Simplifying the Social Media Algorithm (N.E.C.C.)

 Photo:  @byrawpixel

Photo: @byrawpixel

I want to start this week’s blog post with a common misconception about social media and social media followers:

“If I have x number of followers (let’s say 1,000 followers), then all 1,000 of those followers will see any and everything I post.”

While this may have been true at the start of social media, the game changed a while ago and today we are going to discuss the free and organic way you can get more of your content back in front of your followers.

Recap: The 2 Sides of Social Media Marketing

In my last article, I talked about Gary Vee’s $1.80/day Instagram Marketing Challenge. In that article, I talked about how organic social media marketing has 2 sides, the engagement side, and the content creation side.

Both of these sides are equally important and each falls flat if the other isn’t executed.

The $1.80/day Challenge is a great way to gain followers and join in to the community on any social media platform. However, folks want to follow channels and pages and profiles that supply good content. So, today’s post is about how to create that “good” content that people not only want to follow but that the various social media algorithms out there want to promote.

To get us started, let me give my understanding of why the algorithms came about in the first place. 

The History of the Social Media Algorithm

When social media sites first started popping up, most used the chronological post feed. This seemed to make the most sense as people wanted to see what their friends, family, and celebrities were up to in the order that they happened. 

It made sense that if you shared a photo of your dog this morning but my sister shared a status update this afternoon that I would see her post first as it was the most recent.

However, social media platforms quickly realized that even though this method made sense, it was very easily spam-able. If I posted 100 photos all at once to my page, your entire feed would be a gallery of my photos. 

Now, even though folks had to choose to manually follow accounts to see their content, this quickly became a huge hassle and pretty annoying. Especially when businesses started moving onto social media with teams of people who could post all day long.

Now, first and foremost, Social Media platforms want one thing from you - your attention. And they will do whatever they can to keep you on and using their platform. 

With people getting frustrated at the state of the chronological feeds and choosing not to spend as much time on that social site because of how "spammy" it was getting, these platforms needed to figure out a better way to provide that timeline of content.

Thus, the “algorithm” was born.

The Social Media Algorithm - What Is It?

Over the years I have created this little acronym phrase for how to explain the notorious algorithm — N.E.C.C.

I said I would try and simplify the social media algorithm so here goes...

In order to get rid of the spammy content posted by crazy people with too much time on their hands and companies with excessive manpower, social media platforms created an algorithm to vet out all the crappy content and only put the most enjoyable content in front of the users of that social media site.

From what I understand this algorithm more or less “checks" for three things:

  • Native Content
  • Engaging Content
  • Consistent Content

“N.E.C. Content” or “N.E.C.C.”

Each and all are important to working the algorithm or “playing by the rules” of the social media platform you are using.

Native Content

Let’s think back to a point I made earlier — “social media sites will do whatever they can to keep you on and using their platform.

So, if you’re posting YouTube videos to Facebook, why would Facebook want to share your post with anyone? That takes their users away from their platform.

If you’re posting scanned word documents into Instagram, why would Instagram want to share your content? Instagram is for photos! (and now video) People on Instagram want to see visual content, not a bunch of words in an ugly feed.

My point is this if you’re going to use a certain social media platform, use it for what it was intended. Or, use its tools to share the various forms of content you want to. If you have a video and want to share it on Facebook, upload the video, don’t just share a YouTube link.

Now, there is always going to be a time when you need to share a link to an external site or video or another social platform. But make sure that you are properly working the social media algorithm first and use these non-native content pieces sparingly.

Engaging Content

In social media, engagement is KING.

“Said another way: we are a planet of publishers, but many of us are littering the landscape with content crap, squandering the whopping opportunity we have to communicate directly with those we are trying to reach.” - Ann Handly in Everybody Writes

Again, social media platforms want to keep users on and using their platform. If you are creating content that can be scrolled past, over-looked, forgotten, etc. it’s likely your posts won’t be put in front of many people. 

The idea is to get invested in the community. Get your followers, friends, and family talking and ENGAGING with your content.

So, ask questions, start discussions, post images and videos that are a bit thought-provoking. Get people commenting and make sure you reply to ALL of their comments and questions that are aimed back at you.

The more you can get good engagement on each and every post, the more your content, channel, page, or profile will be marked as “Good Content Creator” by the social media platform you are using.

This brings me to the last part of the N.E.C.C. philosophy - Consistency.

Consistent Content

Now, what good is knowing how to beat the system if you don’t utilize and take advantage of that knowledge?

Posting consistent content does two things. 

  1. It shows the algorithm that you are giving its platform the time of day. You are putting in the time and effort to help keep folks on and using that specific app or site. The more consistently you can post great quality content, the greater you will consistently have your content broadcast in front of more of your followers and audience members.
  2. It lets your followers know they can depend on and expect content at certain times on certain days every day, week, or month.

I always think of TV shows when I think about posting consistently.

There is a reason your favorite TV shows comes on a certain time and day every week. 

It allows me to say that at 8:30 every Thursday night I am unavailable because I am watching NBC’s "The Good Place”. I can expect that every Thursday, God willing, The Good Place will be on my TV screen. It’s consistent and predictable. I don’t have to search the internet every Monday morning to know what day and time the show will be on. 

You don’t want your invested followers wondering this about your content either. Whether it’s a blog post every Tuesday at 8 am, a YouTube video every Thursday at 4 pm, or an Instagram post every day at 5. 

Either your followers consciously expect that post, video, or photo at a certain time every week, or they subconsciously realize that you consistently are posting at that time. Either way, it’s consistent and predictable and is favored by both humans and algorithms.

Conclusion

So, that’s it! I hope this post can help you understand the Social Media Algorithm a little better. I know that this isn’t the perfect explanation and I’m sure I didn’t cover everything. But this is just how I have experienced the algorithm over the years and how it makes sense to me.

So, organic social media marketing consists of two things, growing an audience, and getting your content in front of them.

Properly working the algorithm is the best way to make sure your content gets in front of the folks who have “bought into what your selling” by following you. 

Making sure your content is Native, Consistent, and Engaging will help show the algorithm that your content is worth sharing.

The Discussion

Again, I know that this N.E.C.C. methodology is just formulated from my own experiences, but can anyone attest to these ideas? Have you found some of these things to be true? 

Feel free to share this post or tag someone you think is killing the organic social media marketing game and see if they agree OR if they would have any tips about the social media algorithm to share with the rest of the blog community.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll see you next week!