How to exploit the social media algorithms

In this article, we’ll dive into how the social media algorithms work, why they’re important to your digital marketing strategy, and, most importantly, how you can get them to work for you.

At Red Ant Media, we know that digital marketers need social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. There’s no way around it. Facebook and Instagram are the biggest players in the digital marketing game with Facebook being number one by a long shot and Instagram number four. If you want to run a successful marketing campaign in today’s world, you’ll need to work with Facebook and Instagram algorithms to get the most return on investment (ROI) in your advertising.

You probably have an idea about the size and scale of Facebook and Instagram. These entities, now under the umbrella company “Meta,” are both owned by Mark Zuckerberg, and his wealth and influence are often splashed around headlines in the news. However, the enormity of these platforms is not the real issue. The real issue is working with Facebook and Instagram algorithms to use metrics such as engagement, audience type, and content type to push a high-quality static ad creative into someone’s personal Facebook (FB) or Instagram (IG) feed.

FB and IG (and billionaire Zuckerberg) know how valuable their spaces are, and if you want to advertise on them, you have to play by their rules. And guess what, they have rigged their rules to work in their favour. Who would’ve thought? Their “rules” are what are called algorithms. And algorithms run the show. I am sure you’ve heard the word tossed around before.

So how do you get around their blockades and algorithms? How do you get a leg up on the competition when everyone is in the same place playing by the same rules? How can you get an edge in this advertising jungle without throwing obscene amounts of money at it? And also, how do Facebook and Instagram algorithms even work?

What is an algorithm?

As I mentioned before, algorithms are like rules for a computer. Quite literally, actually.

“An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” — Oxford Languages Dictionary

Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm decides what content the user sees when they open and scroll through the platform. Obviously, behind the scenes, there is a complex system of code where these algorithms consider aspects of users’ online behaviour. The algorithm turns its “observations” into data and then uses it to predict its users’ future decisions. Facebook and Instagram algorithms then display what content it thinks users want to see in their feeds to keep them engaged until they click the “Buy Now” button.

For digital marketers, you want to be on the other side of that “Buy Now” button. It’s why you got into this game in the first place. Therefore, you want to make the algorithm your best friend. You want to get to know the algorithm. You want to know everything about our new friend.

Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm is all about trust signals. It wants the consumer to buy products, and its job is to figure out the most efficient way to do that. It has to figure out what products its users “trust.” The algorithm wants them to keep spending time on the platform to figure out what pages and products they like and trust and keep putting those products in front of them.

Understanding the trust signals is the key to understanding how the algorithm makes decisions. Then you can learn to use those trust signals to get them to work for you.

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So how do you use Facebook and Instagram algorithms to your advantage?

A common term in digital marketing is using the word “hack,” as in, “Here’s how to hack the Facebook and Instagram algorithms.” However, hacking implies that you have insider knowledge on how the algorithm works, and not many people have that knowledge. Therefore, for our purposes, “hacking” the Facebook and Instagram algorithms refers to learning how to use the algorithm to your full advantage. That advantage involves developing a strategic, well-defined approach focusing on five major points:

  • Having a Strong Plan
  • Knowing Your Target Audience
  • Customizing Your Content
  • Testing and Evaluating
  • Optimizing and Tracking

With these five points in your marketing plan, you will be able to maximize how FB and IG use your ads. Let’s get into the specifics of each topic.

Have a strong plan

As we mentioned, having a well-defined plan is essential to any business success, and a marketing strategy to optimize your FB and IG ads is no different. You will need to:

  • Define your objectives
  • Decide if Facebook and Instagram are the right platforms for your product or service 
  • Figure out what your budget will be
  • Most importantly, defining your target audience that you want FB and IG to find and display your ads to

Having a plan for how to use Facebook and Instagram algorithms to your advantage is vital. A good plan will keep you on the right track, even if your project needs to be changed slightly.

The planning process can be daunting and time consuming. Red Ant Media is here to help with our informative guide to creating your entire marketing plan.

Know your target audience

Target audience knowledge is integral to getting the most return on investment when advertising on FB and IG. You will want to spend time researching this aspect as best you can. If you don’t have your target audience adequately defined, FB and IG will be targeting people who don’t want to buy your product, which means your ROI will be negligible.

The algorithm needs to find your target audience

When describing your target audience, break down the specific behaviours, interests, and demographics of your ideal customer, and find the most relevant keywords that they would use to describe your product. The keywords are important because the algorithm will display your ads or website when the customer uses them to search.

