How to Successfully Navigate the Biggest Trend in Social Media That Most People Are Over-Looking…
There is a trend taking place across all social media platforms. A trend that is changing the way both users and creators must interact and approach these platforms.
The trend I’m referring to is the algorithm.
You may have heard about it. You may have heard Instagrammers, Pinterest users, Medium writers, and other content creators saying the new algorithm is negatively impacting their numbers. Their traffic. Their growth.
The algorithm has received a fair amount of publicity lately, but little of that publicity has taken a deep dive into the subject.
For those who don’t know, the algorithm — while different from platform to platform — shows content based on how likely it thinks you are to engage with it, not on when the content was posted.
At the core of each algorithm is ranking content based on rate of engagement, user’s interests, and user’s behaviors.
Today, I am going to try and unravel a few things about the trend. Those things will be:
- Which social media platforms are doing it
- Why they are doing it
- What some of the consequences are
- What content creators can do about it
Before I start, I want to preface this article with the following: I love social media. For my 9–5, I manage social media marketing campaigns for brands ranging from Chase Bank to Hotels.com to HERDEZ and more. For my own business, I consult and optimize other’s social media presence. In my “off hours”, I write about social media (and other things) on Medium and elsewhere.
So, I have nothing against these companies and I think they have the user’s best interest in mind, for the most part, when making these decisions.
That being said, I do think most social media companies have dropped the ball in educating and preparing content creators for the change.
Above all, I want to make sure people are aware of this trend so they can be proactive in their social media strategies. I don’t want anyone fall behind.
So let’s dive right in…
Who is doing it?
- And more to come…if a platform becomes big enough, it will do it.
Why are they doing it?
- Competing for Your Attention
- Consolidation & Centralization in Tech
- Opening Up Doors for Monetization + Ads
Competing For Your Attention
Seeing the algorithm from a “big picture” perspective is important. With so many platforms constantly competing for our attention nowadays, social media companies want to ensure they do not lose their most precious resource: their audience.
Thus, the algorithm is a way for social media companies to keep content creators on their network. To get rid of the “casual creators” by making it tougher to receive exposure on their channel.
In order to attain a sizable following on a channel, you have to put in the time, work, effort, and dedication to get that exposure.
The algorithm encourages people to decide on which platform(s) they want to have a presence on, and neglect the ones they don’t.
And from the social media company’s perspective, what is the greatest thing about all of this? They can use the argument that they are incentivizing creation of better content more than before. That they’re making changes strictly for user experience. Strictly to make sure users don’t see shitty, irrelevant content.
Consolidation & Centralization of Tech
Over the next few years, there is no doubt content and attention will continue to shift from tens of millions of web sites to a few centralized networks that people access via apps on their phones. It’s not that I wish that future to be true. It just is. The open web will not go away (knock on wood). And there may be (hopefully) something that disrupts the centralization eventually. But the near-future is clear. — Ev Williams
Words spoken from the founder of Medium himself.
You see this centralization firsthand with the recent LinkedIn acquisition.
You see it with platforms like Medium trying to centralize the splintered blogosphere.
With Google hungrily eyeing Twitter.
With the recent shift in VC funding and “The Great Reset”.
There’s no reason for alarm. This is how a healthy and innovative economy works: A new technology arises, disrupts everything and lots of “little guys” appear.
Then, the winners (a lot of whom used to be the “little guys”) buy up everything until another new technology disrupts them.
In essence, the algorithm represents a trend that is emblematic of a much bigger pattern than social media. It represents the consolidation and centralization of tech as we know it.
Opening Up the Doors for Monetization + Ads
AJ Agrawal wrote a wonderful Forbes article on the algorithm that provides many useful insights. Here it is…
Social media algorithms are what all social media platforms run on these days. They have led to a lot of changes to…www.forbes.com
If you don’t have time to read it, I’ll be happy to give you the Sparknotes — at least within the context of this Medium post:
Because engagement is the greatest deciding factor for algorithms, brands will need to either invest the immense amount of time needed to build an audience on these social platforms or — more likely — they will need to “pay to play”.
This, of course, opens up the door for monetization via ads. Paying to play means buying ads. Every single social media platform is doing it, or planning to. And if they aren’t yet, they will.
Even Snapchat, the Golden Boy of going against the grain, is jumping aboard:
Snapchat is ready to make the big bucks that could let it go public thanks to a slew of important updates to its ads…techcrunch.com
This is yet another notch on the win column for social media companies utilizing the algorithm.
Starting to see why the algorithm is here to stay?
Please don’t ever forget these social networks are businesses. They need to make money in order to survive.
What are the consequences?
