Cracking The Code On The Twitter Algorithm

May 06, 2022
twitter algorithm explained

The Twitter Algorithm Explained

Twitter was first launched in 2006 and has become one of the most influential social media platforms, with more than 300 million monthly active users. Twitter’s feed was structured to display tweets in reverse chronological order in the first years of operations. In 2016, Twitter implemented a content sorting algorithm to prioritize tweets “people are more likely to see.” This move was an attempt to make the platform more user-friendly and increase user engagement.

At the time, Twitter claimed that the changes would help users see “the best tweets first.” Many users were skeptical of the algorithm change. They found it frustrating they could no longer see tweets from the people they follow in chronological order. The algorithmic timeline has been a controversial feature of Twitter ever since. 

Header Image Source: Pexels

How Does The Twitter Algorithm Work?

Twitter’s algorithms are based on machine learning technologies. Many of these algorithms are used as a black box, which means that sometimes they start to act strangely, and even Twitter doesn’t know why they’re making their decisions. As a result, Twitter has launched its Responsible Machine Learning initiative.

As we had already mentioned, nowadays, Twitter gives users two options to select from “the Home” as default or “Latest Tweets”. Latest Tweets is a real-time reverse chronological timeline which is the most straightforward among the two options.

In this blog, we will focus on the default option, the algorithmic recommendations (aka “the Home”) that most people use. 

Elements of the Twitter Timeline

Twitter algorithms gather and analyze tweets to construct a personalized Timeline based on the following factors:

Ranked Tweets

Twitter has recently started to experiment with ranking tweets. The goal is to show users the tweets they’re most likely to find interesting based on their past behavior on the platform.

Twitter’s ranking algorithm considers a wide variety of factors, including engagement (likes, retweets, and replies), timeliness, and how the tweet was sent (natively in the Twitter app or through 3rd-party tweet scheduling services). It also considers the user’s interests, which Twitter identifies by tracking which other accounts they follow and what types of content they interact with on Twitter.

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI)

ICYMI is an acronym that stands for “in case you missed it.” It’s used on Twitter to highlight tweets by accounts the user interacts with often, but didn’t in this case. The algorithm behind ICYMI is designed to ensure that users don’t miss any important updates, even if they’re not constantly checking their Twitter feed. ICYMI is essentially a safeguard measure for those who miss the reverse-chronological sorting of the past.

Reverse-Chronological Tweets

Reverse-chronological tweets are tweets that are displayed in reverse chronological order. This means that the most recent tweet is shown first, and the older tweets are shown in reverse order. 

Some users prefer the Reverse Chronological Timeline because it gives them control over what they see (i.e., the most recent tweets). Other users prefer the algorithm-based timeline because it allegedly shows them more relevant and interesting content.

Reverse-chronological tweets appear last in the algorithmically sorted tweets of the modern era. 

Happening Now

If you’re wondering what those “Happening Now” tweets are on Twitter, they’re curated by an algorithm that picks out specific tweets based on engagement and popularity. This way, you can see what’s happening in the world at a glance. Of course, this algorithm isn’t perfect, and sometimes it misses things or includes things that aren’t really “happening now.” But overall, it’s a helpful way to get a quick sense of what’s going on in real-time.


One way to see what’s trending is to look at the “Trending” tab on the left-hand side of your Twitter homepage. Here, Twitter will show you a list of topics currently being talked about by users. You can also click on each topic to see more specific tweets about that subject.

Twitter’s algorithm is designed to show the most relevant and interesting tweets for each user, so the tweets that are trending will likely be different for everyone.

When you create your Twitter account, you’ll be asked to follow Topics that you’re interested in. These are prioritized in the Trending tab above others and can be edited at any time to better tailor content to your personal interests.

Twitter Algorithm Ranking Factors Explained

Twitter’s algorithm constantly changes and evolves, making it difficult to pinpoint precisely what ranking factors are weighted most heavily. However, experts generally agree that rich media, relevancy, engagement, and recency are all major factors in determining where a tweet appears in a Twitter feed. 

Rich media refers to tweets with images or videos which perform better than those without visual media. This is likely because tweets with visuals capture attention more easily and encourage people to engage with the content. To ensure your tweets are performing well, try to include an image or video whenever possible. 

Relevancy is also crucial for success on Twitter. Your tweets should be relevant to your niche audience to earn favor with the algorithm. Make sure you’re tweeting about interesting and valuable topics to your target market, and avoid straying too far off-topic. If you tweet outside of your niche too much, the algorithm may get confused about what your account’s focus is, resulting in a drop in impressions on your tweets.

Engagement is a key metric that Twitter looks at when determining feed order. The more people who interact with your tweets (by liking, retweeting, or replying), the higher up in the feed your tweets are likely to appear. To encourage engagement, tweet interesting and attention-grabbing content, and use hashtags and @mentions sparingly. 

Recency is important for ensuring your tweets don’t get buried under a ton of other content. The more recent your tweet is, the higher up it is likely to appear in the feed. To make sure your tweets are seen, try to tweet during high-traffic times or whenever your target audience is most active on Twitter. 

