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Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in Social Media

How Social Media Algorithms Impact Your Digital Presence

When you unlock your cell phone and scroll through your favorite social media apps, you are likely to notice those social media apps are starting to look a little … similar.

As social media mega companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have evolved, they’ve started to borrow product ideas from each other in the hope of building an all-in-one experience. Although these apps are beginning to show great similarity, the algorithm behind each platform is truly unique.

What is a platform algorithm, why are they here?

Algorithms are certainly becoming gatekeepers that consumers have grown to love, while brands have found them to be a pain. Prior to social media algorithms, posts on social platforms were created equally and the only factor to seeing a post was when it was posted. Every post had the same chance of getting in front of followers regardless of company size.

However, as the number of accounts on each platform began to grow, what once seemed like a few vehicles on a popular digital content expressway turned into rush hour on a congested two-lane highway. To help traffic flow, social platforms began implementing strategic formulas of code to utilize information dedicated to pages and content you have interacted with. Through these formulas (algorithm), users are now fed content that the social platforms have deemed “relevant” to your lifestyle.

Why does each platform have a unique algorithm?

On social media, users tend to over share personal content that holds little relevance to the general population. Each algorithm uses unique engagement factors (Facebook Reactions, Twitter RTs, Instagram’s saved feature, etc.) to leverage their unique forms of engagement to help lift meaningful content above less relevant content.

How do algorithms help consumers?

If each algorithm works to its potential, consumers are fed content tailored specifically to them. Based upon on how they have reacted to past content, each platform is able to evangelize which content is most meaningful to its audience.

How do algorithms work?

When a piece of content is published on a social platform, it is shown to a small group of your followers. From there, the platform in which you posted will try to mathematically analyze the engagement the content is receiving, and will receive in the future.

When Facebook first released the reaction button feature, many were left curious to know how this would affect the algorithm. Would certain buttons carry more clout than others, if it all? And was the introduction of reactions a way to further decide which content should be shared with an individual?

Facebook Reactions + Labels

(Image Source: Facebook Brand Resource Center)

Tips to leverage and understand algorithms:

1.) Understand that high quality content can be seen at any time

Since all popular social platforms have algorithms built into their content distribution, thinking you need to post at a certain time everyday isn’t as critical. The timing of responding to comments and engagement is important in the essence that higher response times can help nurture relationships and show platforms that you are an active contributor. Each social platform is finding ways to show tailored content when you return to the app.

For example: When scrolling through the Twitter app, your scrolling will cross the “in case you missed it” section of tweets where the accounts you engage with most will appear.

Instagram stories also shows a similar dynamic by showing content from engaging accounts first, instead of timing.

2.) Keep an eye on the destination URLs you are linking to

Platforms have started to track which URLs you are linking to in your call to action. To avoid any potential algorithm hazards for repetition, be sure to direct links to different pages on your site.

3.) Take advantage of new platform features

The purpose of social media posting is to take advantage of engagements with followers. As new features are introduced, higher quality of content production and guest experience soon follow. It is crucial to experiment with new features within social platforms. In the past, utilizing features can result in boosted placement within the algorithm. When Instagram rolled out the ability to share a carousel of content, brands were given the ability to share more content and further enhance potential experience in a streamlined fashion.

For example: Properties looking to expand the awareness of their onsite dining restaurants were previously forced to create multiple posts which often resulted in an inconsistent post. Thanks to the carousel feature, properties can create a post highlighting their outlets while sharing multiple images within one post. Users who view the post are being served more content in less posting.

4.) Create content that consumers will react to

Not too long ago, Facebook introduced the reaction tool bar. What seemed like a clever way to show your reaction to a piece of content has become a new factor within the algorithm. Facebook has been secretly tracking user reactions to content and tailoring each newsfeed to accommodate content that will further enhance your experience. Have you noticed that pieces of content you react to negatively don’t seem to enter your newsfeed? That’s because Facebook wants to bring more positive engagement.

Please note: If you react negatively to a piece of content, and comment, Facebook is likely to share similar topics. This strategy is not to make your experience less positive, but instead encourage further engagement on the platform.

Meaning: Reactions alone can affect your newsfeed. Reactions + Comments will be given a boost in awareness and likely will appear more frequently.

5.) Do not ask for engagement

We have all seen contests that ask you to share a piece of content and comment on the page. Facebook and Twitter have acquired AI startups to target accounts that ask users to share or comment. Every algorithm has been built with a series of punishing consequences for soliciting engagement. If you would like to encourage follower engagement, be sure to create copy that asks a meaningful question and does not clearly note a sweepstakes or contest.

