Guest Post: Giles Crouch is one of Canada’s leading thinkers on issues relating to our digital world including social media and civil society. He brings 20 years experience in the technology industry, including co-founding two software companies; a .com and a Big Data analytics firm. You can connect with Giles on LinkedIn or Twitter.
You’ve spent a lot of time as a marketer getting your social media strategy in place, setting up accounts, backgrounds and all that fun. You’ve signed up with HubSpot or Hootsuite, tied in some social media monitoring tool on top of their stats reporting. You are so going to own the social space. Hello Inbound Marketing. But hang on a minute, it’s not all quite what it seems.
The Algorithms Fight With The Algorithms
Tools like HubSpot, HootSuite, SimplyCast and others are excellent at what they do and an invaluable asset in content marketing today. But there’s a “but”. That “but” is when all that content you push out butts head with all those social media channels you’re trying to leverage…specifically, the algorithms used by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr…well, all of them. Every social media platform out there uses some form of “ranking” which arguably started with Digg pre-Web 2.0 in the early 00’s, where you could “dig” an article ranking it upwards. The news/story with the most digs percolated to the top. It was Digg’s equivalent to the vaunted Page Rank on Google. Both measures have somewhat faded, certainly Digg’s. But this is a problem for your content.
There’s been a fair bit of hating piled onto Facebook lately around their “Like” button and how they adapt your newsfeed based on what you like. Then FourSquare split itself in half adding Swarm, with badges as part of their algorithm. You see, none of these services really care about you and your awesome content. They sell advertising. To get the highest price they have to show eyeballs on the content. That’s really the point of all these likes, badges, stars, re-tweets, +1’s and so on…to drive advertising revenue. If you’re content really is good, it’ll get pushed up right? Not so much. The other reason you may not be getting the reach you think you are is that everyone follows different people. They follow those whom they know, like digitally or are curious about. This is impacted by race, religion, geography, culture, language and so on…just like the real-world.
Everything Measured is Gamed
So your article gets a lot of props; it’s re-tweeted, +1’d, Liked and you’re stats from whatever monitoring or content platform you’re using are telling you how damn good you are at this social media thing. But services like Facebook are working to deliver the user content they think is relevant to each micro-group, then sell the targeted advertising. This in part lead to the rise of hashtags for people to ensure their content was seen by those interested. It helps, but bots have come into play and services like Twitter and Facebook have learned to analyze those to push ad content as well. All this to say, even though you’ve got great content, you’re fighting “filter bubbles” and algorithms owned by those platforms you’re trying to leverage.
So What’s The Point?
Keep going. Tools like HubSpot or HootSuite can provide key insight into what content is effective. They’re still a critical part of your digital marketing efforts. But be aware that your content is being gamed…by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, spambots and many others. There’s no easy way to win, sorry. It’s a fight for attention.