Social media is overwhelming and competitive at the best of times. Algorithms are used to create a better user experience, although many argue they do the opposite. The purpose of algorithms is to show users the best and most relevant content. Brands and online personalities (I hate the term influencer) are left running in circles trying to keep up with the constant changes and lack of information provided by the platforms implementing these algorithms.
The main thing we know about these social algorithms is that they are indeed socially focused, or in other words 2018’s biggest buzzword, engagement. The more engagement a page or post gets, the more people it will be shown to.
The easiest and most organic way to do this is by creating amazing, unique content. But in such a saturated industry, your great content may never be seen. In order to “beat the algorithms” brands and online personalities have had to come up with new strategies to drive engagement on their posts and pages.
Clickbait & Youtube
Most of you will be familiar with the term clickbait or #falsenews (thank you Mr Trump), especially if you are a fan of Youtube or news articles seen on Facebook. Shocking titles are used to stand out and grab your attention convincing you to click on the video or article. We are often aware of this tactic, especially now more than ever however many of us will still be curious enough to consume.
As frustrating as it can be, it’s not too difficult to understand the reasons why creators feel the need to use these tactics. Having heard certain Youtubes speak about the issue, it is easy to understand why they do it. The current Youtube algorithms appear to work against smaller content creators, instead, favouring established creators with greater advertisement potential. Youtube also favours PG, family friendly content meaning creators with more mature videos will be given less attention. Did you know, the Youtube Trending page consists of videos Youtube employees have selected to show? Instead of the videos that are actually being viewed the most, as we would have rightly presumed.
One of the biggest ways Youtube creators can fight against these new algorithms and be seen by more people is using clickbait tactics. So, although they are misleading and annoying, perhaps if the Youtube algorithms where different there wouldn’t be such a need for clickbait titles. The problems between Youtube and its creators is a whole topic of its own which I will leave for another time.
Instagram appears to hold the majority of algorithm pain among brands and online personalities, and everyone else too! If you feel you are enjoying the app less and less, that could probably have something to do with the algorithms.
Before, the main feed displayed posts from the people you follow chronologically, in order of the times posted. It made it easy to see everything and know where you last left off. When Instagram introduced new algorithms they argued it would improve the user experience by showing you more of your favourite people. In theory, this sounds great, but in reality, many of us don’t engage with the posts we want to see most.
It also made way for targeted advertisements and paid content that we just have no interest in, and in doing so, replaced a large percentage of posts we would have liked to have seen instead.
All brands, bloggers and online personalities have seen a decrease in reach (amount of viewers), likes, comments and other engagement. They are very aware fewer eyes are seeing the content they are putting out which has, unfortunately, lead to a few questionable strategies to persuade viewers to engage more.
1. Competitions and giveaways
Competitions that require you to like, comment and share are one of the best ways a brand or blogger can increase engagement and views. There really is nothing wrong with competitions as it can be mutually beneficial (if you win, that is). A lot of the time a blogger will collaborate with a brand in competitions so both the brand and blogger gain in engagement and reach. Bloggers will hold giveaway competitions of items they have received for free for the same reason. It clears out the junk and beats the algorithm all at once!
2. Asking questions
Examples include: “What do you guys want to see in my next video, and “Help! do you think I should get the black dress or red dress?” And Looking for recommendations. Examples include: “Anyone know of a good shampoo for dry hair?”. “If you have ever been to Greece can you DM me your hotel recommendationsns?”
Ok, a lot of times they really are interested in your opinions, BUT it’s good to be aware that responding drives engagement and views way up. So maybe they do want your help knowing what shampoo you would recommend, or maybe they want your help to spread their page. It’s up to you decide as a viewer but their overall personality and behaviour will probably answer that question.
I think when a blogger is truly looking for an answer you will at the very least get a thank you, especially in DM’s. When a message goes unseen or ignored it can leave you to question the intent.
4. Comment pods
Small groups of influencers forming a group chat on Instagram where they let each other know they have a new post. They will all like and comment on each other’s posts, every post! If your paying enough attention this can be easy to spot. Likewise, if it is a post that hasn’t got much going on yet has a suspicious amount of comments, there may be something going on behind the scenes. This seems to be a major strategy among American bloggers in particular. While bloggers will often comment on each other’s posts to support one another in a genuine way, these comment pods are a little more strategic and planned.
5. Random, odd comments
So we are all aware of comment bots by now, but have you noticed big time celebrities and brands engaging in strange ways? You may spot large brands or online personalities leaving comments on other big Instagram pages and there is a very good reason for this, beyond just being nice.
Often, those with very large followings will appear top of any comment section. As an example, if Taylor Swift where to comment under Selena Gomez’s photo you will see it first above the million other comments she has. Celebrities and their management know the more they engage like this the more often they will remind viewers to check out their pages too. So when Taylor comments under Selena’s post, there’s a good chance you will click into Taylors Instagram next. (I don’t think Taylor is actually doing this, it’s just an example, but similar people of the same calibre definitely do!). As a current example, look at any Love Island contestants posts and you will see all the other contestants have posted comments underneath. Every single time.
Again, I am by no means saying that these strategies are always wrong or disingenuous. Just like brand deals and sponsorships, bloggers should always work in a manner that is true to their brand and honest to those who follow them. Some will do this, others will not. It is up to you as a viewer to follow people you enjoy and believe to be honest.
If you are a blogger, this information might help you grow your channel. It certainly works but please remember to remain genuine and also appreciative that your viewers have taken time to engage and help you with your growth.
As a viewer, this information will hopefully provide you with more transparency and answer some confusion you may have had with certain bloggers activity. And remember, if you want to ensure you see your favourite people online, give them that like, leave a comment and engage regularly. You should engage because you want to, not because you have been tricked into it.
That being said, if you liked this post, maybe let me know in a comment on my insta?! WOW scandalous request, I know. But this took a few hours to write and algorithms suck!!
Thanks for reading,