Let’s talk about ‘the algorithm’

Photo Credit: SloanReview.MIT

*Note – I’m touching on this subject because I’m finding there are still a lot of people on the web who really don’t know about this. If you’re aware of ‘the algorithm’ and the information contained in this post, please feel free to ignore.

Have you ever been searching Instagram and thought to yourself ‘Why the hell are you suggesting these photos to me, Instagram?’Likewise with Twitter, have you ever been on Twitter and wondered why some people’s Tweets are always at the top of your feed whilst others never seem to show up at all? This is ‘the algorithm’ at work.

Gone are the days of things showing up chronologically on your time line. These are the days when the algorithm picks ‘exactly what you want to see’. I say that in quotation marks because for weeks now my feed has been filled with babies and baby announcements, so clearly the algorithm isn’t functioning at proper capacity.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and even WordPress all use some form of an algorithm for showing you content. Cracking the algorithm is, in itself, a form of social media marketing.

So, how does it work? I suspect only employees on the inside know for the certain the full extent to the algorithm’s functions. That being said, there is one rule of function that seems to work.

  1. Engagement is the most important thing you can garner with your content.

In the case of all social media platforms, engagement is likes and comments. In the case of YouTube, engagement also includes people clicking the ‘Thumbs Down’ button to dislike, and it also includes watch time.

So, let’s break down how this works on each site.


TWITTER

Twitter is going to suggest to you the Tweets from people on your feed with the most comments and likes. So this is why, if you follow celebrities (in addition to your friends and family), the celebrities tweets are always going to appear near the top of your feed. This is also true for Follow Trains, comment threads or anything that garners a large amount of comments in a short period of time.

Twitter is also going to suggest to you the Tweets of the individuals who’s Tweets you’ve liked and commented on in recent past. So if you’re ever thinking that ‘I haven’t seen a tweet from this person in a long time’, it’s probably because you haven’t liked or commented on any of their Tweets.


INSTAGRAM

Even though in recent months they’ve moved away from publicly showing how many likes a photo has, likes are still a driving force to what photos are suggested to you on Instagram. This is how, if you search Instagram, you can always seem to find one of the Kardashian sisters, no matter how little attention you pay to them or care about them. With like… 100 million subscribers each on the platform, the moment they post a photo they get A TON of likes, and those likes are what push them to the top of suggested posts.

When a celebrity or influencer says “Comment below with”, that is them trying to garner more comments so that the algorithm suggest their content to more people. Trust me when I say this, they don’t give a damn about your comment. When someone you watch on YouTube says ‘Follow me on Instagram and tell me you came from YouTube’ that’s a tactic to garner more engagement and get their photos suggested to more people through the Instagram algorithm.

When a brand does a giveaway on their Instagram and the requirement of the giveaway is to ‘Tag a friend below’, this is a two-fold promotion for them. 1) You’re tagging your friend so that your friend can see their Instagram, which is promotion and 2) You’re commenting on their Instagram page, which counts as engagement. More engagement means they rank higher on the algorithm of suggested posts. Do you have a chance to win? Sure. One in… however many people tag a friend and like the post. This is why so many brands do giveaways. The promotion they’re getting just from you tagging their friends is worth the… probably 20 dollar value of whatever they’re giving away.


YOUTUBE

First, I will say that likes and dislikes count as engagement on YouTube. So, whether you hit the like button or you hit the dislike button you’re working in the favour of said person creating the YouTube video. If you really don’t like it, you’re doing much better if you just click away from the video.

Secondly, watch time plays a factor in engagement. YouTube tracks average watch time for videos. So, if a person makes a ten minute video and most people click off after 2-3 minutes, they’re not going to get recommended as a suggested video in Youtube’s algorithm. This is why so many people will say ‘Stay tuned to the end to find out —–‘ or ‘Stay tuned to the end for the giveaway’ or ‘Stay tuned to the end to hear a secret’. If you watch through to the end, that works in their favour with ad revenue, with Youtube’s algorithm and with making their channel look as though content is valuable and worthy of YouTube investing in.

When a Youtuber says ‘Comment Below with’… well with pretty much anything… that is their attempt to drive up engagement. ‘Comment below with your favourite day of the week!’ or ‘Comment below and tell me what colour your eyes are!’ That YouTuber really doesn’t give a flying fuck what colour your eyes are, they just want their video to look more legit to the YouTube algorithm. The more comments they get, the more legit they look, the more likely they are to get suggested as a ‘video to watch’.


FACEBOOK

Facebook, much like Instagram (because Facebook owns Instagram) will suggest to you the comments, status updates, photos, memories, etc… from the people who have the most likes and comments. So, you’ll notice that if you have a friend who is a bit of a Facebook whore, for lack of better terminology, their posts are always going to seem to be at the top of your feed… whereas your quiet friends who don’t have a ton of Facebook friends will always seem to appear much lower down on your feed.

