Much has been said these past couple years about the algorithms various social media platforms have created. With this, comes a sense of resignation from many non-profits fearing that to be effective on social media, it means one has to pay to play. But not so fast. What if you could beat the algorithm by putting the social back into social media?

As a reminder, social media without social is just media, and that’s the difference between a monologue and a dialogue. When one’s social media feed becomes nothing more than a junk mail folder filled with an endless amount of sales pitches or asks for money, it’s no wonder more and more money is being poured into pay to play in an effort to reach more people.

That said, who wants to play in their junk mail folders anyway? Even more so, why would you be filling your social media news feed up with an endless amount of asks.

What Is An Algorithm?

In its simplest form, defining an algorithm has been explained by writer Jacob Brogan as, “An algorithm is a set of guidelines that describe how to perform a task.” I love it when someone can make something that is complex sounding just a little bit easier to understand. Yet, with algorithms, it’s not always so black and white.

Facebook Makes Meaningful Interaction A Priority

In the world of social media platforms and their business models, defining task, of course, can be a little grey in definition. For certain, adding a touch of grey to the meaning is their need to drive profits, but balancing that in a way where the social media platform remains social and viable to users, is oftentimes, a little more grey.

On January 11, 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be changing its News Feed algorithm to prioritize friends, family and groups. With this, Zuckerberg instructed his team to shift their algorithm priority from helping people find relevant content to helping people have meaningful interactions.

Did you just read what happened there?

Too often than not, non-profits will utilize social media without the social by virtually making their pages all about events, fundraising campaigns, and even super cool videos telling stories about their work. None of this is bad, but does it inspire meaningful interaction? One could argue that it does, however as people scroll through their newsfeed at an astounding 72 feet per day, do these posts stop them and cause them to interact?

Or, do they simply scroll on by?

In this world of social media, one is no longer just competing against other-said non-profits within your same or similar sector in a quest for eyeballs and dollars, one is now competing against the feed as a whole. How do you stand out? Are you standing out?

Standing Out On Social Media, What Stops You?

Too often, too much of the same creates something called image fatigue. As people make a split-second call as to whether they plan to stop and engage a post, they will gauge that on a lot of varying aspects of the post or simply put, post aesthetics. Even if they haven’t seen that specific post before, if it looks just like the last 5 posts, fatigue can kick in rather quickly resulting in scrolling past the post.

Been there, done that.

To beat the algorithm, one must beat the feed by standing out. And this often times means, disrupting your own feed. Does your feed awaken others or put them to sleep? Does your feed inspire meaningful interaction or does it read like a junk mail folder When is the last time you audited your own social media news feed? Did you perform this task on laptop, tablet and smart phone?

To stand out in the feed, believe it or not, post aesthetics do matter. Are you a “72 feet” per day person? What stops you when you scroll your feed of family, friends, and others? Let’s face it, for the most part, people are not waking up each day and asking themselves, I wonder what said non-profit posted on Facebook today? Instead, people are discovering your content, even though they have subscribed to it, as they themselves, scroll their feed. As more people engage your posts, the more people your posts will organically be delivered to within their own News Feeds.

Did you see what just happened there?

It’s no longer about simply posting what “you believe” is relevant content on your social media pages and then sitting back waiting for the masses to find you. If it doesn’t inspire meaningful interaction, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to be seen. That is, unless you want to pay to play. But even then, a lot of money is being spent to stand out in the feed on posts that miss the all-too important point of, does this post inspire meaningful interaction?

Truth be told, for many, reactions (likes) were once at the top of the hill for post measurements, now it’s all about post comments and then of course, shares that lead the way.

Ideas For Beating Social Media Algorithms

Here are 5 ideas to consider for beating the algorithm and breaking through to your audience. But, before we list these 5 ideas, if you haven’t already, please read our previous post which asks the question, “Is Your Non-Profit Making Impact? Does Anyone Know?

That post will set the foundation for creating a roadmap to which you will have an endless supply of content (driven from your website) to then share effectively on your social media feeds.

Get Rewarded, Keep It Native

Based on our analysis of many of the social media newsfeed placement algorithms, one specific thing seems to get you rewarded with reach more than anything else. Native content. What that means is that if you share content that natively resides on that platform, thus keeping the user on the social network even if they click, that gets rewarded with more placement, views and reach.

For Example: Share videos that reside on Facebook, rather than doing a post that links out to YouTube. Create video and graphic content and upload it to the social network, then share it. You’ll be rewarded for doing so.

What Stops You?

Take a few minutes with your team to scroll through your own personal social media feeds. But in doing this, be mindful of what stops you. But don’t stop there, take note of what not only stops you, but also leads you to interact? Remember, 72 feet of scrolling per day on a smart phone is your competition. How will you stand out?

Make Call To Action A Call To Interaction

Too often, social media can be viewed as a place to close the deal instead of a place to nurture the audience. Think about how you word each post. For certain, it does have to be relevant, but, does it inspire meaningful interaction? Ask a question by seeking to engage your audience and even allow for people to engage each other. As platforms like Facebook prioritize meaningful interaction, it might be a good idea if we did too. That is, if we want to beat the algorithm. By inspiring comments and interaction, it will ensure your post will be organically delivered to even more people.

On a side note, if a visitor sees a post with a lot of comments, what message does that potentially send to them about your non-profit? Words like engaged and passionate community come to mind. If people want a sense of belonging, then this is a great aesthetic to present. Also, if you want to drive people to your website (or eco-system) using social media, you first need to stop them as they scroll, and then you need to inspire them to interaction. Just because you are being seen, doesn’t always mean you are being heard.

Be Consistent

As a form of due diligence, people do look to social media presence as way to gauge the life of an organization. Is that organization consistent with fresh and relevant content that inspires community engagement? Or, is their social media page sporadic with no real rudder to be seen? In the world of algorithms consistency matters. In a world of 72 feet per day scrolling, having a front of mind strategy does too.

Be Social

According to, did you know that 95% of all posts people make on brand pages walls are NOT responded to? If there is one way to standout in the feed, perhaps making it a priority to respond to posts, comments, reviews, and messages in a timely manner is a sure-fire way to achieve it.

Think about that for a second. Are you a part of the 5% or the 95%? By being social, it all but ensures that you are putting the social back into social media and that you value these tools for more than a monologue. People like that and if they are passionate about what you do, they will in turn, respond to it.

Crowdsourcing User Generated Content

“I don’t have enough time or resources to keep up” is often the complaint we hear when working with non-profit organizations of all sizes from around the world. One way to reallocate this perception is by inspiring meaningful interaction with your practitioners and influencers offline to leverage their content online. With this, it’s the best of both worlds in that you get more content to share and you get to include your community by partnering with them to share your collective story. And guess what? They will in-turn share with all of their friends too, once posted online.

Beating The Algorithm Takes Being Intentional

Are you intentional with how you are using social media to effectively tell your story? How effective is your story being told? To answer this, scroll your feed and ask these questions:

Are we keeping people ON the platform itself?
Are we stopping people?
Are they Interacting with us?