The conquest of the algorithm

Monday, 16 july 2018 | Brenda Rodríguez López

Brands need to be present on social networks and their work is increasingly getting complicated as time goes by.  Nonetheless, not only must they captivate their target, they also have to conquer the "intelligent" system which controls how content is arranged in each platform. Algorithms impose the rules of the game and their guidelines can change overnight. What can brands do to fight against this situation? How can they reach their desired audience? What guidelines should they follow to conquer the algorithms of each social network site?

 

Facebook is a platform which is undergoing a constant metamorphosis. Just a few days ago, this  social networking site announced a new change again in Spain: it will give priority to information with local characteristics and which comes from reliable sources. Since May, this social networking service has been working on the identification of these sources through surveys conducted into its users. This measure which has been in force since January in the United States aims at contributing to the fight against the spread of the so-called fakes news.

At the beginning of the year, Zuckerberg's social networking service informed about one of the most controversial changes in the digital media world: the priority of the content related to  friends and family over the one about brands and media. It is increasingly difficult for brands to achieve a high organic reach. In fact, it seems that companies have been experiencing a significant  loss of influence since it was implemented. Slate is one of the few companies that has dared to publish the data that they have acquired since the change of this algorithm in 2018. The company has lost 55% of the reference traffic which this social network provided them (87% compared to a year and a half ago).

Platforms do not work according to what the rule should be in the beginning: the order of content in a chronological way. For example, YouTube previously showed their videos according to the number of visits that they registered and now according to the time that users spend watching them. This video-sharing website also works on the same line as Facebook. It aims at ensuring more relevance to local content and fighting conspiratorial information.

A common parameter in most of the algorithms that govern social networks sites is the level of interaction. In some way, platforms reward popularity. This is the case, for example, of Instagram which favors the content that generates more comments and gets more "likes" from the first minutes since it was shared. Its algorithm aims at meeting the preferences of each user and for this reason is based on how they behaved in the past. A point in favor in this platform is that if users scroll down enough, they can see all the posts from the people and brands that they are following. It does not hide anything.

Twitter's algorithm also shows tweets in connection with the level of user interaction. However, it offers peculiarities in its functioning such as the relevance of breaking news and the most popular messages of the people that users follow. In respect of Linkedin's algorithm, participation is crucial. This social network believes that the more interest a publication generates, the more important it is for the professional sector. Apart from that, its content is reviewed by human editors, which makes the quality of publications to be even more important.

 

The conquest of the algorithm

Should we combat the algorithm? Should we make it fall in love with us?

In order to reach the desired audience it is necessary to take into account the different peculiarities of each media. However, there are a number of common guidelines that can help to overcome the obstacles that algorithms stand in the way:

  • The bet on the quality of content: The concern for the quality of the content that is shared is rewarded, especially in the long term. The more worried are brands about content, the more engagement they generate. Certain actions on the social networking sites only seek to attract the attention of the audience easily and quickly. Its use causes a strong impact, but only on a one-off basis. These practices are punished by algorithms on many occasions and they lose audience's interest soon.
  • Audience as a goal: When brands focus too much on strategies, they can forget what is really important, like who their message is directed to. Content must generate interest among the target audience. Here the premise of quality is again key.
  • Being up to date: There is no better way to understand the algorithms than read and research about them. Of course, these platforms do not share all the details about their operation, but if the information available is combined with the analysis and their own experience, they can discover what actions are effective.
  • Encouraging user participation: As it was mentioned before, the interaction of users is essential for the conquest of the algorithm. Brands can call on some type of actions, launch questions to users or encourage debate on topics which are interesting to their audience. However, it is important to bear in mind that Facebook punishes posts that try to generate a forced interaction, the ones that respond to structures such as "hit like if you are Aries".
  • Sharing videos: Users from different platforms agree on choosing video as their favorite format. Algorithms usually position this type of content better.
  • An influencer alone is not enough: The hiring of influencers does not guarantee alone the success of brands which are present in social media. If their participation is properly aligned with the strategy of brands, they can contribute greatly to enhancing their visibility. However, it is essential to understand the algorithm of each way and contemplate complementary actions to ensure that their participation contribute to the overall goal.
  • Finding the right moment: Although algorithms no longer show the content according to a chronological order, the time when they share content is a key parameter. Visibility also depends on the number of people connected at the time when content is shared.

Algorithms do not have to be necessarily fair. In fact, they also lead to inequalities. However, at the moment, platforms set the rules of the game. If brands insist on maintaining a position that is not common to these changes, they reduce their chances of success. However, we always have to keep in mind that there are other players with enough capacity to change the rules of the game: users.

At The CEU IAM Business School, we have designed an Executive Master's Degree in Digital Marketing thanks to which you will be able to obtain an in-depth knowledge of different digital strategies in social networks, SEO, SEM, Inbound Marketing, Display campaigns or Affiliation. This training will allow you to become a competent professional and be ready to work in a sector that has been experiencing a constant growth for some years now.