Digital Services is dedicated to better understanding social algorithms as platforms evolve. We are excited to learn more about how each platform leverages your favorite pieces of content, and are excited to share these lessons with you in the future.

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Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in Social Media

The Evolution of the Content You Click On

Prior to social media, getting a variety of opinions on a topic required multiple trips to various websites. For example, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first premiered, getting film reviews was no easy task. I remember having to jump to the New York Times, Washington Post and a few other sites just to get an opinion on whether or not to see the movie.

Prior to popular social sharing platforms, experience online was what I refer to as “fueled by boredom.” Previously, there wasn’t an effective way to share content. At work when a coworker would find an entertaining video, they would call over colleagues to share it in the moment. There was not yet a way to quickly share content with a large group of friends while simultaneously communicating much like today’s social media feed.

Covering a Wall with Bumper Stickers

Thanks to a multitude of social media channels, consumers have become evangelists for the brands and topics they share on social media. What was once an avenue to share what you ate for dinner on Twitter, has now become an endorsement for the latest hashtag, with each post becoming a modern day bumper sticker of endorsement.

Personalities Over Personalized Websites

In 2016, nearly every social platform found its way to Moz top 500 domains further proving that brands need to pay attention to how they are positioned on each social platform. In many cases, I prefer to use Facebook to find information rather than the brand’s official website. But what tempts me to click the like or follow button to continuously receive content? Personality.

Personality can be shown in a few different ways. On Twitter, brands who continuously respond to playful tweets (Cinnabon, Dominos, Taco Bell) are notorious for having an engaging audience. Much of this can be attributed to the content being more than just a quick response for an inquiry. But what if your brand wants to create content that redefines the laws of virility with every post?

In late 2015, I experienced a perfect example of Buzzfeed using personality to build their audience on social media while never needing to visit their website. Buzzfeed has been a long time powerhouse for content that drove traffic to their physical website. That was until they introduced the world to freshman personality, Matt Bellassai, through a weekly segment called Wine About It. Through this weekly segment, Matt would spend time talking about his issues with a certain topic, while casually enjoying a bottle of wine. In most cases his issues were highly relatable, enticing users to share with friends (who had not yet been introduced to Buzzfeed). Through the sharing, Buzzfeed was able to create communication within their Facebook while increasing exposure.

Growing a Personality as a Brand and the Rise of the Fan Group

Not long after generating a proven track record of success with Wine About It on Buzzfeed’s social channels, Matt Bellassai left his Buzzfeed video success to start his own brand. For many this came as a huge surprise as Buzzfeed boasts the right amount of exposure not only on Facebook (number 1 ranking domain on the Internet) but also the physical Buzzfeed website presence (234th ranking domain on the Internet). Many were also left asking, will this momentum continue with a smaller audience?

What made Matt’s transition possible is a fraction of Buzzfeed’s followers being what I consider to be a “fan group.” These small, passionate fan groups are often smaller subsets which have built a reputation of not only sharing content on their social platforms, but also specifically target sharing relatable content. For example, if you were to see a piece of content that triggers a relatable moment, you are likely to share the moment by tagging a friend/follower on a platform. In addition to displaying the share on a social network, this occurrence is also creating a targeted notification to users the content has been shared with. Meaning, fan groups are now helping brands/personalities extend relatable moments.

The Rise of the Fan Group Model

A variety of digital brands have already started to action on creating content for a “fan group” under a paid model. Popular anime streaming community, Crunchyroll, has implemented a paid subscription based model (roughly $7/month). It is designed for dedicated fans of anime and manga storytelling by leveraging a vertical approach. Crunchyroll has utilized fan groups to dive deep into a specific niche audience to generate revenue. From there, slowly expand its following by providing extras like news, forums, e-commerce, live events and manga, all on a very niche website with a large percentage of subscribers under the age of 35.

Popular subscription based sites like Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll have seen great success with charging a small fee for subscriptions. Does this mean that subscriptions for niche audiences for nearly $40 a month aren’t possible? Tech news site The Information has been making a strong case for higher priced subscriptions with a goal of appealing to business professionals. Through a subscription to The Information, subscribers are given deep analytic reports and written articles for tech professionals, while still reaching a broader pool of entrepreneurs or people who don’t pay for content today, but may be willing to do so. Again, the target of tech professionals willing to spend money for news could be barren. However, The Information has shown multiple cases for subscriptions as a business experience to for businesses that allow for subscription based budgets.

