Algorithms Explained, Part 1: What Are They?

If you use social media, you’ve experienced the power of algorithms. They make sure that you see relevant content on your feed instead of the Facebook equivalent of spam. What they are and how they work isn’t really important to you—unless you’re a marketer.

That’s where the game changes. If you’re trying to increase your social media profile, understanding the algorithm is essential to getting the results you want. In this two-part series, we talk about all things algorithms, from what they are, why they exist, and how to make them work for you.

What Are Social Media Algorithms?

Let’s start with the basic definition. In social media, algorithms are a collection of rules and data that determine what users see in their feed.

Algorithms sort posts based on relevancy, not chronology. The idea is that you will more likely see posts that actually interest you instead of sifting through random information until you strike gold. All the major platforms use algorithms, from Instagram and Facebook to Twitter and TikTok.

For example, posts from the accounts you interact with the most will usually top your Facebook and Twitter feeds. The same thing goes with YouTube—those “recommended” videos presented to you are based on what you watched in the past and what users with similar interests are watching. The purpose is to make it easier to find the content you’re most likely to enjoy.

What Is the Purpose of Social Media Algorithms?

Social media is awash with content: thousands of posts, images, and videos are posted every minute. If you follow hundreds or thousands of accounts on a social network, it would be impossible for you to sort through all of this content without social media algorithms. They do the work of delivering what you want and weeding out content that’s not likely to interest you.

It’s also believed that social media algorithms exist to entice businesses to pay more for social ads: if a law firm (for example) can’t reach its audience organically, they will pay for greater visibility. For social networks, this means a lot of revenue.


Social media algorithms have a major impact on reach, which is precisely what makes them so controversial. They’re powerful: a set of predefined data points has allowed many YouTube videos achieve millions of views and helped countless TikTok videos go viral. However, they’re also far from perfect: Facebook has been known to “hide” well-optimized content.

What’s a marketer to do?

The answer is to adapt. In order to provide the best user experience possible (while also ironing out any kinks), algorithms are constantly evolving. If you want to market your business on social media, changing marketing strategies and experimenting with content are both essential. The key is understanding how to make the algorithms work for you, and we’ll discuss that in next week’s Part 2.

The following two tabs change content below.

Spotlight Branding

Spotlight Branding is a content marketing and branding firm for lawyers and other professionals. Our goal is to help you create an online presence that positions you as a credible expert in your field, keeps you connected with your network in order to stay top of mind and increase referrals, and to become more visible online so prospects can find you!

Latest posts by Spotlight Branding (see all)