Cracking The Code: Social Media Algorithms Explained

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Imagine having the blueprint to what makes content not just seen, but truly noticed. Why do some posts capture hearts and minds, leading to viral success, while others don’t connect and largely go unseen? The secret lies in the enigmatic world of social media algorithms themselves. We’re here to demystify this for you. 

This article is more than a guide; it’s a window into the future of your social media journey. Whether you’re an influencer seeking to elevate your presence or a brand looking to harness the power of influencer partnerships, these insights can hopefully lead to some little changes that will be the difference between winning and losing. At NeoReach, we blend data-driven strategies with creative storytelling to transform the social media narrative. Let’s dive into some key learnings that have been working for us.

How Do Social Media Algorithms Work?

Social media algorithms play a crucial role in determining the visibility and reach of your content. Understanding these algorithms can significantly enhance your social media strategy.

Here’s a breakdown of how these algorithms generally work:

  • Initial Distribution: When you post content, the platform shows it to a small percentage of your followers and some non-followers whose interests align with your content. 
  • First Evaluation = Watch Time and Engagement: The algorithm acts as a gatekeeper, evaluating your content based on two key factors:
    1. Watch Time: This refers to how long people watch your content. Longer watch times are favored because they indicate that users are engaged, and they also increase the potential for ad revenue for the platform.
    2. Engagements: Shares, Saves, Comments, Likes (IN THIS ORDER) They signal that your content is engaging and worth spreading to a wider audience.
  • Further Distribution Based on Performance: If your content performs well in terms of watch time and engagement among the initial audience, the algorithm opens the door to a larger audience. This process continues, with each stage of distribution dependent on the performance at the previous stage.

To maximize the chances of your content being favored by the algorithm, focus on creating content that engages viewers and encourages interactions such as likes, comments, and shares. Go as far as calling out the desired action in the end of your video.

Try something like “If you found this video helpful, consider sharing with a friend” or “Be sure to save this video so you don’t forget it.” 

Knowing these rules is like knowing the rules of a game – it helps you strategize better. The biggest ‘cheat code’ to winning in this algorithm game is to consistently produce content that holds viewers’ attention and encourages engagement. This approach helps your content pass through more ‘gatekeepers’ of the algorithm, thus reaching a broader audience.

Zooming In On Watch Time

Next, let’s take a deeper dive into Watch Time. As mentioned earlier, this metric refers to how long people watch your content. Longer watch times are favored because they indicate that users are engaged, and they also increase the potential for ad revenue for the platform. So it’s no surprise that if your content keeps people engaged, the algorithms will reward it with more views. 

Analyze Your Watch Time Metrics:

Both on Instagram and TikTok, you can view the average watch time for each of your videos. Comparing this number with the total length of your video is crucial. High average watch time relative to the video length indicates successful audience retention. If the average watch time is low, it’s a sign to reevaluate your content’s approach, like its script or editing style.

Benchmarking Success:

  • For videos 15 seconds or less, aim for 100% watch time.
  • For videos lasting 16-30 seconds, target at least 75% watch time.
  • For videos longer than 31 seconds, strive for at least 50% watch time.

The first 3 seconds of your video are critical in capturing attention. This is why using “viral hooks” is extremely important. Stay tuned, we will cover viral hooks in depth in a future article. 

Try Implementing These Best Practices:

  1. Jump Cuts: Use jump cuts to remove any redundant parts like mistakes, pauses, and hesitations. This creates a rhythmic flow that keeps the viewer engaged.
  2. Subtitles: Since a large portion of viewers watch videos without sound, subtitles are vital. They should be clear and positioned appropriately. Try a tool like Submagic or Veed which will automatically append captions to your video. 
  3. Vocal Variety: Avoid a monotone delivery. Vary your vocal pitch and tone to keep the audio experience dynamic and engaging.
  4. Suspense: Create suspense to keep viewers hooked. The promise of important information or a key reveal at the end of the video can encourage viewers to watch through to the end. 