 Relating to your Fan Group

Developing a fan group can be difficult at times. However, the beauty of passionate fan groups is that through effective messaging, brands that make content for a specific group will often find the greatest engagement. In many cases, brands initially believe that in order to gain any traction, all content must appeal to the masses. But actually, starting small (with fan groups) and through a snowball effect, could generate the greatest reward. If you were to make a piece of content, instead of trying to attract an entire country, try making it for a smaller area (like a city or state).

If you were to create a piece of content about a specific area, you are likely to appeal to a fan group of some kind. For example, if a hotel in Chicago was to create a “Top Ten Local Pizza Pies,” the odds of finding a fan group for local pizza is highly likely. Local pizza experts are likely to read the article, and share a memory with their network friends for nostalgia purposes. In most cases, within the share, will be a direct tag of fellow friends.

Crafting for the Click     

When creating content, please be advised that your content can fall into two content categories: tempting to click and tempting to share.

Users’ experience with tempting to click content is often in the form of advertisements for clothing sales or content described as “click bait.” Content of this category rarely generates much publicity from consumers, due to lack of interest in sharing with others. I have found a great way to test if content falls into this category, is by applying Betteridge’s Law. This law states that all headlines with questions can be answered “no.” To try for yourself, read an article that asks a question in the headline, if after reading the article, the answer is no, you have likely digested tempting to click content.

Tempting to share content is often shared and endorsed across social accounts are a noteworthy article. By sharing these articles, your post becomes a modern day bumper sticker showing that you endorse the given viewpoint on a topic.

Personal vs. Social Clicks on Content

When creating content, it is important to be aware of whether your content will generate a personal click, social click or both (depending on the topic). To illustrate types of clicks, you can apply the diagram below.

Two Types of Clicks

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Content that appeals to your guilty pleasures will often generate a personal click. These clicks tend to remain private with consumers and are not shared with their followers. Certain shopping experiences can also fall into this category, depending on the item. Someone who recently bought a new appliance might not feel the need to share their new purchase with the world. With the addition of Facebook’s Recommendation feature, shopping can often position itself into a social click which will generate engagement.

Social clicks tend to be the driving force for fan group content. Brands that appeal to specific cultural experiences can often generate a personal click, which can transition into a social click. Using the pizza pie example from before, a reader might utilize a personal click to check nutritional information and leverage a social click for a pizza buying rewards program. Nostalgia has been a long time catalyst for consumers and continues to show growth. Causes often create an emotional appeal and generate sharable clicks on a much greater level than nostalgia in that emotional connections are highly relatable where as nostalgic experiences are more exclusive.

The Next Step

It is important to understand that fan groups are not built overnight. When creating content on social media, create content that can resonate with others and can be related to specific cultural experiences.

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Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Conference Recaps, Social Media

State of Search – Social Takeaways

Since accepting a role within Digital Services, I have experienced varying perspectives on search. From weekly videos of Rand Fishkin from MOZ, to weekly calls with other teams at Marriott. Much like every winter snowflake, each perspective is slightly unique compared to the next. That is why I didn’t hesitate when asked to attend State of Search’s 3rd Annual marketing conference in sunny Dallas, Texas.

State of Search Conference

(Image Source: State of Search)

As I stepped off the plane at Dallas Love Field Airport for the conference, I had three questions lingering in my notebook, all of which were I answered during my trip.

1.) Is social media a direct ranking factor in search?

Mark Traphagen State of Search 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)

To find the answer to this question, I sought out Mark Traphagen’s presentation from Stone Temple Consulting. Through his presentation of “Social Media & SEO: Separating Myth from Fact,” Mark leveraged video interviews from SEO Power Players. A video with Google’s Former Engineer, Matt Cutts, concluded that Google constantly monitors how they view social media pages, specifically Facebook and Twitter. In a later video, Matt Cutts goes on to say, “Sites that get lots of shares are so good, they likely also earn signals that do affect rankings, such as links.”

Google has been slowly indexing tweets for quite some time, and many believe the search engine favors higher authority users. Since the digital landscape has grown to an endless field, complete indexing will not be possible overnight (or any time soon). This does not mean brands with small followings should think any less of social media in search, it simply means that instead of being on social specifically for search rankings, use this space to build your brand and drive qualified traffic.

2.) How can I help others create more engaging content?

For any problem or question I have, the first place I visit is YouTube. From installing a new SSD on my MacBook, to jumping my car battery, YouTube has never let me down. With this in mind, I decided a presentation from former YouTube star Deandre Upshaw was going to be a presentation I wasn’t going to miss.