If you are the quiet friend trying to get the word out about your blog, your writing or anything of the sort, the way to go about it is to ask for likes, ask for comments and to ask for people to share your content. The more engagement that you get, even if you need to ‘pimp your content out’ (for lack of better terminology), the better off you are.

If you’re using Facebook to spread word about your blog, your writing, your music or your artwork, I strongly recommend joining groups and finding a community of people who will help to share your content with Facebook. The more it’s seen, the more Facebook is going to recommend it.


WORDPRESS

WordPress, working with transparency (which I love) actually tells you just how their algorithms work. I talk a lot about them on my page, but mostly in the comments section of my posts, so I don’t know how many people are truly aware of how it works.

If you’d like the source of any of the following information –> Click Here (If you’re looking to work the WordPress algorithm in your favour, I highly recommend clicking and reading the entire page)

The algorithms are often being improved, and what content we show depends on a complex combination of factors. Here are examples of the types of information we may use to make our recommendations:

  • The title, content, tags, and categories of posts.
  • Other text from the site, such as usernames and logins; site names and the host name (support.wordpress.com).
  • Total number of likes and comments.
  • Who has liked and commented on a post.
  • Total number of followers.
  • Who has followed a site.
  • How recently a post was published.
  • How often or recently a site has posted.
  • The content of what you have liked and commented on.
  • Whether posts have links, images, or videos.
  • How often a site has been rejected from being recommended in the Reader.

Content we filter out from our algorithms:

  • Sites we think may be spam.
  • Sites that have mature content.
  • Sites with potentially objectionable content.
  • Content that is not in your language.

The moral of the story? Asking for likes, comments and engagement helps. It helps in big ways. If you can find another way of getting people talking that doesn’t require your asking them something, then you’ve struck gold. If someone is asking you to ‘Comment below what colour your eyes are’ don’t do it. If a brand says ‘Tag a friend and you’re entered to win’, unless you really, really love the brand, only give that free promotion to a brand that you really love. And, if you want to truly make an impact with the content you’re pumping out, surround yourself with an incredible online community who’ll stand behind you and your work so that you can share your world with the web and they will help and support you every step of the way.

Also, if the Kardashian’s keep getting recommended to you in spite of your not giving a flying fuck, you’re not crazy. They’re cheating the system. It’s estimated as much as 60 percent of Kim Kardashian’s online following is bots. Bots that help her stay at the top of page and relevant on just about every website. She’s got the money, so I wouldn’t have a hard time believing that she bought all those bots.

Also, there’s a rumour going around (I’ve yet to see in action) that you can now buy bots to artifically ‘growth hack’ your accounts whilst you’re least active on social media. I don’t know if this is true or not, I’ve not seen it in action. But… I did see a relatively average Youtuber shoot from 52,000 subscribers to 750,000 subscribers in about four days earlier this month. So, I don’t have a hard time believing it… especially since his engagement is still the same as it was when he had 52,000 subscribers.

67 thoughts on “Let’s talk about ‘the algorithm’

  1. “First, I will say that likes and dislikes count as engagement on YouTube.”

    β€”Totally agree. I don’t really understand the concept of disliking stuff! I suspect it was intended as a positive measure of engagement from the beginning. I imagine a bad ratio counts overall against you though at a certain point.

    “That YouTuber really doesn’t give a flying fuck what colour your eyes are, they just want their video to look more legit to the YouTube algorithm”

    β€”Lmao πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think that in the beginning the dislike function was a means for an audience to tell a creator they’ve ‘made a dud’ of a video. These days it seems people use it as a means to try and ‘cancel’ people. Thing they don’t understand is, no watching looks a lot more cancel cultureish to the algorithm than dislikes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish, long, desire for the days of chronological order. But, you know, these big corporations (which they are) think they know better then us, so I guess we just get to deal. lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I learned a trick here over the years. I have three youtube accounts. One for just personal use to browse cooking channels and whatever channels I want to watch. One for adult related content (not porn lol). And one for just music and art. This really helps with related searches. Though the home page can be a mess sometimes. I make sure to follow only accounts I’m interested in too. Instagram and Twitter are so over run with spam – every third post now.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That seems like a nifty idea. I think I’d get annoyed of signing out of one and into the other though… Do you use different web browsers for each account?

