LIVING IN AN

ALGORITHMIC DIGITAL SOCIETY

Marketers went from Insta-happy to Insta-sad when Instagram announced that it will be introducing the algorithm-based news feed. This brings up the question: Do marketers still need to heavily rely rented platforms?

The Internet is always abuzz with self-proclaimed social media experts sharing tips on how to stay current with the “rapidly shifting but, never perfect” social media platform, Facebook. It is of course, the world’s biggest social media platform.

You may have even read articles on how Facebook’s news feed algorithm has not only made it impossible for users to see content from the pages they’ve liked, but has also inspired Twitter and Instagram to follow its footsteps. Well, why wouldn’t they? When Mark Zuckerberg was able to find a pot of gold at the end of the algorithmic rainbow, Jack Dorsey too would want that. At the end of the day, it’s business as usual.

A few months ago, insta-happy marketers became insta-sad after the popular photo sharing app wrote the following on their blog:

“To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most… If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.”

Sound familiar? Maybe you’re reminded of this:

“The goal of News Feed is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.”

Yes, Instagram is making its parent company, Facebook proud by following its footsteps by introducing the algorithm-based news feed. And, similar to the aftermath of Twitter’s announcement which led to the viral #RIPTwitter hashtag, Instagram’s announcement did make a lot of people (mostly marketers) unhappy. But, before we immediately boo these platforms, let’s take a look at the pros of having an algorithm-based feed.

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Okay, we’ve really got nothing. But, let’s not forget that Facebook went from a big-time social platform to a big-time advertising platform with the algorithm-based feed. The move forced brands to pay for more ads to improve page and post visibility.

You, dear reader, have seen at least hundreds of Facebook ads from those snippets on the right-hand column to sponsored news feed posts. While some brands did reap significant ROI, others are busy fixing a large hole in their pockets.

When Facebook introduced its algorithm-based news feed, the platform offered us the choice of “Top Stories” and “Most Recent” with which users had some control over the content they were seeing.

While this helped arrange your news feed in chronological order, you were still out on updates from your friends or brands you follow, particularly because you interacted less with them.

The big question isn’t about finding a platform where users will be able to see your posts on their home feed. The question simply is this: should you continue using a rented platform to satisfy all of your digital marketing needs?

What’s A Rented Platform?

A rented platform is like a rented apartment. You really don’t have the liberty to act as you wish.

Simply put, a rented platform is a website that you do not own. It’s a place where you rent a page or profile and connect with the platform’s existing audience. This means your activities are subject to any number of limitations, be it character limit or video duration limit.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and its likes, or Medium, Tumblr and its likes, are all rented platforms. You create an account, post content and connect with people who use those platforms, period.

So when the original content on your Facebook page goes viral, you will drive more traffic to your Facebook page and not your website or blog. Get it? Facebook gets the cake while your website goes home empty-handed.

Okay, So What Do I Own Then?

You own the following: your website, non-hosted platform blog, mobile and desktop apps that you’ve created, your own online forums and email subscribers.

Owned platforms are places where you don’t have limitations on content, design and even customer data. Remember when Oprah Winfrey said “I don’t have any limitations on what I think I could do or be.” That’s how owned platforms work.

No limitations = free to experiment and try out new and better ideas.

Answering The Big Question

Earlier, we had asked this question: should you continue using a rented platform to satisfy all of your digital marketing needs? Many of you marketers have a counter-argument ready. “Social media isn’t going to satisfy all of my digital marketing needs. It’s just a small cog of the brand’s digital marketing exercise.” It may be small, but it’s also important.

Your audience can be found on social media and popular blogging platforms for the most part of the day, connecting with their friends. While this limitation has seen the rise of some truly spectacular content, it still doesn’t check all the boxes.

As a brand, your most important task is to keep a finger on the pulse and listen to your customers’ personal experiences with your products and services. Twitter is a listening platform where you can find volumes of conversations about your brand.

While Facebook and Instagram can be utilised to provide great content, you should slowly consider moving your existing audience on these platforms to your website or WordPress blog where you are free to offer groundbreaking experiences, the kind of experience you can never offer through a Tweet or an Instagram photo.

A Final Word

Facebook has 1.6 billion monthly active users. Just last year, Instagram reached 400 million monthly active users, surpassing Twitter. As our network of friends continues to grow, our feeds grow and social media platforms continue to evolve. Love it or hate it, the algorithmic news feed is here to stay. How we make use of it is the need of the hour.

Here’s one more (two-part) question:

What is your average weekly organic reach on Facebook? And how many people visit your website or blog (in a week)?

If the latter has a bigger number, you should continue increasing it. If the former has a bigger number, you should work on making your owned platform, a place where everybody wants to be.

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