In “Creating Video Content that People Will Actually Want to Watch,” DeAndre was quick to point out that for moving content, the future continues to function in 60 second segments. This doesn’t mean each piece of moving content should be in this proximity, it means the total content digestion should take no longer than 60 seconds. On episodic platforms like Snapchat and Instagram stories, profiles can provide small segments that result in no more than 60 seconds of content.

The importance of having a stable shot is a given, but the importance of clear lighting and audio are proving be a heavier weighted factor. If you were to search for the first videos of the current viral phenomenon, you are likely to find poor audio or bad lighting. There is a constant desire to be an innovator and have your video posted first, but it usually results in violating the importance of lighting, audio or stability.

3.) Where should I go for dinner?

Before each conference Digital Services attends, we reach out to the team for suggestions of activities after the conference concludes for the night. In addition to asking my Digital Service coworkers, I enlisted the help of the Marriott Traveler website for all necessary recommendations.

Although State of Search had a fun filled schedule intricately planned, I found myself with a final night of dinner unaccounted for. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get a recommendation from Marriott Traveler’s website. After a quick conversation with my coworker who also attended the conference and a few scrolls on our smartphones, we found ourselves in a trendy area of Dallas with sidewalk lined boutiques and quaint restaurants. Among the restaurants was “the Porch” which Traveler highlighted with a heading “Graze Over Modern, Moderately Priced Meals.” From the candle lit tables to the pristine food presentation, Marriott Traveler had delivered a great recommendation and perspective for a first time Dallas visitor. My answer for navigating new cities was quickly answered for future occasions.

The Porch, Dallas Texas

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Working in the digital emporium, we are bombarded with a variety of opinions and perspectives to answer various questions. With the opportunity to continue to grow my digital knowledge at conferences and trainings, I look forward to sharing my perspective on further digital growth.

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Posted by on Sep 13, 2016 in Social Media

Gone In 8 Seconds

The attention span of today’s Millennial traveler is roughly 8 seconds. Which is about the time it will take to read these two sentences. Meaning those expensive 30 second commercials through your TV screens during sporting events might not be as intriguing as ten years ago. The way brands advertise has transitioned branding from television screens to a mobile full screen experience with the birth of 8 second stories popular on Snapchat.

Snapchat-update-630x832

(Image Source: TechnoBuffalo)

What began as a 2011 social media power play by Snapchat may have turned full screen experience into a completely new sport for popular platforms. Facebook has certainly been hot on Snapchat’s tracks, trying to compete with an app specializing in expiring data. But let’s not forget about Facebook’s failed attempts to clone Snapchat with their app “Poke.” Or when they tried to create a disappearing messaging app called Slingshot.

In early August of this year, Facebook took a different approach and chose to utilize their photo sharing app Instagram to introduce the Instagram Stories feature to iOS users (and now android) to rival Snapchat. Through Instagram’s updated feature, users are now able to share all the moments of their day, and not just the moments they want to battle the Instagram algorithm and keep on their long term profile (similar to Snapchat). With the new feature, as you share multiple photos and videos, they appear together in a chronological slideshow format: your story, outside of your profile.

A change of pace to Instagram’s story

Since Instagram’s inception, the platform has been focused on curated feeds. Those still have a place today, but the company also needs a more relaxed form of posting to compete with Snapchat’s constantly adapting style, where you don’t have to worry about framing a perfect shot for your profile.

In the past, Facebook has coincidentally duplicated other popular apps like TimeHop with their “On This Day” feature or Twitter’s trending topics. When confronted about these clones, Facebook has found inspiration from their ability to “see behaviors from our community and try to build on top of them.” In the case of Instagram’s Stories, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has said that Snapchat deserves all of the credit. He also has noted that, “this isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.

Instagram Stories

(Image Source: Mashable)

So what major spins has Instagram brought to full screen experience?

Spin 1: Pause and Repeat

For many, the ability to hold a screen to pause a slideshow, or tap the left side to go back a slide is a major selling point. The time limited, progressing Stories might require a revisit for the viewer to fully comprehend what an individual has displayed.

Spin 2: Story Relevancy

Snapchat’s live stories have become a constant news source for many popular topics. From the Olympics to the Oscars, Snapchat’s live stories fill you in on the latest news…but what about those topics you aren’t quite interested in? For some, wading through a list of untailored live stories can often leave relevance undiscovered. That was until Instagram applied their algorithmic spin.

With a sturdy algorithmic foundation, Instagram’s Stories has the capability to personalize the live events it curates into a channel for each individual user. Based on what you have liked on Instagram, your stories will be tailored by what you have liked in the past. Meaning if your favorite band is in your city, then you’ll most likely see fan videos from that concert in your channel. However, someone else who is also in town, who doesn’t have the same taste might see clips from a different event.