By understanding the emphasis on watch time and implementing these techniques, you can significantly improve your content’s performance on social media platforms, leading to greater reach and engagement.

Watch Time Hack – Focus on Creating Short, Engaging Videos with Compelling Captions

Here’s a little hack to try courtesy of Instagram creator @Gannon.Meyer. By implementing this strategy, your content aligns better with what the algorithm rewards – higher watch percentages and increased engagement – thereby potentially enhancing your content’s reach and visibility on the platform. The strategy in a nutshell involves creating short-length videos with lengthy captions and using a call-to-action within the video to direct the user’s attention to read the caption as the video plays. 

  1. Optimize Video Length: Aim for videos that are under 15 seconds long. This brief duration is more likely to keep viewers engaged throughout the entire video.
  2. Encourage Caption Interaction: Direct viewers to read the caption. This can be done through a prompt in the video or through the content itself.
  3. Leverage Dual Engagement: As users read your caption, your video continues to play in the background. This increases the likelihood that viewers will watch the entire video, thus improving your watch percentage.
  4. Understand the Impact: Short videos with engaging captions tend to maintain viewer attention, leading to a better performance graph. This graph shows a higher watch percentage over the video length, which is favored by Instagram’s algorithm.

Using Ads Strategically To Grow

In this final section, we explore how boosting high-engagement posts can significantly extend your reach and how drawing inspiration from competitors can refine your advertising approach, turning your social media efforts into a catalyst for growth and increased follower engagement. This strategy involves a small investment into ads, but as long as you’re focused on the end goal it should be well worth the spare change.

Boosting High-Engagement Posts for Broader Reach

The journey begins with identifying your top-performing content – the one that has struck a chord with your audience. This is the content that resonates with your followers, making it your golden ticket. Dive into your account analytics and target any of your content that has an 8% to 10% engagement-to-view ratio

Next, harness the power of Instagram’s ‘Boost Post’ feature. You can also do this on TikTok as well. By investing a modest budget (like $20 over four days), you can propel this high-engagement post into a wider orbit. The rationale is simple: a post that has already proven its appeal is likely to continue garnering attention, particularly when shown to an audience with similar interests. Boosting a high-engagement post is not just about reaching more eyes; it’s about leveraging existing appeal. Posts that resonate well are more likely to attract new followers, making your investment count.

Drawing Inspiration from Competitor Ads

Another tactic is to play the role of a digital detective. Scope out competitors or influencers within your niche. Their profiles are treasure troves of insight, especially their active ads. On their Instagram profile, find the ‘Active Ads’ section. This is where you get a sneak peek into their current advertising strategies. What you find here is a goldmine of ideas and tactics that are already working in your niche.

The goal here isn’t to mimic but to be inspired. Observe the themes, styles, and concepts that are resonating with their audience. Then, take these elements and weave them into your unique narrative. This approach is about understanding the market trends and adapting them to enhance your creative expression. With these fresh ideas, craft your ads. Keep a keen eye on their performance. It’s all about testing, learning, and evolving.

How to view active ads on instagram

By boosting high-engagement posts and drawing inspiration from competitors, you can effectively increase your visibility and follower count. Remember, Social Media is not just about posting; it’s about posting with purpose and strategy. So, ready your content, set your budgets, and watch as your follower count climb.

Wrapping Things Up

For influencers and brands alike, understanding the nuances of watch time, engagement, and strategic ad use is not just beneficial, it’s essential in carving out a significant presence in the crowded social media landscape. This journey through the mechanics of social media success illuminates a path towards creating content that doesn’t just exist but thrives and resonates. Remember that each piece of content you create is an opportunity to connect, to influence, and to leave an indelible mark on your audience. Armed with these insights and strategies, the digital stage is yours to conquer, one engaging post at a time.

Interested in learning more? Use the contact form below and schedule some time to chat with us or check out our case studies. It’s our job to know these things and use that knowledge to help our creators and our brand partners and we’d be happy to help you too.

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