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Turning the table on Algorithms: What to expect in 2022? By SOCIALEYEZ’s Heena Mak Garey

By Heena Mak, Associate Director of Strategy & Research at SOCIALEYEZ.

Social Media has opened a pandora’s box of infinite content. Platforms have ever-changing expectations from brands and creators to keep the content engine going. To what extent do algorithms decide the who, the what, the when and the why of our feeds? Heena Mak Garey from SOCIALEYEZ weighs in.

Domo’s 9th edition of ‘Data Never Sleeps‘ reveals the scale of content creation by the minute; it is remarkable. As people consume 167M TikTok videos, share 12K photos on Instagram and type 12M iMessages, the value of a minute is immeasurable to brands and creators, and platforms know it. Most brands look at surface-level algorithm variables like hashtags, captions, locations, but they only scratch the surface. When it comes to competing for attention, here are five things that can influence the algorithm.

Agility: The majority of the platforms reward the speed with which brands or creators respond to trends. Take Twitter, a platform that drives conversations and amplifies news, making timeliness a factor in engagement. Algorithms reward the first few profiles that trigger conversations; from Instagram to TikTok, Facebook to YouTube, agility is an important skill set to master; and that is why it is at the top of my list.

Trendiness: Audiences on TikTok and Twitter make a trend; platforms like YouTube & Instagram take them further. From Adele’s new album to TikTok’s couch guy, from standing united to striking debates, trends happen during big moments and also when you least expect it. Each channel values topical relevance differently, but when in doubt, ask yourself; Is it current? Are people talking about it? Could it stir a dialogue? Remember, even if you miss out, trends come and go, but algorithms are forever; there will always be another story to tell.

Performance: Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, recently shared how the platform algorithm works. He revealed the importance of profile performance, brand or otherwise. The ranking of your posts is usually influenced by how ‘social’ are you on social media. Most algorithms reward more is more approach; the more you post, interact, share, attract followers, the better you will do in the long run. Even channels like YouTube that ask for a more profound investment in time to create content reward consistency, affecting the overall performance.

Personalisation: Since TikTok came into the picture, it disrupted how algorithms cater to audience interests. When you spend enough time on TikTok, the app studies your preferences, the ‘For You’ page is an endless loop of mind-blowing information, eye-catching trends and stories that hook you instantly. TikTok has since altered the expectations from other platforms to do the same. This has pushed the likes of YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to upgrade their algorithms. Pre-pandemic, LinkedIn didn’t have quite the reach it does in 2021; according to postbeyond.com, the platform has since prioritised feed personalisation by most engaged profiles, time spent consuming content and quality of comments received.

Storytelling: 2020 was the breaking point for storytelling content. As Millennials grew up with social media and chased the perfect selfie, Gen Z is now pushing the boundaries of what is considered ‘a good story’. This narrative shift has impacted the need for authentic storytelling, and this is the first time the algorithm is adapting to people’s interests, not the other way around. Vertical content is a big player in empowering honest stories, but platforms now know what people want.

Audiences are taking their power back with algorithms, upping the game for brands, creators and communities. TikTok may have ignited the revolution, but the Metaverse is slowly catching up. The biggest platforms will measure success differently in the coming year, focussing on community building over followership, meaningful engagement over vanity metrics, and stripped back storytelling over lavish campaigns.

2022 is the year of consumer ruled optimisation as the average social media user becomes savvier. People are conscious of what they’re consuming, why it interests them, and how it influences their habits. This will push the algorithm to not reward profiles erring on the side of complacency, and brands have to get bigger and better. As SOCIALEYEZ, we’re ready to adapt quickly and help clients navigate the ever-evolving world of social media algorithms. Ready or not, change is coming.