I’m talking about algorithms.
In the world of content, we all live and die by the algorithm. Whether you’re on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or TikTok, the biggest determining factor of your success is how the algorithms treat you. But what exactly are they, and why are they so important?
When it comes to digital content platforms, every algorithm has one goal in common: to give their audience the best experience possible while on the platform.
Why do they do this?
Because if you enjoy your time on the platform, you’ll use it more. The more you use it, the more ads they can serve you.
How do they do this?
By serving you content that you’ll watch, enjoy, and engage with.
But here’s the thing: the algorithms are just pieces of code. They can’t just watch a video and figure out how funny it is. They don’t know how catchy the song you included was. They don’t know how attractive you are. They figure out interests based on cross-referencing different audiences against what they watch and don’t watch, and over time are able to predict what those audiences will like. They figure out what a good piece of content is (v.s. a bad one) based on various metrics like clicks, retention, engagement, and views. In “algorithm speak:” Good metrics? Good content. Let’s push it. Bad metrics? Let’s kill its reach.
The algorithms all have some subtle nuances to them. Here’s what you should pay attention to with each one:
TikTok: Retention and engagement. If you can get someone to stick around for the entire duration of your post, you’ll have great success. If you’re getting people to like and comment at a high rate, that’s your second indicator. Get them to watch your video multiple times along with the above? You’ll likely go viral. This is why you see a lot of successful TikTok videos set up with a definitive beginning, middle and end, with lots of tension building elements in between.
YouTube: Click-throughs and watch time. You’ll need a headline and thumbnail that will stand out against the noise, and you need to keep them watching for as long as possible. Long videos with great stories that consistently engage throughout are common winners here.
Instagram: 3-second views, engagement, and overall retention.You must capture your viewer’s attention within the first 3 seconds. Get them to stop scrolling through the feed. Keep them watching for as long as possible, and get them to leave a like or a comment because they enjoyed the video so much. If you’re working with still posts, focus on the 3-second scroll stopping mentality just the same, as well as getting engagement from the post. People that look at your image and keep scrolling right away aren’t helping you in the algorithm.
Facebook: 3-second views and retention. Capture your viewer in the first 3 seconds, stop them from scrolling, then keep them watching for as long as possible. Unlike Instagram, we see much more limited correlation between engagement and post performance, but in terms of causation, great posts tend to cause great engagement…so they do often align anyway.
If you’re not used to playing to the algorithms, don’t be afraid to start now by focusing on the few things I listed above. Give those algorithms the proper attention, test around them, and keep learning from your results. I promise you that it is by far the most effective way to see success on social media.
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