What is missing from Instagram Stories?

A major selling point for Snapchat are the fun location filters, native selfie lens filters, stickers, 3D stickers, etc.. Instagram has started to allow users to save content from third-party apps like Facebook-owned MSQRD and then share them, but it takes longer than a Snap Story to truly understand.

Jeri Jackson and Ryan Sanecki Snapchat

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki (Sr. Social Analyst) and Jeri Jackson (Manager, Social Strategy))

The basic principle of Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories are very symmetrical: capture, decorate and share little clips from your week. Although Instagram may lack some of Snapchat’s more advanced bells and whistles, Instagram has established for older generations, a social graph built with beach front real estate.

TechCrunch believes that having the placement of Stories atop the Instagram interface could make their version a hit. Today’s user has a love for attention and battling algorithms. Simply said, “if you give them a new window to show off through that’s smack dab at the front of an app their friends use, vanity will kick in and people will fill that space with their face and creations.

When Instagram launched six years ago, inaugural users have had the pleasure of witnessing the evolution of a small photo sharing app turned into a game of documenting presence by having the most likes.

In today’s digital emporium, content will be king when choosing which platform to post on. I have found great excitement when my current location offers new filters for snapping. The question is, are users willing to sacrifice stickers for tailored stories? The ability to curate the best use of a consumer’s 8 second attention span will be a win for not only the platform but also the person watching.

The most important question to ask about this new feature is: has Instagram has once again made it easier to share whatever you want, when you want, and with who you want?

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Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Social Media

Hitching a Ride with Influencers in a “Post-Algo” Space

Social Media InfluencersAs Instagram celebrities begin to sell moments for money, it is more apparent that influencer marketing is no longer a trend, but now a reality. If you were to open your favorite social media app, you will quickly pick up on the trend of multiple brand/celebrity accounts. One of the Kardashians is likely to be posting about their favorite makeup, while everybody’s favorite point guard will be pushing his latest sneaker.

As today’s social media apps in the current “Game of Phones” make algorithmic adjustments to show you “the moments you care about first,” small brands are starting to fear change more than before. It is almost as if web rush hour web traffic will make brands stay home because there is no longer a vehicle for small engagement brands to gain exposure. That is until brands began hitching a ride with influencers.

Since the “post-algorithm” era has become driven by users’ engagement and behavior each platform, it’s even more important to grow an audience in an authentic way and to have a smart approach to working with influencers within the space. Here are four tips to help brands find engagement while effectively navigating web traffic with the help of influencers.

1. Look for Help

Some brands are nervous because their Instagram audience isn’t highly engaged – previously they may have lucked out with their placement in a user’s feed, but the new feed might not give them that visibility. An influencer campaign that leverages high-engagement influencers could help put brands back in the action.

2. See Who’s Following

As our team has started to dissect new algorithms, new feeds have been given the power to display content that you personally engage with, content that a lot of people have engaged with and content that’s engaged with a lot in a few short scrolls of your phone screen. What does this mean for partnering with an influencer? For maximum success, pay attention to who follows them, what their engagement rate is, and how quickly they’re racking up likes and comments and from whom. Social media platforms have been rumored to now notice how many bought followers and engagements pages are receiving. Although an influencer may have thousands of followers, many of those could be spam accounts which will affect your visibility in the algorithm.

3. Apply Strength in Numbers

There have been many debates over the ideal number of influencers in a campaign. Using a “cost effective” model with little risk often leads brands to partnering with a tight knit group of heavy hitting influencers that wield a considerable reach. Although these influencers produce great numbers, there are less chances to appear in a feed compared to the opposing viewpoint which is gaining popularity. For brands with budgets to accommodate a larger number of influencers, there has been a rise in approaches to appear in more feeds by utilizing more influencers with more modest social followers and engagement scorecards.

4. Keep an Eye Out for Up-and-Comers

The new algorithms of Twitter and Instagram are truly a blessing to both large veteran influencers and the new kids on the block by creating an even-playing field. If we were to scout influencers, you would likely think that a page’s reach was solely based on how many people had liked the page. But now algorithms have started to shake up the way popularity is defined by starting to show the friends, brands or smaller influencers you engage with first. It is now apparent that algorithms have started to reward those up-and-coming influencers whose audiences tend to be more engaged, leading to a virtuous cycle of user exposure and engagement.

Influencers are becoming a great way to gain popularity and exposure in the social media world. With the right influencers a brand will be presented through an authentic exchange through new exposure and enhanced engagement.

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