Surfing the algorithmic wave

by Kirsty Stevenson

Algorithm. It’s the buzzword of the moment and one that’s relevant to all of us on social media. What’s the fuss about? Well, an algorithmic approach allows social media platforms to ‘learn’ from our activity on social media.

That means they look at what we find interesting and what we think is just ‘meh’, and feed us more of the good stuff. Without us even knowing it, the social media giants are shaping our feeds to keep us happy.

  • Who’s doing what?

    The algorithmic approach is now commonplace across most of the big platforms, but who’s doing what and what changes have we seen recently?

    Facebook’s newsfeed has been based on a quality-based algorithm since 2013 and has seen little (if any) detrimental effect to membership. Where they lead, others follow…

    Twitter’s algorithmic ‘never miss important tweets from people you follow’ timeline is now live for everyone. Tweets below your ‘important’ tweets are kept chronological to make for a happy medium. For more info, there’s a great article on Mashable

    Instagram will be following the lead of their new owners, Facebook, and basing your feed on ‘the moments we believe you will care about most’. There’s no date for this, but it’s expected ‘in the next few months’. Forbes.com discusses it

    LinkedIn has run a ‘Top posts’ algorithm as a default on your newsfeed for some months now, presenting the most popular content in your feed first.

    Pinterest updated its algorithm in February 2016, and at the same time axing Group Boards.

    Snapchat has now made your ‘Best Friends’ algorithm-driven lists private. That means that just like all the other platforms, only you and the platform know who you interact with most.

  • What should you do to keep up with the platforms?

  • 1. Don’t panic. Forget racing to change your strategy to to match each new change from the platforms. Just plan ahead through your content marketing strategy. Winning with content takes time and planning and quality. Which brings us on to the need to…

  • 2. Be brilliant. Easier said than done, but it’s time to accept that to get ahead you need to be truly loved by users, rather than trying to cheat the social platforms, or buy your way to prominence. Aim to be the account that people engage with the most as this is what will ensure your success. Accept the pressure to produce regular engaging content.

  • 3. Get clever. Data is becoming more and more available and although its use will always raise questions about how the information presented to us is manipulated, for marketers, it removes the guesswork. So learn how to embrace it in creating and presenting the right content for your audiences.

  • Catch me if you can
    There’s an ongoing game of cat and mouse as the technical teams behind online platforms try to stay a step ahead of the businesses using their platforms for free or cheap promotion. In short: expect algorithms to change continually.

    But for those who just want to push out regular, engaging content and interact with their audiences in the way nature (sort of) intended, well that’s what the platforms are looking to achieve.

  • Remove the guesswork

    But it’s not all about pressing brands to distribute ever-more engaging and relevant content. The information held by our favourite platforms about our activities is valuable to brands, as proven by the uptake of Facebook and Twitter’s promoted post functionalities. Platforms with an advertising model now have a clear advantage to content marketers over those without.

    As people share less and less on social accounts, we as brands can’t now bank on people increasing the reach of content for us. The data collected, as we all engage or scroll past posts, enables the social networks to build ever clearer pictures of who wants what. Which means they can offer us access to exactly the people we want to target – with minimal waste.

    Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are already doing it. Instagram has just joined the club and Pinterest will be there soon too. There’s still very much a place for targeted content, and these platforms really are becoming an exciting new direct channel.

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