      My YouTube home page is often covered in conspiracy videos, Dr. Phil videos (which I love) and then weirdly ‘Top 10 Kardashian videos’ which I’m like… WHERE DID YOU COME FROM I DON’T WANT YOU.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It definitely does get annoying but saves some hassle too. Like email accounts. I have about ten email accounts for a variety of purposes can get overwhelming! Haha on the Kardashian. I keep getting sites like Cosmo and Variety pop up on a regular bsasis.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Since I’m still figuring all this stuff out online V, I REALLY appreciate this post! Great information and I thank you so much for helping your fellow writers like me on this platform. My biggest goal is to just get my story put there and spread comfort, understanding and compassion to others who need it. I have saved this post so I can go back and reference it as needed. (((Virtual hugs))) my friend πŸ™πŸ’œπŸ˜Š

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Hey V….I have a question that hopefully you can answer….when I look at my stats and it breaks down the views by post. I always have so many on the hone/archives….what does this mean? It’s probably a dumb question lolπŸ™„ but WordPress mobile app is tough on me to figure it out at times.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your homepage, https://emotionalmusings.com/ is set up so that people can view posts directly from the homepage. This means people are finding your homepage and reading your posts from there. Where it would have a specific post listed is if the person goes on to click a specific post and like it or leave a comment on it.

        For example, my homepage is usually view 200 or so more times than an individual post is in my stats… because all content is visible from my homepage, there’s no ‘read here’ or ‘click here for more’.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ah, clarity!! Thank you V! I really appreciate it. In your opinion, do you think I have it set up correctly? Do you have any suggestions, I’m always open to constructive criticism especially from someone who knows and understands this thing way better than I do. Thank you my friend πŸ’œπŸ™πŸ™Œ

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think the way you’re doing it is really smart. While you’re building your audience, having a ‘click here for more’ is going to avert potential audience/readers. When you’re an established writer with established traffic and an established brand, having ‘click here’ won’t matter because people will absolutely ‘click here’ to see what you have to say. But, if you’re not yet known, you are just saying ‘Hey people, here, work harder to get to my content’.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Good stuff, I really appreciate it!! That makes sense to me…honestly because I do everything from my mobile because I don’t own a computer, it just happened like this LOL😁πŸ€ͺ

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading the WordPress bit will be important for anyone who has a WordPress blog. People always seem to want to know how to grow… well, work that system to your favour!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to watch the Flash but I don’t remember algorithm from the Flash so I must’ve not watched enough of it. It is another way of stating the system though – so make that system work for you!!!

      Like

  4. What a crazy world social media is. No wonder my posts on FB always drop off the feed! Maybe I need to be a bit more proactive, then again I’m happy cruising. Thanks for the informative post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, if you’re quiet as in you don’t get a lot of likes, or you’re quiet as in you don’t update a lot, you will likely fall lower on other’s Facebook Feeds. You can fix that, if you want, or you can stay quiet. I mean, there’s no harm no foul either way. You have to do what’s best for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always wondered why WordPress blogs have a ‘like’ button. I see the ‘like’ button getting misused so many times and have even been told by bloggers that they click ‘like’ on a post even without reading it. I think many see it as a quick way of getting noticed (their Gravatar appears next to the ‘like’ button). I also get some bloggers pressing ‘like’ on lots of my blog posts within seconds of each other. Likewise, a 1,000-word blog post will get a ‘like’ with seconds of me publishing it. I’m hoping WordPress goes the same way as Instagram in removing the ‘Like’ stats from view so that only the owner can see how many times a post has been liked. I think leaving an excellent meaningful comment is far more beneficial.
    From reading your post, I now know why so many Tweeters ask questions in their tweets and ask you to leave a funny gif and to retweet their tweet. Even I have climbed on board with that one.
    Great to meet you, V. I’m here from Bella’s blog party. You have a great blog that has content I know is going to interest me. I’ll be signing up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even if WodPress takes away the ability to view how many likes a post has (which is what it was like up until Sept 2019), the algorithm will still work the same. Those posts that have more likes will have more opportunity to be seen by more people. I think a lot of people see instant likes as a bad thing, when in reality, if you know what the person is doing you don’t have to visit there blog. Just reap the rewards of the like button and hope it helps WordPress push out your content to more people!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Up until Sept 2019? Since I started blogging in 2014, I’ve always been able to see how many likes a post gets regardless of who wrote it. I’ve never seen any changes in that department. And thinking about it some more, I only ever see the blog posts on the WP Reader of those blogs I follow. They seem to fall in time order, so the newest published post of the day is at the top of the reader. I’ve never seen the posts of any blogs I don’t follow on the WP Reader. Does the algorithm only work for the blogs I follow? I’ve always believed that those that don’t follow my blog will only see one of my posts if one of my followers reblogs or shares it via social media.

        Like

      2. I started my blog in January 2019 and up until September 2019 I could only see the likes on posts if I person had their blog settings set to show. I remember distinctly because all of the sudden on September 4, I could see them for everything. It was like everyone’s settings were changed on the same day. Maybe I’m dumb, but I’m pretty certain it was only certain blogs I could see likes on prior to September.

