Don’t Let Algorithms Crush Your Creativity

Challenge accepted. Turn your brand into a creative powerhouse by embracing the constraints of the algorithm.

July 16, 2018

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Jenny Coppola


At the beginning of 2018, Facebook announced an important change to their News Feed algorithm — it would prioritize content that encourages “meaningful interactions.” Unfortunately, this announcement posed a direct challenge to brand Pages whose content would be downgraded in favor of posts from friends and family. On the positive side, the Facebook algorithm change meant that certain kinds of videos have become more valuable.

When the rules change, that’s where the real fun begins. And regardless of where the change takes place — Google search, Twitter feeds, and beyond — the nature of a constantly shifting algorithm means marketers have to create stronger, more effective messages in order to stand out.

What’s good for the user is good for you

When word spreads that yet another algorithm change is afoot, it can sometimes feel pretty discouraging. However, instead of giving up all hope, marketers should try to think about how the change benefits users and how we can then deliver a more positive user experience as a result of it.

In its January 2018 announcement, Facebook outlined the guiding values of the new algorithm. Our friends at Buffer paraphrased these new News Feed values:

  • Friends and family come first: The main objective of the News Feed is to connect people with their friends and family, so posts from friends and family are prioritized. After those posts, Facebook found that people want their feed to inform and entertain them.
  • A platform for all ideas: Facebook welcomes all ideas while making sure that everyone feels and is safe. They aim to deliver stories that each individual wants to see the most based on their actions and feedback.
  • Authentic communication: Facebook prioritizes genuine stories over misleading, sensational, and spammy ones.
  • You control your experience: Individuals know themselves best. So Facebook creates features (such as unfollow and see first) to let people customize their Facebook experience.
  • Constant iteration: Facebook strives to constantly collect feedback and improve the platform.

These values are meant to encourage specific kinds of engagement, such as sharing with the people closest to you, commenting rather than liking, participating in dialogue, and actively choosing whose posts to display. These are all positive changes as far as the Facebook user is concerned. In this environment, however, marketers are pushed to consider how to create content that connects people on a deeper level rather than just fishing for likes and shares.

“In this environment, marketers are pushed to consider how to create content that connects people on a deeper level rather than just fishing for likes and shares.”

Many years before Facebook changed its algorithm, Zendesk took this idea to the extreme when it created Zendesk Alternative:

The alt-rock version of Zendesk poked fun at itself, played to '90s nostalgia, and even slyly hinted at the frustration of a certain competitor’s SEO terms. They created a Facebook community around the concept, and it gained traction because it was funny.

When you start planning your next video, you’ll want to consider whether the final product is something you’d discuss with your friends and family and why. Here at Wistia, we base almost all of our creative off what we think is funny — an approach that lets us follow our instincts and work on more creative projects as a result.

Admittedly, this takes more effort on behalf of the marketer or creative. Instead of focusing on the “quick wins", the algorithm forces you to think more creatively about what will resonate with your audience. And the more effort you put into actually making good content, whether that’s a video, blog post, podcast, or video series, the better your marketing becomes.

Ultimately, creating a video that accommodates this or any other algorithm change, will motivate you to search for lesser-known angles to a common story. Soon enough you’ll be able to find more subtle ways to promote your products or services, all while driving your brand deeper into the hearts and minds of your audience.

Experimenting with new video formats

VP of Product Management Adam Mosseri revealed that Live videos would be favored in the new algorithm. He said:

“Live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook–in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities.”

Algorithms also serve to promote new products offered by the service. If you’re not already on top of all the new social video formats, an algorithm change may provide a necessary kick in the pants. When Facebook prioritizes Live, TV, and other new features, you (by necessity) get to experiment with and learn how to master these cutting-edge video formats.

Live videos present a valuable opportunity for video marketers to interact with their audience in real-time. You can get instant feedback on your products and content, all while learning what matters most to them.

Here are a few ways you can use live videos to boost your brand and connect with customers:

  • In a live Q&A video, you can answer customer questions in a direct and personal fashion.
  • In a live product reveal, you can build anticipation, get to know your biggest fans, and show the intended use in a clear and visual way.
  • In a live interview, you can establish your team as thought leaders in your industry and widen your audience network.
  • In a live webinar, you can teach viewers something new, building knowledge and trust.

These are just a few ideas to inspire you, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to new video formats. There’s still plenty of time to discover new ways of engaging your audience.

Experimenting with new types of video will challenge you to think beyond what’s worked in the past and make bold decisions that could take your marketing in a whole new direction. Try something completely different — after all, if you fail to get tons of reactions, not many people will see it.

Focusing on quality over quantity

Facebook’s algorithm change deprioritizes the Pages' content, which means only your best content will show up in the News Feed. This gives you plenty of reason to dive into more substantive, evergreen content, as opposed to “snackable” videos you’re used to seeing on Facebook.

That doesn’t mean your videos have to be super long — you just have to steer clear of spammy or clickbait titles, recycled content, and time-sensitive information. You can even take an issue-driven approach, like clothing brand Everlane, which counts radical transparency as one of its core brand values.

Everlane’s video provides a cinematic glimpse into how their products are made, while still showing how you can look good in them. The high production quality of the video suggests significant investment, but there’s more value here than a one-off post. With this video, Everlane aligns itself with consumers who care about fair business practices and sustainability. And while this is an ad, its also been shared organically. The use of the branded hashtag “#damngooddenim” makes it easy for the company to follow community activity related to the video or the product itself.

When you create content that speaks to your brand’s core values, your videos will last longer and be far more useful to your company as a whole. You can create videos that succeed not just on one channel or platform but on your website, at events, in hiring, and beyond.

“When you create content that speaks to your brand’s core values, your videos will last longer and be far more useful to your company as a whole.”

Thanks to the algorithm change, you don’t have to limit yourself to a rigid content calendar. Instead, you can focus on original, evergreen, and valuable content that moves your company forward. In this way, many businesses — especially those that are B2B — are now forced to think about their marketing as if they were B2C. That means thinking outside the box and being a little more inventive with how you communicate information.

Paving the way for fresh ideas

Social media algorithms may be beyond your control, but the constant changes and developments will stretch your creative potential. When social networks put their users first, you must also think of ways to make people happy and more open to interaction with your brand.

Be willing to learn how to adapt and expand your use of different channels — experiment first, and invest second. When your social channels get less random attention, you have to make sure the activity you do produce is tied to long-lasting goals. Like a friend who changes their mind a lot or a fickle boss, an algorithm can be hard to please but in the end, will help you grow.

July 16, 2018

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Jenny Coppola


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