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Do’s and Don’ts: Navigating your social media algorithms

Social media algorithms are the new way that timelines are organized by your interests. Are you a fan of the personalized content or absolutely hate it? Find out for yourself and keep reading!

Once upon a time, social media platforms used to organize newsfeeds by most recent posts. This is a faded memory to most people, as we have surrendered our timelines to the all-powerful media algorithms.

Though some people are feeling the frustration of losing control of their newsfeed, I’m here to tell you that your social media algorithms weren’t built bad nor “creepy”.

Algorithms were created with the user and marketer in mind, to bring you content that it thinks you enjoy most based on your engagement.

Forgeandsmith.com has a great explanation of how algorithms work if applied to TV channels. Read about it here.

In short, the more you interact with a post or a page, the more likely you are to see their content first since the algorithm views those pages as your top priority. It can also tell your interests based on user behavior, such as how long you spend reading something, or if you share, like or comment on it, too.

For example, and as most of my readers know by now, I live for the fashion and beauty industries. Therefore, I follow and engage with many accounts that post fashion-based content. This leads me to be shown these pages first, along with paid material from brands within the industry, because the algorithm knows I like it.

A fun game to play in order to see how well your algorithm has got you down is to go on Instagram and start clicking through stories. After every 3-6 stories, you’re shown an ad. Take note of the first 5 advertisements you see, and you’ll most likely be surprised to know that some of them spark your interest!

My most frequent ads include Saks Fifth Ave, Coco & Eve, Bondi Sands and Savage X FENTY. All of these are beauty or clothing brands, so I’d say my algorithm knows my interests pretty well. The more you engage, the stronger and smarter your algorithm becomes.

From a marketer’s perspective, algorithms are the best. As I read in an article from Sprout Social, paid ads allow for companies to be connected with potential customers who are already interested in the kind of product that they are marketing. It’s really a win-win situation for users and marketers. Never before has it been so easy to bridge a target audience to a brand. In this light, and for my future career in PR, I think the algorithms are genius and helpful.

When scrolling through social media, it is easy to be sucked into the black hole of infinite content. On Instagram, the “For You” page is solely created by the algorithm, and has infinite posts related to your interests from accounts you likely do not follow, but are suggested for you based on other accounts.

This is actually one of the major pitfalls of the social media algorithm, as you can be thrown into an online silo or be swayed by confirmation bias and not even realize it. Internet silos happen when a user only follows one kind of thing on social media, because they will only be shown content relating to a single topic.

Political views is what makes online silos so dangerous, as if you only read material from your preferred party, your socials will be surrounded with content only from that side, making everything you read extremely biased.

To stay aware of this, make sure to follow all different opinion articles, news sources and politicians. It is much better to be well-informed and read content from both sides than to be immature and not have the whole story.

I’m a fan of the personalized content too, but like many others, I do miss seeing posts from my friends and families first on my personal media account. An easy hack to make sure you never miss a beat is to turn on post notifications for the accounts you want to see, but the algorithm has skipped over. That way, you’ll never miss any more pictures of your best friend’s avocado toast.

By Kassidy Kelly

PR student, new yorker, self-proclaimed shopaholic and apparently I'm a blogger now, too.
CJOR 3422 @ Seton Hall University

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