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.

All about hashtags.

Hashtags… they’ve been around since the inception of Twitter, but how many of us use them? And if we are using them, how do we know we’re using them properly?

The following are some tidbits with respect to the use of hashtags and social media. Please keep in mind that people have vastly different opinions with respect to how to use hashtags and what they’re important for, so if you disagree with my thoughts that is totally okay. Do what you believe is best for your blog and take these as nothing more than suggestions.

Also, if you’re not seeking social media growth, this post likely won’t have any relevance to you, so you can stop reading right here.

What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a label used on social media sites to make it easier for people to find content within a theme, when one is looking for specific content.

Why use a hashtag?
Plain and simply, hashtags work. If you want your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook post to be seen, a hashtag provides the opportunity for more people than just your followers to find it. Hashtags help you build a brand, engage with new people, readers, customers (depending on what you’re using your social media profiles for) and grow your profile.

General tidbits with respect to hashtags:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. If you’re posting a photo of a waterfall, don’t tag your photo #JustinBieber. If you’re posting a tweet that contains parenting advice, don’t tag your post #CurlyHair. These hashtags aren’t relevant. And, with enough shit to weed through on social media already, you’ll likely not garner any new readers/viewers by misusing hashtags, and piss off the ones you’ve got because they’ll get annoyed reading your misusing of hashtags.
  2. On Twitter – stick to using only one or two hashtags per tweet. You can differ from tweet to tweet, but don’t fill a single tweet with ten hashtags. People who do stumble across said tweet with ten hashtags are likely to scroll right past it because there are too many hashtags.
  3. On Instagram – you’re able to post up to thirty hashtags per one photo. You don’t need to post a full thirty hashtags, but, the option is there if you would like to. Typically, 10-15 is a good place to start. Whichever hashtags you select, choose some extremely popular ones, and some less popular ones. A variation between the two means that, for the popular hashtag you run the chance of a lot of people seeing your post immediately, and that for the less popular hashtag, your post has the chance of staying at top of page (or near top) for longer.
  4. On Instagram – post your hashtags in your caption, not in your first comment. People tend to argue about this suggestion often, but I stick to my opinion, and Forbes agrees. (HAHA) Honestly though, the moment you post a photo to Instagram, your photo is being inserted into the Instagram Algorithm. Even if it only takes you two minutes to go in and add your hashtags to the first comment, that’s two minutes the algorithm has been placing your photo that your hashtags haven’t been helping. People say it looks prettier to post hashtags in the comment, versus the caption. What I say to that, though, is that hashtags are meant to be functional, not beautiful. Furthermore, if you’re posting ads or sponsored content on Instagram, that notification of #AD needs to be front and centre for people to see so they know the content they’re viewing was bought and paid for.
  5. On Facebook – stick to hashtags that are in line with your branding. Facebook is the platform in which hashtags are used the least of all social media platforms. For this reason, I would recommend you keep your hashtags related to your branding. Using my blog for example, the advice would be to skip tagging #Anxiety and use #MillennialLifeCrisis instead.

What is a branding hashtag and what can it do?
A branding hashtag is something specific to you and your blog, or you and your business. This is something that you use across all platforms that you belong to, as a means for cohesive integration between all platforms. Branding hashtags can be as simple as your blog’s name.

Say, for instance your blog name is ‘Blog of the Wolf Boy‘ (using you as an example, Mathew, because it was the first thing that came to mind!), a branding hashtag for any posts that you made on social media could be as simple as #BlogOfTheWolfBoy. If you have a twitter account, an instagram account a facebook account, etc… using #BlogOfTheWolfBoy across all platforms can help each of these platforms appear when someone googles Blog Of The Wolf Boy.

Perhaps you have an Instagram account under the same name as your blog. When you google your blog’s name, does your Instagram account appear second or third or fourth on the list? If not, a hashtag specifically branded to your blog could help with this.

An example of a brand that uses this practice is Oreo. If you google #Oreo, the first few pages that come up are their website, their twitter account and their instagram account. Yes, they are a massive company, but if you’re looking for blog growth, imagine how convenient it would be to have all of your links appear just like Oreo’s does when someone is trying to find you!

If you want to make the most out of your hashtags, I recommend doing your research. Every industry, ever blog niche, every culture, has valuable hashtags and hashtags that aren’t worth much of anything. If you want to make the most out of your posts and are seeking growth on your social media platforms, then do some research about what popular hashtags are used within your niche. There are plenty of websites that will rank hashtags if you put in buzzwords. IE: You’d type in “Mom” and it would give you a list of the top 50 hashtags that contain the word “Mom”… such as #MomLife, #MomBlog, #Momageddon, and so on and so forth.

