Slave to the Algorithm

Social media, in it's organic form, (I'm certainly not talking 'paid social' here, as that's a whole other ball game), is, as the word says, 'social' media.

Markets are still one to many and many to many conversations and there is most certainly still appetite for 'social' connection and 'social' conversation.

In fact, as more and more irrelevant noise is created as a product of the broadcasting focus of 'paid social', then the quality and relevance of organic social, becomes even more sought after.

But... that's not the game the algorithms play.

Slave to the Algorithm -v- Social Media

Playing to the algorithms often leads to a focus on quantity - pushing out more and more content, which due to frequency levels and a focus on keywords can lead to the quality of the content and message being compromised, in the hope that some mud will stick. I speak to a number of business owners, marketing teams and social media managers and thanks to the volume focus, there's definitely a recurring 'overwhelm' theme.

The question to ask is whether such frequency and volume is working. And what's the measure of success? Engagement?

Engagement is banded around as the magical outcome that everyone is looking to achieve - but what do you mean by engagement? Is the plan to purely entertain your users - or actually use this high level of activity to meet some specific purpose? Surely the latter. Therefore, 'engagement' for me isn't as specific as it needs to be - it needs to be broken down into something that has real meaning.

What I'm observing is that social networks, really relevant and truly useful ones, are often 'smaller'. Having 50,000 followers doesn't necessarily mean anything if they are not 'connected' to you - and thanks to algorithms, you can't share and communicate with them in any authentic way.

Yet having 5, 10, 50 or 500 people who choose to join in, join you and converse, connect and collaborate regularly, can be very powerful. Organisations that build their own 'social networks' - be it via proprietary network software, or via the native platforms, for example, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, WhatsApp Groups - are able to bring customers and potential customers closer.

Aside from building enormous audiences (and yes, scale can come into play, but relevance is even more of a success factor), building effective connection, brand awareness and new audiences is no longer just about widespread sharing of even the most compelling of content.

Sadly, significant amounts of absolutely brilliant content goes completely unseen by the very audiences businesses, brands, thought-leaders and those looking to influence or educate have often taken years, and in many cases spent considerable amounts of ad budget, building.

We're back to good old marketing basics; right time, right message, right people - and for this to work, you really need to tune in, listen and get to know your audience.

As an early adopter in all things digital, I was excited by the opportunities that social media enabled. As a strategic marketer, the message 'markets are conversations' resonated deeply.

Those markets are still conversations. The channels aren't purely for broadcasting (leave that to paid social where, given the right strategies and tactics you can reap significant headway to target those interested in what you offer), - but be sure that you are also using social media in it's organic format - listening, researching and gathering your tribe - bringing them into your fold and then loving them - so that they in turn share the word and do the 'networking' and broadening of audiences and reach for you in a relevant, purposeful, authentic and trustworthy way - ongoing.

Don't become a slave to the algorithm and simply pump out more and more content, even if it is great content - it can be super disheartening when you get very little reach or return. And it's not the smartest use of the channels.

Instead get back to good old relevant conversations and connection - find out what your audiences want, desire, need, enjoy, love - become useful for them - create a space where they can get close and stay purposeful.

Think, be and focus on quality over quantity - every time.

Agree, disagree - got anything to add, or say…? I encourage you to join in the conversation.

Michelle Carvill - Digital Educator. Strategic Marketer. Three times published author. Latest book ‘Get Social - Social Media Strategy and Tactics for Leaders, published by Kogan Page, May 2018. Need help with Digital Marketing or Social Media Strategy for your Organisation, Leadership Team or yourself? Get in touch via

Michelle Carvill