Engaging with Algorithms

Algorithms seem to be taking over (as if they haven’t already). Marketers are constantly following and making updates to their content based on Facebook’s algorithm updates. Then there’s Google, of course. Well, now Twitter is joining the scene as CFO Anthony Noto hinted at in 2014.

The first sign of an algorithm-driven Twitter is its new ‘While You Were Away’ feature that curates the best content you missed while not checking Twitter and packages it up for you the next time you log in. This includes the content you most likely want to see based on how engaging it was among other Twitter users and how you’ve interacted with this kind of content in the past. It’s not everything, but it’s the best stuff for you… as chosen by an algorithm.

Twitter’s taking a careful approach and clearly not moving away from the chronological timeline that displays everything in order for users completely. It displays more for users who haven’t logged in than for those who have, but it helps solve a problem marketers have always faced — good content gets lost if people aren’t online.

Algorithms helps with that. Good content has a chance. People engage with it, so the content is more prominent. The only other solution is posting the same content more than once, which could frustrate users exposed to the same message over and over again.

Algorithms are an opportunity for marketers because they allows them to optimize content for engagement. Engagement by itself, however, is worthless unless it’s tied to larger business objectives like website visits, sales, loyalty, SEO and the like.

Content needs to be engaging to be seen, but if that content is seen it must build the business as well. Engagement has the opportunity to give content a chance to be seen by more users. Content that is seen gets shared and retweeted, and marketers can look at what content is performing best to understand what their audiences care about. Content that doesn’t connect doesn’t earn engagement.

Marketers should be optimizing content based on people’s interests, not by time of day. At the end of the day, engaging content is good for business.

Algorithms are frustrating because how they work is always a bit of a mystery, but in some ways they simplify things. They let us know that if we want content to be seen, it has to be something people want to interact with. That’s a solid quality litmus test for Facebook, Twitter or any other platform.