Oh, Social Media, you had us at algorithm.
What I mean by “had us”, is you confused us, toyed with us, and made us change our approach, again…and again…and oh, yes, it will happen again. Anyone marketing on social media knows there have been drastic changes over the past 24 months, and social media platforms are not making it easier.
What’s the algorithm, why should you care, and can you master it?
If your lifestyle is in anyway dependent on marketing and customer reach, you should care about the algorithms employed by sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. We could say an algorithm is a deep, dark cauldron full of toad stools and magic beans, that somehow determines our entire social media presence, but that’s overkill. It’s simply an incredibly complex, ever-changing set of parameters that determine what we see, how often we see it, and for some reason thinks it knows better than we do what we’re interested in.
Algorithms are understood to be a necessary evil to filter the “best results” for the platform’s customers, and lots of people invest truckloads of time, money, and energy into competing with other algorithms to keep your attention. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick and easy handbook to follow; it takes observation, practice, and testing to see if you are mastering the algorithm.
How your competition is using the algorithm against you
Social media moguls have been listening to their users about their dissatisfaction regarding the inundation of sponsored ads and are finding ways to maximize THEIR customers’ experience, not YOUR customers’ experience. (That’s important to keep in mind when planning your marketing approach; it’s best to not put all your eggs in one social-media basket.) Through a process called Deep Learning, Facebook has been a pioneer of sorts manufacturing its newsfeeds into a balance of viral fluffy pet videos, family and friends, and advertising. Whether or not you’re spending ad dollars on a social media platform, you may be noticing that your reach is not going as far for the money you are spending. It’s because through processes, like Deep Learning, the social media platform can guesstimate if your post is going to be engaging or not and determine if they want to use their precious balancing time to promote your particular post.
Do not despair!
This does not mean that the big guys, like Coca-Cola and As Seen On TV, automatically receive the bulk of the allotted advertising spots. They may not be getting their dollar’s worth either because their ads do not have what the social media platforms desire.
What platforms want:
- Connecting, emotional story lines. This is why big brands are partnering with more influencers because influencers can have bookends on their videos and platforms, they can plug an item midway through a video, and so on. The impression goes further when it’s delivered or partnered correctly.
- Image recognition. Have you liked more than five posts with cats? Well, then by gum, you are going to see more cats! Deep Learning tracks the images that appeal to you and will show you similar images as often as they can to keep you on their app. Does your brand make the most of image recognition without being tagged as “fake news” or “spam”? Be honest in your pitch. If people like office furniture and you sell office furniture, then show them office furniture. With a cat on it.
- Death on Click Bait! Social media has been hit hard by fraud and fake news, often driven through click bait so they are fighting back. Learn what click bait is and how to avoid it.
- Engagement. Likes aren’t enough anymore to ensure more impressions will be made. It’s truly about conversation. Struggling with engagement? Ask friends and family to engage. Pay a homemaker, a college student, or a retiree to comment “Wow, that’s great” and then make sure your social team replies with “Thanks, it’s also on sale this week. What color would you like?” or something equally brilliant. Ask questions. Start a poll. Start a hashtag. Be creative, but work on your engagement. Create posts and test to determine what is the most engaging way to involve YOUR audience. Test often because the algorithm changes and what worked in July may not work in October.
- Reachability. On TV, sometimes you’ll see national advertisements for products or services that you can’t buy in your area. That’s not as likely to happen on social media because advertisers have the power to select fairly specific demographics and locations, and that impacts the algorithm.
- Oh, there’s more. There’s LOTS more. Remember, this algorithm is complex and ever-changing. That’s why it’s important to be fluid, alert, and adaptable.
Want to learn more about social media advertising and the algorithms? Schedule social media training with Leslie Laney at A Media Marketing.