Raise your hand if you've felt personally victimized by the algorithm.
I know the feeling. Really, who doesn't? Sometimes, it feels like you forgot to wear pink on Wednesday and aren't allowed to sit with your friends anymore.
It can be hard to keep going on social media in the face of faceless algorithms and whispers of shadowbans. So many creators and businesses get worn out from constant content creation without garnering any recognition for their efforts. You think you're doing everything right. You're using trending sounds and posting content you're proud of, but the algorithm still isn't showing your stuff to anyone. It probably secretly hates you, right?
I hear you. I can empathize. I see your hard work and your determination, and I respect it. Let me put you onto a truth that will help:
The algorithm doesn't hate you. It prioritizes content that keeps people on the app longer.
Content that keeps people on the app means content that garners attention and engagement. Likes, comments, and shares tell the algorithm that your content is worth showing to others, therefore keeping more people on the app and allowing the app to show them ads in hopes of selling them something so that brands keep spending advertising dollars with that app.
In short, social media platforms are businesses trying to make money. Content that keeps users on the app makes them money.
You can use that knowledge to your advantage by creating content that keeps people on the app. High quality content that taps into trending topics, current events, or excellent storytelling creates a feedback loop that gets your content spread out to more viewers. That's why those Reels claiming to help you grow your account quickly always garner so much attention. Do those accounts actually have the secret sauce? Well, sort of. They've convinced you they can solve your problem, and that's half the battle. They've got their audience in the chokehold of FOMO, and all those followers and comments further provide the social proof to back their claims up.
Ever noticed how you're more likely to try a restaurant with a line out the door or follow those popular social media accounts? Remember when Regina George managed to make a destroyed shirt into a school-wide trend? That's social proof in action. People tend to follow the crowd, and on social media, this translates to likes, comments, and shares. The more engagement your content gets, the more attractive it becomes to new users.
So, how do you rework your content strategy to make this knowledge work for you? It comes down to social psychology and paying attention to user behaviours - and keeping it positive. We don't need any of Regina's nonsense IRL.
Social media is a stage for self-expression. Users curate their profiles to reflect their identities, interests, and values. They engage with content that aligns with their personal brand - it's an extension of their self-image.
How to Harness It: Understand your target audience's values and aspirations. Create content that resonates with how they see themselves and encourages them to share their stories or experiences related to your brand.
Another huge driver for engagement is human emotion. Emotions drive actions in life and on social media. Content that triggers emotions - be it laughter, nostalgia, anger, or empathy - is more likely to go viral. Users want to feel something, and they'll engage with content that elicits a strong emotional response.
How to Harness It: Craft emotionally resonant stories, use humour, and tap into nostalgia when appropriate. Share authentic, heartfelt content that strikes a chord with your audience in a way that aligns with your brand.
Lastly, pay attention to shifting user behaviours.
Short-form videos (Reels, TikTok, and Shorts) have been king for a while now. That isn't going anywhere, but longer content that is over 1 minute is slowly taking over. This reflects the growing concern about shortening attention spans and the want for more authentic content.
Another growing trend in user behaviour is relatable content over aspirational content. As little as five years ago, we were all watching hauls, wishing the person on screen could be us. Now, many social media users are more intentional with their purchases and are eschewing excess in favour of curation. Why? We're facing another economic downturn, and throwing money around when so many are struggling no longer resonates.
If you marry the timelessness of emotional resonance to current user behaviours, you'll be making incredible content in no time.
We live in an era of instant gratification. Social media platforms are designed to provide quick hits of dopamine through likes, shares, and comments and will prioritize content that keeps users engaged on their platform for as long as possible.
Mean Girls continues to keep us engaged because it tells a story in a way that taps into our emotions. On the surface, it's a movie about taking down a high school bully, but what it's really about is our need to belong. Social media is the same. The topics change, but it boils down to a human need for belonging and recognition. Tap into that and revolutionize your content game.