Product growth at risk: Bots and algos vs. the human factor
“I ran my fingers through my influencer haircut.”
Manipulating search engines
A year or so after I started on my way in the digital marketing world, I’ve managed to crack open the formula of Google Maps’ ranking algorithms. I’ve found a way to manipulate this micro search engine of Google in a way that nearly all my business listings were pinned to the top of every local search query in the search engine results pages.
This might sound a bit complicated; basically what it means is that I could generate TONS of traffic and leads to these businesses’ websites and call centers.
After a while, I understood that I’m doing something wrong, so I decided to tell my story to the owner of one of the most prominent Local SEO blogs. A week after my story was published, a Google rep contacted me and asked me to become their insider. I agreed and shared with them all my knowledge on how to hack Google Maps.
Manipulating social networks
Back in the day — and I’m talking about 2007–8 here — there were almost no social networks around, so generating traffic to your site was mainly based on pure SEO techniques, paid campaigns and blog referrals.
Manipulating search engines and bot-based platforms usually requires less brain and more brute force. A sisyphean methodology of executing→ learning→ implementing→ and executing again.
These days, hackers are trying to manipulate social networks. The thing is, that on social networks, there is another ‘ranking’ element on top of the bots and algos which run them. This element is the human factor. Of course, it is a manipulatable kind of element, but in order to have a major impact, you need to invest more. Much more.
To achieve sustainable and scalable growth by manipulating social networks, you should be a bit more brainy, use more resources and definitely allocate more time. After all, you are trying to manipulate a bot AND a crowd of people.
Social network hackers are definitely made up of a more sophisticated breed as compared with my former self. They need to, “run their fingers through their influencer haircut,” while I needed to bang my head against the algorithm’s wall, until the wall breaks down.
M̶a̶n̶i̶p̶u̶l̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ Pivoting my career
It makes me feel so good that today I’m part of two companies whose products are based on humans. It makes them much more authentic and far more qualitative than any other kind of products in their niche.
Wisdo lets you explore personalized insights and aha moments that can help you face different challenges. From daily opportunities to major life changes, you’ll find real advice from people who have been there.
The product itself is comprised of Timelines. Timelines feature step-by-step milestones that people often experience, whether they’re going vegan or tackling depression. The Wisdo community has real advice for everything, so you can follow Timelines that are relevant to you, add your aha moments, and connect with people who have been there.
Zest.is is my own side project. Zest is a new tab extension for Chrome — it’s a place for marketers to share and discover stellar marketing content. All content suggestions are landing in my own inbox and, after I review them to see that they are aligned with Zest.is’ agenda, I publish them on Zest.is’ feed where they are associated with their suggester’s LinkedIn profile.
The idea is to create a hub of actionable, high quality content with real added value. You can not manipulate the feed as it is controlled by a human, unlike other platforms where you can submit your link, ask your friends to upvote and then relish in the extra exposure. With Zest.is, it is just impossible.
Not scalable? I don’t care.
We don’t need to publish hundreds of articles on Zest.is. I think that ~100 a day is more than enough, especially due to the fact that it is a new tab extension, so it is quite intrusive and personal by nature. Hence, the value added to user needs to be huge.
So…bots are rising
It’s one of the most used buzz phrases among marketers. Algos were here from the dawn of the digital era and they will stay here for good. Both are essential for having a successful product. Yet, bots are only meant to scale the human efforts, and without the human factor, even the most sophisticated bots will not be enough.
Try to add a human factor to any product you are marketing. Whether you implement it within the core of the product or in your marketing efforts by creating a community, this is the essence to achieving a scalable and sustainable growth.