Back to blog

Social Media Algorithms: No Seriously, Keep Reading

Priya Patel
25 July 2017
Social Media Algorithms: No Seriously, Keep Reading

Algorithms may seem like some strange voodoo magic 8 ball, but they are the trend in how content is displayed in social media.

Since their founding, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have all overhauled how content is presented to users. Going from chronological to algorithmic doesn't mean the end of the world for your theatre's social media campaigns - you just need to make some changes and tweaks to keep eyes on your content.

Algorithms Focus on Users

Simply, algorithms are a set processes or steps that computers execute. In other words, given a certain set of conditions, a computer program will deliver a certain output based on the algorithm. What this means for social media platforms such as Facebook, is that they can provide content that is linked to behaviour, and is likely what the user wants to see.

Social Media is all about Engagement because of Algorithms

In the early days, social media content was presented in chronological order. Now with algorithms, this has completely changed. Let's take a look at a few different types of social media platforms, and the algorithms that underpin them. Even if you are a theatre, festival or arts organisation that only uses minimal social media marketing, say posting on Facebook, understanding these algorithms can help you create better content.

Facebook: Engagement and Relevance

Facebook's algorithm changes extremely fast. But it is still based upon how often, and how much users engage with a post. How often it is liked or hidden, what is the level or depth of engagement and its overall performance. Based on the above, your focus needs to be on engaging and relevant content for your given target. Keep in mind that Facebook hides posts that it deems are not relevant - so again it pays to focus on engagement within Facebook. Consider how you can incorporate more photos and videos of upcoming shows for example. Maybe look at Facebook drives for fundraising objectives. Likes and comments are the name of the game in Facebook and getting your audiences to engage.

Twitter: Relevance and Followers

Twitter still offers a chronological tweet timeline, but the platform is moving to algorithms as well. The "Tweets You Missed While You Were Away" feature promote certain tweets based on relevance. While this feature can be turned off (it is not straightforward), it is important to note that most people don't look at twitter constantly. That means, when people do open the app, you want your tweets to be in the select "Tweets You Missed" top section. As with Facebook, promoted tweets are based on relevance and engagement. For arts organisations that means looking at what your audiences have engaged with. Was it the tweet with the show reel? Was it the box office staff picture? Was it a post about fundraising for your theatre refurbishment?Algorithms reward high-performance users, since the more people who engage with an update, the more often that users updates will be promoted, thereby amplifying the effect of popularity.

Instagram: Relevance

As Instagram's user base has grown it made sense to move to a more algorithmic based approach to posts. So rather than a chronological onslaught of posts, users see relevant posts based on their past behaviour or posts they have engaged with. While posts are not hidden in Instagram (like they are in Facebook), it still will force business to focus on engagement and relevance. These are just a few examples of social media platforms that have changed, but the broader expectation is that they will all move to this sort of idea.

What About Organic Reach in this Context?

Good question. With algorithms playing such a heavy part in promotion, organic reach for your arts organisation becomes more difficult. But it really depends on how relevant and engaging you can make your content. Ticket discount offers and show or festival promotion posts will work - to a point. Your audiences are interested in your theatre or festival - engage them with great behind the scenes content. Encourage more user generated content and content that matters to your audiences.

Algorithms Mean New Users = New Eyes for Your Content

Social media companies are not employing algorithms for nothing - they are trying to get new users onto their platforms. This of course presents challenges, but also presents a great opportunity for you! Learning how these algorithms work (and more importantly how you can harness their effect) is vital. As social media platforms increase their new user base, your box office can access new patrons too. The algorithm based social media trend is not perfect. Many complain that their target audience can miss even relevant tweets. Or that it allows businesses to "game the system" (tweet what they believe the algorithm will like). While this is true, I cannot see platforms reverting back to non-algorithmic based systems. For one, it improves their users experience, and two, it encourages new users to try the platform through filtered content. Finally, and I think we can all agree to this one, it helps to screen out a lot of content noise for everyone. The upshot for your arts business is that you have to make content that is relevant and engaging for your target audience. Try and look at user generated content. Don't throw out ticket sale after ticket sale - try and really connect to your audience and use those algorithms to your advantage. Remember - algorithms change all the time. And so must your marketing.

Back to blog


View More

Sign up for regular updates