Good luck!

Twitter tips for bloggers

Include your blog link in your twitter ‘bio’ section. When people do click on and open up your twitter page, if you’re really committed to driving traffic to your blog, have your link right there, listed in your blog bio. Make it as EASY AS POSSIBLE for them to find your blog.

Use twitter to show off your personality. Tweet tidbits of your life, or the shows you’re watching, share your sense of humour. Let people know who you really are in small tidbits – 280 characters at a time. I can say with utmost certainty there are blogs I follow on WordPress that I’ve found I appreciated the Blog Author so much more when I started following them on twitter and started learning so much more about their personality. Show of yours! Be candid. Be friendly. Be yourself.

Don’t just tweet your posts link. In the tweet provide a description of your post, or, provide a quote from within your post. People don’t just blindly click links on twitter. They want to know what they’re clicking on.

If you can, add a photo to your tweet. You know the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? Well, if you only have 280 characters on twitter, use your choice of photograph to give you those extra thousand words.

Follow Blog-Share accounts. These are accounts specifically set up on twitter to allow bloggers to share their work and to meet other bloggers. Some of these include: @bloggershut, @goldenbloggerz, @bloggerstribe. It’s basically an opportunity for free promotion. Follow them and take advantage of the platform they provide! They typically post threads for bloggers to share their posts and when they’re not posting threads they just ask for you to use their hashtag when sharing your post and they’ll retweet it and share it to their base that includes thousands of followers. It’s free promotion, easy promotion and a great way to interact with other bloggers.

Be Social. Talk. Make friends. Follow people without worrying if they’re going to follow you back. This one is important. People tend to tweet Twitter like it’s a popularity contest. It’s not. If properly executed it can be a positive means for you to promote your blog, content and self. The catch is: you have to let go of tracking if everyone you’re following is following you. You have to let go of the thought that thousands of people are going to just up and follow you. Unless you’re Ariana Grande and just haven’t told me yet, it’s all likel that your growth will be slow and organic in nature. Follow people based on if you like their content/personality/tweets. Don’t follow people with the expectation they follow you back. You want people to follow you because they want to, not because they feel an obligation to. And trust me, if you’re genuine, people will sense that and follow you out of choice, not obligation.

Jump on trending hashtags where you can. A few days ago there was one #3ThingsIWantInMyStocking. If you’re on twitter and see hashtags of this nature, share your thoughts. They’re popular tags because people are sharing and reading these tweets. Open up your opportunity to meet new people. And if you read something funny within the hashtag, like it. Let the random stranger know they appreciated their tweet.

Tweet consistently. Just like with blogging, people like to follow twitter accounts that are consistently updated. Whether it’s daily, or weekly, ensure that you’re using Twitter consistently. If you’re tweeting a couple of posts and then don’t use your Twitter account for a month, then people are going to get bored and likely unfollow you. Twitter is about interaction, and if you’re not interacting, you’re not going to see growth.

Tweetdeck is a free service that allows you to schedule all of your tweets in advance. Many services that allow you to schedule tweets will charge you for their service. Tweetdeck is COMPLETELY FREE! You need not make an account, your Twitter account is what Tweetdeck needs, you just have to allow Tweetdeck access. And, you can use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets across multiple accounts. The catch? You can’t post threads on Tweetdeck and you can’t post emojis. Realistically, though, you don’t need either of those things if you’re scheduling promotional tweets for your blog.

Tweetdeck is great if you work full time during the day or have a busy life and kiddos to look after. You can schedule your tweets so you don’t have to worry about logging in during the day to post. You can sit down at night after all the kiddos have gone to bed and schedule your post for the next day. Then, if you do get a chance to read twitter during the day, you don’t have to worry about posting, you’re at that point just browsing!

Ask your WordPress followers what their Twitter handles are. Want to make instantaneous connections on Twitter? Tell your WordPress followers that you’ve got a Twitter account and ask them for their Twitter handles. If you’re new or just starting out, this is an easy way of forming connections immediately.


Shameless self promotion: My Twitter handle is @MillennialMe88

Twitter and Instagram

I would like to boost the morale of my Twitter and Instagram feeds through finding new and exciting accounts. The feeds of both have been a tad down lately, with everything that’s going on in this world, and I just want to find some new accounts to brighten up m feed.

If you have a Twitter or an Instagram account and wouldn’t mind if I checked it out, please leave a comment with your username.

I just need some more sunshine in my life. You know what I mean?

(Oh, and if you want to check mine out, I am @ohmillennials on both Twitter and Instagram. Just in case you see me creeping your instagram stories)