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What are social media algorithms and how do I beat them?

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

What are social media algorithms and how do I beat social media algorithms

One of the major algorithm updates in the past couple years was Instagram and Facebook experimenting with removing likes. Initially, this sounded shocking. How will you know if your marketing is reaching customers if likes aren’t displayed? How will you measure engagement on your posts? Well, instead of removing likes altogether, Facebook and Instagram have simply de-prioritized them in their algorithms. What the heck does this mean? Keep reading to find out!

Likes matter less now on Facebook and Instagram, as a result of social media algorithm changes

Why social media networks have moved away from likes

Both Facebook and Instagram have been drifting away from likes for a while now. Changes to Facebook and Instagram algorithms have made it increasingly difficult to get likes on posts over the past year. Plus, with the rising popularity of Instagram and Facebook stories (and now Reels), fewer businesses are measuring their success by likes anyway, since people cannot like a story.

Besides technological advances, there are other reasons behind the move away from likes. There have been multiple studies on the negative psychological effects of likes on social media. These studies have found that the likes feature was linked to lower self-esteem and loneliness. Some insiders at the major social media networks seem to agreeto the point where some of the original Facebook engineers say they regret creating the like feature in the first place.

Aside from cutting down on negative psychological effects, transitioning away from likes provides other benefits to social media companies. First, it hurts the “fake likes” industry, where businesses can purchase more likes or followers for their social media. Second, the move encourages businesses to start paying for more paid media, such as Facebook or Instagram ads.

So, where does this fit into the overall algorithm makeup for Facebook and Instagram? Let's explore the current Facebook and Instagram algorithms next.

What the current Facebook and Instagram algorithms favor

Social media algorithms are automated ways to order social media content on your feed. Each user experiences different outcomes of the algorithm based on who they follow on social media and how often and how much they engage with others' content. Algorithms generally favor the amount of engagement on a piece of content, as well as how much you tend to engage with that users' content.

The Facebook algorithm

The Facebook algorithm prioritizes the following:

  • Content from people you engage with the most on their platform.

  • Content from friends and family members over businesses.

  • The amount and length of comments.

  • The number of reactions (likes, loves, etc.)

  • Video content over static or text-only content.

In 2021, Facebook is favoring Groups, pushing more users to join groups and updating moderator tools for group administrators. They're also favoring Events in 2021, which makes total sense considering the very virtual nature of our world right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook also introduced Messenger Rooms in Groups and Events, further building out these two features around bringing people together.

How to beat the Facebook algorithm in 2021:

Here are some strategies to adopt this year to make sure your content is prioritized on Facebook:

  • Post content that encourages people to comment, and facilitate conversations in your comments section.

  • Ask questions and post engagement social media templates to inspire conversation.

  • Try out Facebook video.

  • Try out any new features on Facebook and any features that Facebook makes updates to. Generally, if a platform is spending time and money bolstering a feature, their algorithm also favors it.

The Instagram algorithm

The Instagram algorithm prioritizes the following:

  • Reels, Stories, and IGTV. There's now a dedicated tab for Reels on the Instagram menu.

  • Posts from profiles that a user usually engages with.

  • Recent posts.

  • Posts with the highest amount of engagement (likes, comments, shares, saves).

  • Posts using any hashtags that a user follows.

  • Content that meets their baseline standards for content recommendation.

A note on business content on Instagram:

There has been speculation in the past that Instagram favors personal content over business content, or vice versa. However, Instagram has not confirmed this either way. It is believed that Insagram treats brand and consumer content equally on their platform.

How to beat the Instagram algorithm in 2021:

Here are some strategies to adopt this year to ensure your content is prioritized on Instagram:

  • Reply to all comments on your posts within a few hours after you post.

  • Experiment with your hashtag strategy.

  • Create and post content that users would want to save for later. Encourage users to save your content.

  • Create and post content that users would want to share with friends and family. Encourage users to share your content.

  • Be mindful when writing captions. Ask questions to encourage conversations on your post.

  • Experiment with Reels, Stories, and IGTV. Instagram currently favors these content types on their platform.

The new social media metrics you need to focus on

So how are you supposed to measure the success of your social media posts if the relevance of likes is fading away? Ultimately, a like is the lowest form of engagementit doesn’t automatically translate to your audience buying your product or even visiting your website. There are plenty of other metrics you can use.

Here are some of the other metrics you should start paying attention to on Facebook and Instagram:

  • The number of comments on a post, as well as the length and quality of those comments.

  • The number of shares and saves (AKA bookmarks) on a post.

  • The number of URL clicks.

  • Post total audience reach.

  • The number of followers that you have, and that number in comparison to the amount of engagement (primarily shares and saves) you receive.

With these metrics in mind, we hope you can start re-evaluating the way you judge the success of your marketing. Likes will still stick around for at least a little while longer, since Instagram and Facebook both are in the test runs of hiding away this feature.

Still unsure of how to measure the success of your marketing? Ripl makes it easy to track your engagement numbers for any post that you create! Get started with a free trial today.


BONUS: Spread the word about algorithm changes on Instagram with these social media post templates:

Instagram algorithm story to share info about beating the Instagram algorithm
Instagram algorithm post


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