Today marks over three months since the lockdowns started for COVID.
In addition to the virus, we’ve also seen a lot of social unrest. No matter how you feel about the social unrest we’re seeing, almost everyone agrees that the major social media platforms share some responsibility for the polarization of various cohorts.
The major social media companies have developed algorithms that are designed to keep people using the platforms. In order to do that, they show you (and every other user) a unique, curated feed of posts and content.
For better or for worse, the content shown is designed to get engagement – meaning it’s often either something the user will completely agree with or will violently disagree with. This causes you to click or otherwise engage with the content.
And these platforms do this relentlessly.
That’s what algorithms (and computers in general) are good at: Finding something that works and doing it over and over ad nauseam.
They know what you will read, click, and engage with, and they show that to you endlessly. They will show you content as long as you want to sit there and scroll.
Whether or not we agree, this is (currently) the world that we live in. For small business owners and those who work in digital media and marketing, it begs the question: how can we use this algorithmic relentlessness in our favor?
Because we have a job to do. We need to raise awareness for issues and get people to buy our products and services. (Hopefully, things that will make your customer’s lives much BETTER! If you don’t sell things that make people’s lives better, feel free to unsubscribe now. I don’t want to help you.)
Social media companies (as well as major search engines like Bing and Google) run millions of little tests to optimize these algorithms to perform as well as possible. And you just need to look at all the scrutiny social media companies are under to begin to understand how good they really are achieving their outcome.
So we know these algorithms are good at their job, but many advertisers and social media marketers actively try to work against them. I see ad managers constantly try to “out optimize” the algorithms.
They set up overly complicated campaigns. They try and do their own filtering. They disable all the algorithms because they want to run everything manually.
And sure, sometimes that might work. It certainly worked 10 years ago.
But today’s machine learning systems are millions of times better than the machine learning from 10 years ago. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter have teams of PhDs who work on these algorithms constantly.
Today, algorithms are more accurate and effective than they ever have been before.
In fact, as an agency, I believe 10 years from now, we will barely do any manual “targeting” at all. We may *suggest* some demographics as ads get going, but the tools we use will be so advanced, we will only do minimal targeting. In fact, most of the successful campaigns we run today for our clients do minimal targeting.
As marketers, we need to learn to work with the algorithms. Don’t over-optimize your campaigns. Don’t try and do what a computer can do a thousand times better than you.
Instead, focus on the human element of the advertising. Focus on the creative. Build great landing pages. Build great products. Focus on the things that computers cannot do as well as a human.
And instead of trying to control everything, focus on “training” the algorithm like you might train a puppy. Give it correction (using negative audiences and keywords) and point it in the right direction.
Let it run a bit before making constant changes. And be intentional about removing campaigns that aren’t achieving your goals.
Once you have a killer campaign, then let it run relentlessly and make your business money.
That’s what algorithms do. So let them do their job.
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