Yes, it’s true. When your organization produces content that really engages on social media, the social media gods will reward you. It’s not just one social channel. Every major social media platform is aggregating, selecting and serving customized content based on user prior preferences. What’s that mean for nonprofit social channels? It’s time to be sure you’re doing the real work of sharing content and engaging in conversations around what your stakeholders care about most.

In the last six months, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram have announced major changes to the way that they provide content for users. Along with Facebook, they show stories and users based on the user’s interests and historical interaction with certain content and friends.

Here’s what you need to know about social media algorithm priorities on major social channels:

1. The most engaging content on Facebook stays in front of your fans the longest, and is shared the most. Facebook will likely prioritize your content to your fans’ feeds if your fans spend time reading it, interacting with it, and reacting to it. (For those who want to know details, Slate published a lengthy article about the inside workings of the Facebook’s news feed algorithm team in January 2016.)

2. Twitter turned on its algorithmic timeline in March 2016. Twitter now shows its users content they are likely to care about most at the top of their timelines. This is based on the accounts they interact with most, Tweets they engage with most, and user behavior.

3. Instagram announced that it is moving away from showing posts in reverse chronological order. Instead, Instagram is now showing users the content they are most likely interested in viewing, based on interaction with user and timeliness of the post. In other words, Instagram (owned by Facebook) now uses an engagement algorithm to serve posts.

4. This March, LinkedIn revealed that FollowFeed, which powers their newsfeed, “aggregates content created by entities in which they are interested. An entity can be another member, a company, an educational institution etc.” In other words, FollowFeed algorithm is based on user interactions.

If you still believe social media is about sharing what your nonprofit is doing, you’re wrong. It never has been, yet so many organizations use it this way. Rampant misuse is fueled by the many overworked nonprofit staffers whose superiors tell them to “get the word out” and “share our upcoming event through social media.” Copying a link, adding asking folks to do something, and pressing send is easy. Right?

Time out of our busy work day to copy and paste, less than 3 minutes. Time spent re-engaging alienated fans? Far greater.

Social media isn’t an email list. It’s social. It’s about both parties in the conversation.

These changes to the social media algorithms are hammering home the need for engaging content and conversation. If your content isn’t engaging, then your social media channel will never successfully attract or convert fans. If it was engaging but is no longer…then you’re likely feeling the effects right now.

It’s great that social channels are customizing our content to our needs. It only makes it more of a reward when you find that sweet spot as an organizational entity using social media. The intersection of organizational needs and stakeholder interest is the engagement.

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