will prioritize videos that do not already have a TikTok logo present, in an effort to encourage more original content. While repurposing content is an important part of a marketer’s job, make sure you carefully review social media platform suggestions before cross-posting content.
At the core of almost all social media networks is the fact that sharing more leads to better performance. If you want to be viewed more – and increase your engagement – then develop quality posts and share them more often. It also wouldn’t hurt to do more research on who your target audience is, how they engage with your content, and what their specific interests are. This way you can ensure your content’s relevance, which is key in every social media algorithm. If you need help navigating a successful social media presence, reach out. Our seasoned professionals know the ins and outs of all of the major platforms that can benefit your firm, and we can help you make the most of every post.