Although there aren’t any magic formulas for driving content virality, one thing is certain: Your content has to be seen. That’s why so many marketers are trying to decipher the social media algorithms that determine where their content will be positioned in social media feeds.

Social media networks are mostly close-lipped about the details of their algorithms, even though they’ll occasionally offer clues about what they prioritize. But since the algorithms are constantly changing, marketers often have to play catch-up after the fact to see which tactics worked better than others. 

The good news is that you don’t need expert knowledge of each social media network’s algorithm. Based on what other brands have learned from testing and data analytics, a number of universal strategies have emerged that will help your content perform better on all of the social media networks. 

Aim for Engagement

Social media algorithms reward engagement. So, what are the best ways to engage your readers and viewers? Ask questions!

If you’re a fashion brand, why not showcase an array of items and ask followers to choose their favorite? Or consider asking your followers to offer suggestions for a new product. A couple of post-formats to try include polls or fill-in-the-blank posts to get feedback and encourage interaction.

People love to divulge their opinions on social media, and the answers often turn into conversations that get shared.

Use Hashtags to Improve Your Visibility in Search

When you assign hashtags to your post, you’re essentially including it in a searchable category. Anyone interested in that category will have a better chance of finding your post, extending your potential reach to a broader segment of the platform’s user base.

Learn which hashtags are most likely to bring traffic to your content. When you search for a hashtag on Instagram, the search feed reports the number of times it’s been used in posts. But know that if the hashtag isn’t relevant to your brand or your message, you won’t see quality visitors. 

There are tons of online resources that can help you identify appropriate hashtags. But don’t neglect your competitors’ feeds when you do your research. Pay attention to which hashtags they’re using and how specific tags impacted their engagement.

Post at High-Traffic Times

On the various social media networks, engagement ebbs and flows on specific days of the week and certain times of the day. Luckily, it’s easy to find free online resources that tell you the optimal times to post on social media.

Here’s what the reports say about the best days and times to post on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn[1]:

  • Instagram: The best day to post is Tuesday, and the worst day is Sunday. The best times to post are late morning Monday-Friday, and from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Twitter: The best day to post is Wednesday. The worst day to post is Saturday. The best times to post are Wednesday, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
  • LinkedIn: The best days to post are Tuesday and Wednesday. The worst day to post is Sunday. The best times to post are Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – noon.

Of course, the best timing can and does fluctuate. For example, COVID-19 lockdowns, furloughs, and quarantines in 2020 increased the amount of time people spent on social media and the times they were using it. Periodically, check to see if the optimal posting times have changed.

Post Frequently and Strategically

The more often you post on social media, the more likely you’ll be rewarded by the algorithms. There isn’t much danger of posting too often.

However, what you post matters. Developing a content calendar forces you to think strategically about what you want to publish and how it will relate to subsequent content you plan to post. A calendar will also keep you accountable for having the content ready to publish as needed.

Prepare More Video Content

Video content is heavily rewarded by social media algorithms, and research supports that:

  • The majority of people want marketers to produce more video.[2]
  • Video is more engaging than text or photos[3], especially when it triggers an emotional response.[4]
  • The most common way for people to find new brands and products is through video on social media.[5]
  • Video on social media generates 1200% more shares than the combination of both text and images.[6]

When creating video content, note that videos less than two minutes in length generate the most engagement,[7] and only 37% of viewers watch to the end.[8] You have to capture your audience’s attention very quickly.

Also be aware that the algorithms favor native video (videos that show on the user’s feed) rather than links to other sites.

Content Virality First Depends on Content Visibility

No matter how entertaining, surprising, inspiring, or informative your content is, if people can’t find it, it won’t go viral. Recognizing what social media algorithms are looking for can improve the odds that your content will be prominently featured in the feed and shared widely throughout the network.