        The WordPress Algorithm will suggest your posts to other WordPress users. So if you’re looking for promotion on other websites, you’ll have to do that yourself. That being said, the WordPress algorithm works, so long as you’ve not got XXX content, if you know what I mean. This is where tags and categories come into play. If you tag something ‘Myrtle Beach’ and someone is reading a post by someone else that was tagged ‘Myrtle Beach’, when they get to the end of that post, WordPress will suggest two similar posts by said author and two similar posts that relate to Myrtle Beach. So that’s where the importance of tags comes in. Because those posts about Myrtle beach can be written by anyone on earth, so long as they’re properly tagged, WordPress can suggest them. I feel like I’m rambling. I hope this makes sense.

        Like

      3. There is an option in the settings of WordPress blogs to remove the ‘like’ button, but as I discovered when I changed the setting, the reblog button also disappears. I contacted WordPress about this, who informed me that the ‘like’ and ‘reblog’ buttons were one of the same thing. If you remove one, both disappear. In the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve only come across a handful of blogs that do not display a ‘like’ button. It seems to happen more on self-hosted blogs rather than WordPress.Com blogs.
        I’ve only ever seen ‘related’ posts by the same blogger when coming to the end of reading a blog post on WordPress. I completely agree that tagging and categorising posts are important, so I’m wondering if the WordPress Algorithm kicks in when doing a search for blog posts in the search bar just above the list of blog posts in the WordPress Reader?

        Like

      4. Firstly, I am aware.

        Secondly, as I said, until September, people were not hiding their like button but they could hide from showing how many people liked any given post… much like Instagram hides how many people like any given photo, the like button is still there.

        Thirdly it does kick in when doing a search in the search bar… hence why a search bar even exists.

        Fourthly it also kicks in, as I said, at literally the bottom of every post. I sincerely wish I could insert pictures in this comment right now to show you it, yes, even happens to yours. It is every single post on WordPress that meets their requirements as listed in the algorithm section I linked… which means yes… other users are being suggested in by the algorithm at the end if your posts. Actually I can link some… I’ll upload some screenshots to a different website so you can see the algorithm at work.

        Here’s a screenshot of the algorithm working at the bottom of one of your posts, suggesting more posts by you and posts related that are by others: https://ibb.co/MPqjgFS

        Here’s it working on the bottom of the first random post I can find right now at 5:45 am –
        https://ibb.co/Fx9xst0

        Here’s a screenshot of another random blog and the algorithm working at the bottom of it: https://ibb.co/Bt27NSP

        Okay. Now. I’m done having this conversation. I strongly encourage you to review posts yourself, even yours that I linked to a screenshot of so you can see for yourself how the algorithm works at the bottom. If you’re that concerned with likes then just remove your like and reblog button.

        This is the end of the discussion and any future comments on this matter will be deleted.

        Like

    1. Does your work social media have an already established platform? Or, if you built your work platform from the ground up, can you copy the steps you took from your work platform to help build your blogging platform?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, okay, so it’s a bit easier to work with a platform that’s already established or has a brand to work off of. What I would say to you is to turn your blog into your brand. Work to establish your blog as a brand. Treat your individual blog like it’s a business. That’ll help you get going!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi V, this was a very interesting read, mainly because you tell it as it is and don’t try to sugar coat it! Thanks for the info and I knew there was a reason I don’t go in for all the tag a friend and comment below posts. I do find it hard to ask for comments and likes on my blog’s Facebook page but that’s just me being stupid!!! Visiting from Bella’s blog party and have now followed you for more interesting updates.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Debbie, don’t ever be afraid to ask for comments or likes. Often times people will see things and even if they do like it, they won’t say anything! If you need/want to self-promote yourself, do it! After all, every author, every musician, every artist, they all started somewhere right? They all had to ask for reads, likes, comments, reviews. That’s exactly what bloggers do!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Really interesting post.

    I activley use Twitter and see professional shit stirrers who have mastered the engagement by simply saying a divisive comment – people who agree like retweet comment.

    People who dislike retweet with statement saying their an idiot, and hit the comments to argue. Bringing the attention to the Tweeter.

    For wordpress ind the algorithm game hard to master, makes it harder to get your work seen!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re soo right – people who dislike/retweet and comment ‘you’re an idiot’ on twitter are helping that person be more popular on Twitter. Biggest example of this: A lot of politicians!

      Like

      1. Your post got me thinking about a certain Mr Trump! He thrives on attention and being in the spotlight.

        The guy spells ‘coffee’ wrong and he gets people who don’t like him interacting bring more attention to him!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey I’m new to the blogging community and I don’t know how to get started and which blogs to follow and I’m so glad I found yours because I love it! Could you please give me advice and help me go around this stuff cause it’s all very new to me. Thank you so very much!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Agnes, almost all of the advice I’ve ever provided about blogging can be found under the ‘Marketing’ heading at the top of my blog. If you click that you’ll see blogging tips, growth tips, social media tips, engagement tips and so on and so forth. All under one heading so they’re easy to find!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s