Monday, 18 October 2021 10:51

What are social media algorithms and how do they work?

By  [Source: This article was published in birminghammail.co.uk By Jack Gevertz]

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have mechanisms in place to rank what you see

When you’re scrolling through a social media website, you may have come across a funny cat video or seen something from a famous comedian.

We may decide to comment or share that hilarious footage from a feline or a quick gag from a stand-up comic so those who we know can check it out too.

With the potential for that material to go big online, we all could be only a few clicks away from seeing something popular.

But how does Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter decide what material you will see in your main feeds and how exactly does this technology work? Here’s what we know...

What are social media algorithms and how do they work?

Deciding whether you see some funny cat footage on Facebook or a viral video on Twitter comes down to the algorithms used by the social media companies.

Some, though, don’t call it an algorithm. Instead, they say the process is more complex and involves a range of factors.

Facebook: What is its social media algorithm?

Facebook starts the process of choosing what a user sees based on what it calls ‘candidate posts’. Essentially, these are posts that may appear in an individual’s feed.

There can be thousands of these so-called ‘candidate posts’. As Facebook goes through each ‘candidate post’, it reduces it down to just a few hundred. It’s up to the algorithm to pick out and determine what’s the most relevant to that individual and what that person is going to most likely want to see as they’re scrolling through. That’s based on factors such as who you follow and engage with, and it goes on in the background. 

There is more to it than just a simple algorithm or system. In fact, the technology used by Facebook has multiple layers which detect things like misinformation articles and clickbait, hopefully, so those things are not shown on that person’s feed.

Instagram: What is its social media algorithm?

The popular photo-sharing app, Instagram, rejects the notion it has just one algorithm, as it says it uses a mixture of algorithms, classifiers and processors to establish what an individual sees.

What shows up will depend on which part of the app the user is using. For example, Instagram Stories posts will vary to those seen on Instagram Explore or Instagram Reels.

A lot of the algorithms, classifiers, and processors used are similar in different parts of the app, but the exact information, photos or videos you’ll see will depend on what section you’re viewing.

Take the main feed and Instagram Stories, for example. The way posts are shown depends firstly on working out what we want to rank. Known as ‘signals’, the app then takes information from what was posted, those who have posted, and their preferences. This can include the time you used the app and what videos you have liked or commented on. The Instagram system, working in the background, then makes a prediction on what content you’re most likely to engage with.

Twitter: What is its social media algorithm?

The main feed on Twitter will show posts from accounts you follow, and sponsored messages, and those posts that are recommended to you.

To work out what recommended posts and other posts to show you, it looks at what it calls ‘signals’ - which is similar to Instagram - where it examines the popularity of a post and how your network is interacting with them.

[Source: This article was published in birminghammail.co.uk By Jack Gevertz - Uploaded by the Association Member: Joshua Simon]

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