- Not as much “growth hacking” being possible on these platforms.
- Third party tools like Hootsuite and Buffer becoming increasingly necessary, even vital, to social media success.
- Companies, even smaller ones, beginning to hire social media marketing managers.
- Being a “social media expert” needing to pivot into being a “Facebook expert” or a “Pinterest expert” etc. as platform knowledge becomes increasingly specialized.
- The worst case scenario: less influencers & brands will use social media as a result of the higher barrier to entry.
Most Importantly, What Can We Do About It?
What can you do to conquer and benefit from the algorithm? There are a few things.
- Deeper Penetration on Fewer Platforms
- Selecting Your Channel(s) Wisely
- Becoming a Student of That Channel
Deeper Penetration on Fewer Platforms
Start shifting your focus from learning about social media to learning about specific social media channels — whether that’s Facebook or Twitter or another.
There’s only so many hours in the day. Plus, you’re probably already busy doing important stuff — like building your damn business! For most, social media is a chore, not a joy. Make things easier on yourself! Simplification is the key to sanity.
This feeds into something I always preach on: deeper penetration on fewer social media platforms.
Find the channel that suits you best and make it your bread and butter.
This is something I constantly tell my clients: if nothing else, please find the channel you like best and devote your time, energy, and focus into it.
With the algorithm here, this practice becomes even more important to successful social media marketing and growth.
Selecting Your Channel(s) Wisely
If you already know which channel you like best, or already have a following on one, then great! Keep going!
If you’re having a hard time figuring out which ones to attack, that’s okay too! See if this Medium article I wrote helps you figure it out:
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from people who are trying build their brands online via social media…medium.com
Remember to go all in. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you do?
Worst case scenario, the platform will tank and go out of business. It it does just take a deep breath, strategize, and attack a different channel.
You see it all the time. Most Viners now have enormous YouTube and/or Snapchat followings. Many who were popular on Tumblr have successfully transitioned onto Instagram or their own blogs.
Becoming a Student of That Channel
There’s a reason why you don’t need a master’s degree to be effective in the social media landscape. Because it isn’t that hard!
It sure as hell isn’t easy, but if you survived watching the 2016 Presidential Primaries, then it definitely won’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
My recommendation would be the following:
- First, consult resources like Social Media Examiner, the Buffer Blog and Social Times. This will give you a terrific general knowledge of all social media platforms.
- Using those sites as guides, begin following experts in the platforms you’re trying to grow on. This could be their blog, YouTube channel, Medium, or anywhere else their content is posted.
- Try EVERYTHING you learn for yourself! Run ads, A/B tests, different content topics, and more. You can never be 100% sure how the market will respond to anything. The person writing the article you’re reading or the YouTube tutorial you’re watching might have never started a business like yours. Thus, it’s absolutely essential to do things for yourself, first and foremost.
- Finally, start taking Udemy and Coursera courses on areas you know are important through trial and error.
This is how I came across the work of Jon Loomer — the world’s leading expert on Facebook Ads. I was going through Social Media Examiner and came across his work. I now follow his blog religiously. His content has truly helped take my skills to the next level.
Below, I’ve listed some more resources that will help you step up your social media game.
PLEASE REMEMBER: these resources are in this article to help simplify, not complicate, social media for you. You don’t have to read all of them. You don’t even have to read more than one. Just find what works for you and stay consistent with it.
- Social Media Examiner
- Buffer Blog
- Social Times
- The #AskGaryVee Show
- Jon Loomer Blog — Facebook Advertising
- AdEspresso Blog — Facebook Advertising
- ReelSEO — Youtube Marketing
- Neil Patel Blog — Digital Marketing
- Foundr Magazine’s Ebook — Instagram Marketing
Let me know what you think about these!
On a final note, the algorithm doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a large following on social channels. It just means it’ll take a little longer and require a little more effort.
One thing is for sure though, the algorithm is here to stay.
With the algorithm, company’s monetization teams are happy, their customer success teams are happy, and the users are happy (debatable, I know).
The only group who isn’t happy seems to be the content creators. Problem is, content creators are not in the position to complain here because social media companies will rebuttal with this: make better content.
Any content creator knows it’s not that easy, but hey, they do have a point.
Above all, great content is great content. If you have what it takes, a little savvy, and a lot of drive, you can certainly gain a following on any social media platform you choose to — with or without the algorithm.
My goal here is to equip you with the tools to succeed in social media marketing no matter what happens in the industry, at large.
Have a wonderful rest of the day, and I hope you found value in this article :)
What do you all think? I’d love to hear. Do you think this trend is a beneficial or detrimental shift?