Customize your content for your target audience

After you know who your target audience is, you’ll need to figure out what to say to them so that they engage with your ad and buy your product or service. Many seemingly small variables need to be customized, and they can make a big difference in converting your target audience. Some of those variables include:

  • What pictures to use
  • Fonts, colours, text size, etc.
  • Phrasing and word order
  • Headline vs. subtitle and which wording works best for each
A/B test to see what the algorithm prefers

You will need to A/B test many different variations of all of the above points to see which resonate the most with your target audience. You can apply A/B testing to each of your ad’s primary areas: the headline, link description, and the call to action (CTA).

When writing the copy for your ads, remember to address the pain points your product will solve and offer social proof that your product works. For example, the headline could read: “Our funnel templates will get you tons of new clients,” followed by: “Recommended by 1000s of users.”

Test and evaluate

Here is where you figure out how to get Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm to work for you. You test your customers’ preferences by sending them variations of ads and using the algorithm to evaluate what works.

This aspect must be done continuously—every day until you have found the sweet spot. By testing and re-testing, you will learn more about your target audience. When you find something that works, you have found a critical piece of information about your customer base that you can use for future ads. Then you can scale these ads based on that information because the FB and IG algorithm will find thousands, maybe even millions, more customers for you.

The more you test, the better the algorithms will work

The more work put into your testing and evaluation, the better your return on investment will be. It takes time to figure out the information best suited for your target market, but when you do, the algorithm will work for you and find more like-minded customers.

Optimize and track your data

Collecting data, tracking it, and then optimizing that data is the last piece of this puzzle. Getting data and information at each touchpoint along the path will allow you to see where any breakdowns might be, allowing you to optimize your marketing efforts.

Your tracking and optimization efforts will be supported by Facebook’s conversion application programming interface (API) along the way. According to Facebook, advertisers can use FB’s conversion API to:

  • Decrease your cost per action with increased connectivity.
  • Share data with FB more reliably than traditional browser-based methods.
  • Help improve the accuracy of information sent for targeting, measurement, and optimization.
  • Measure customer actions in more ways, giving you more insight into your customer’s journey.
  • Give you more control of the data you share and when you share it.
  • Access more insights into your customers throughout the marketing funnel process.

Conversion API sends the data you capture from your tools and platforms to the Facebook Ads Manager. It will also support your tracking efforts alongside Google Analytics, Data Studio, and any other software you use at your company.

Having the right data will optimize the Facebook and Instagram algorithms

The data you now have available will be vital to building your sales funnel and supporting your campaign optimizations.

Campaign optimization is the process you will take to improve your ad campaigns to increase their performance, whether converting sales, signing up for email lists, acquiring likes, or whatever their primary focus may be. Some items to consider when optimizing your campaigns are:

  • Choosing the right campaign objective: Selecting the wrong objective could be a big reason your campaign is not working, as it will affect ad delivery and bidding optimizations. Try to pick the campaign that is closest to your advertising goal. Campaign objectives include:
  • Awareness: Objectives that generate interest in your product or service
  • Consideration: Objectives that encourage people to look at more information about your business
  • Conversions: Objectives that encourage people to buy your product or service
  • Use ad performance data to decide on budget distribution: Figure out which ads are performing best by looking at all the data points such as costs, impressions, and cost per mille (CPM). Optimize your campaign by shutting down the underperforming ads.
  • Be sure of the pain points: If your campaign is not working as well as you’d hoped, take another look at the offer. Perhaps it’s not resonating with your audience, not addressing a pain point, or the pain point is not strong enough to convert a sale.

So how do you get the most return on investment out of Facebook and Instagram algorithms? Having a well-defined plan and feeding the correct information into Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm is the secret to getting it to work for you instead of for the people making the “rules.” If you are willing to do the work to get the correct information, the Facebook and Instagram algorithms will deliver the best results, making you more sales and money.

There are a lot of considerations that go into a marketing strategy and even more to make it a successful marketing strategy. Red Ant Media is an expert in the marketing field and knows how to get the most ROI out of advertising, especially with using the Facebook and Instagram algorithms. If you want a proven way to “hack” the Facebook and Instagram algorithms, check out our 5-Step Marketing Plan right here for free, and turn your business into a sales-generating machine.

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