Using Twitter’s Algorithm To Increase Engagement 

If you’re not using Twitter’s algorithm to your advantage, you’re missing out on a lot of potential engagement.

The algorithm is designed to show users the most relevant content for them, which means that if you can get your tweets in front of the right people, you’re more likely to get engagement.

Here are a few tips for using the algorithm to increase engagement:

1. Keep Your Tweets Small: Twitter’s algorithm prioritizes shorter tweets and is more likely to be seen as informative. So, keep your tweets short and sweet.

2. Retweet High Ranking Tweets: Twitter also prioritizes accounts that share valuable content. So, make sure to retweet your best content once in a while. Retweeting your own content will allow it to be seen by more people, resulting in more engagement and thus, feeding the algorithm again.

3. Publish Threads: Using threads is another way to get around Twitter’s algorithm. Threads allow you to post a series of tweets on a single topic, making them more likely to be seen as one tweet by the algorithm.

4. Get Verified: Verified accounts are given priority in Twitter’s algorithm over non-verified accounts. So, if you want your tweets to be seen by more people, getting verified is a great way to do so.

5. Use Hashtags: Hashtags are a great way to get your tweets seen by more people. When you use a hashtag on Twitter, your tweet will appear in the search results for that specific hashtag.

6. Follow Relevant Accounts: Following relevant accounts is a great way to get your tweets seen by more people. When you follow relevant accounts, their followers will see interactions between you 2 in their timeline.

7. Use Twitter Lists: Twitter lists are a great way to organize the people you follow and the tweets you see. When you use Twitter lists, you can see all the tweets from the people on that list in one place.

8. Use Twitter Search: Twitter search is a great way to find relevant tweets. When you use Twitter search, you can see all the tweets that contain the keywords you’re searching for.

9. Promote Your Tweets: You can promote your tweets to get them seen by more people. When you promote a tweet, it will be seen by people who don’t follow you.

twitter algorithm

Twitter “Growth Hacks” You Should Avoid

Most of the articles about Twitter’s algorithms will try to explain to you what you should do to increase your activity on Twitter, but nobody will tell you what you must avoid at any cost:

1. Buying Followers

Buying followers on Twitter is generally considered bad practice. It’s important to remember that Twitter is a social platform. The whole point is to build relationships and engage with others. When you buy followers, you’re essentially creating fake relationships. These people are not interested in what you have to say or in engaging with you. Because engagement is so low, fake accounts are often quickly detected and deleted by Twitter.

2. Follow-For-Follow

Follow-for-follow is not practical for building an engaged audience.

When you follow someone just because they followed you, you’re not really engaging with that person or trying to learn from them and vice versa. It’s just a way of artificially boosting your follower count without adding any value to your Twitter network.

Instead, try to focus on finding interesting and relevant people to you and follow them because you want to see what they’re going to share. That way, you’ll be more likely to get value out of your Twitter stream, and your followers will be more engaged with what you have to say.

3. Contests And Giveaways

It’s not always a good idea to use contests and giveaways to gain followers on Twitter because it devalues the importance of a genuine, engaged following.

When a business or individual uses contests and giveaways to pad their follower count, it can indicate a lack of confidence or insecurity regarding their content quality or level of influence. Additionally, it can be frustrating for users who are genuinely interested in following a particular account but are constantly inundated with giveaway notifications in their feed.

That said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using contests and giveaways to grow your audience, provided that the content you produce is high-quality and engaging. However, suppose your only focus is on acquiring large numbers of followers without regard for engagement or quality. In that case, you’re likely to end up with a low-quality, unengaged following that provides little value.

Consistency is the Key to Beating the Twitter Algorithm

One of the key elements in branding is consistency and an active presence on social media. Uploading content every day or every week consistently can help you build an audience and start “training” the Twitter algorithm, showing your profile as a profile that has been updated frequently! Like all the social media brands out there, Twitter will try to support and promote accounts with consistency since it is vital for them to have people who are very focused on creating content and engaging with other people.

Scheduling Tweets

Using Publer can help you take advantage of Twitter’s algorithms, giving your tweets greater visibility if they’re scheduled at optimal times. 

Publer can help you tweet more consistently, which can help you reach a larger audience and build your following. Scheduling your tweets can help you manage your time better and make sure that you’re tweeting when your audience is most likely to be online and engaged. 

Ultimately, whether or not you use Publer (or any other scheduling tool) is up to you. But if you’re looking to maximize the impact of your tweeting, scheduling is worth considering!

Key Takeaways 

The Twitter algorithm is constantly evolving, so it can be tough to keep up with what works and what doesn’t while maximizing engagement and avoiding penalties from the Twitter gods.

Just remember:

  • Schedule your Posts For Maximum Reach And Visibility
  • Don’t Buy Followers
  • Post Relevant Content, Often
  • Retweet High Ranking Tweets
  • Focus On Finding A Quality Following, Not Just Boosting Numbers

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