By Ann Gynn published July 10, 2018

21 Things to Do (or Not Do) After a Social Media Algorithm Change

social-media-algorithm-changeIn the marketing world, a change in a social media platform algorithm is a breaking news event.

Brands’ heavy reliance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., as content distribution platforms means even a slight change tightens the social media cuffs around marketers’ hands.

What should you do when your favorite social media platform decides it will deliver content differently? Heed the advice from these 21 experts who are presenting at Content Marketing World 2018.

Be the turtle, not the hare

Often, the initial panic inflates the impact of the change, and making an immediate adjustment in response to the alarm can do more harm than good. By staying steady, and carefully measuring impact, you can make more informed adjustments to your strategy based on real results, not rumors.

Melanie Deziel, founder, StoryFuel

Panic inflates the impact of #socialmedia algorithm changes. Measure real results, then adjust, says @mdeziel. Click To Tweet

Scrutinize all the factors

An algorithm could change your success both positively and negatively, but so could many other factors – including type of content, quality of content, or key events. The most important thing to understand is how your social content is performing and what factors can impact its performance.

Amy Higgins, director of content marketing, Sojern

Algorithm changes are a factor in #social results – but quality content, key events matter too. @amywhiggins Click To Tweet

Think Agile

A major algorithm change is a perfect time for hypothesis testing – a great use case for Agile. Set up some safe-to-fail experiments and see what’s working and what’s not. An Agile marketing team could devote half (or all) of a sprint to conducting experiments on a single social channel and walk away with a much deeper understanding of how their content needs to adapt.

Andrea Fryrear, president and lead trainer, AgileSherpas

Use a #socialmedia change as a good time for hypothesis testing, says @AndreaFryrear. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Grow from the changes

Adapt. For example, when organic reach dropped, we increased frequency. It helped a little. Then we started doing more influencer marketing and collaborative content. That gave us more ways to mention and share. That helped a lot. When social networks started pushing video to the top of streams, we started producing more social video. That helped a ton. It’s 10 times the work but produced 100 times the results.

Andy Crestodina, co-founder, CMO, Orbit Media         

We produced more #social video. It’s 10x the work but produces 100x the results. @crestodina #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Gather, reflect, and possibly pivot

Our amazing social media lead will hold an informational session, and then together we’ll decide how to pivot. It can be painful, but you have to face the change head on. The real takeaway is that it’s crucial in this climate to have diverse methods of reaching your audience through content – SEO, social platforms, SEM, paid media, email, partnerships, etc. – so that your KPIs are not immediately impacted by any shifts a single platform makes.

Margaret Magnarelli, vice president, marketing, Monster

Face painful #socialmedia changes head on, & don’t rely on just one channel, says @mmagnarelli. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Take time to reflect

Watch what happens for the first couple of weeks. Pay attention to what the company itself is saying and then look at the thought leaders who follow that channel carefully. They’ll probably have some data to report back that will give you an indication of how to change course.

Ahava Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group     

Look at data from thought leaders of a #socialmedia channel for ideas on how to change course. @ahaval #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Keep analyzing

You need to regularly pay attention to analytics even if the algorithm is not changing. An important thing is not to panic. I don’t rush into changes because it takes time to understand the effect of the algorithm change. Your analytics will help with this.

Ian Cleary, CEO, RazorSocial        

Pay attention to #socialmedia analytics even if an algorithm isn’t changing, says @iancleary. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Do an A and a B

Keep an eye on your key performance indicators (KPIs) to see how the algorithm impacts your desired actions. Sometimes you need to run some A/B tests to see if favorable changes are being maximized.

Buddy Scalera, content strategist, BuddyScalera.com

Run A/B tests to see if you’re maximizing #socialmedia algorithm changes, says @BuddyScalera. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Explore what’s missing

Once you get a handle on what’s changing and why, identify the gaps that now exist in your strategy or where there may not be a one-to-one match with execution, and then adjust accordingly.

Anna Hrach, strategist, Convince and Convert

See what happens with your #social & identify new gaps in your strategy. @annabananahrach #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Do your research

Reacting to changes as they happen is a sure way to drive yourself crazy. Continue to meet your audience’s needs and do so in a disciplined, sustained way. Don’t go chasing every new idea. Do read the hell out of expert blogs to see how you can tweak what you do over time.

Clare C. McDermott, head of research, Mantis Research

Read the hell out of expert blogs & see how to tweak strategy over time. @clare_mcd #socialmedia #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Differentiate the changes

When a social network changes their algorithm, it inevitably makes it harder to generate organic eyeballs, but it still doesn’t change the core focus. An algorithm that shifts from one kind of content like text posts to video would require a shift in strategy, but an update that changes what constitutes engagement would just be considered the new normal.

Eli Schwartz, director of organic product, SurveyMonkey

Pay most attention to algorithm changes that affect your core focus, says @5le. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Do quantitative and qualitative work

Watch and respond to your audience, not to algorithms. It’s funny how little some algorithm changes can affect your work if you just stay laser focused on what works or doesn’t for your customers. Use qualitative feedback as well as hard data.

Jay Acunzo, founder, Unthinkable Media

Evaluate #socialmedia w/ qualitative feedback, too. It’s all about your audience, says @jayacunzo. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Ask why

There is a reason behind an algorithm change that needs to be discovered. Was it because the audience was moving away from the platform and the provider is looking for a way to bring them back? Or maybe it is due to so many marketing messages are saturating the system, they had to block the noise. Whatever it is, you should review your practices to make sure you are not the cause of the change and decide the appropriate course of action to continue to be audience-centric.

Jeff Julian, CEO, Squared Digital

Was it something you said? Find out the reason behind the algorithm change, then adjust if needed. @jjulian Click To Tweet

Take the road less traveled

I immediately think about what can differentiate myself in all the noise. As soon as there is a new change, everybody flocks to doing the same new thing. In reality, the most successful people on social are always thinking about what they can do to be different with new changes in social.

John Hall, co-founder, Influence & Co.  

Don’t flock to the same thing everybody else is doing in reaction to a #socialmedia change. @johnhall #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Follow closely

If every change to social media algorithms necessitated a review, I’d argue we had the wrong strategy. However, with one of my clients we have been watching Facebook in particular this year following its more recent changes to see which content is more likely to make it into people’s feeds or attract activity.

Jonathan Crossfield, chief consulting editor, Chief Content Officer magazine

See which #content is more likely to make it into people’s feeds or attract activity, says @Kimota. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Evaluate regularly

A strong social media program should be evaluated regularly to marry in-channel and downstream metrics to overall program/marketing goals. It’s at this time of insight gathering and analysis you would want to tweak your content, cadence, tactics, and targeting to maximize visibility and impact in accordance with the data and any algorithmic updates. This will also help to make sure your program can capitalize on any new channel releases if relevant for the business.

Nicole Martin, vice president, strategy and analytics, Pace    

Marry in-channel & downstream metrics to overall #marketing goals, says @StrategySavvy. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Go back to the plan

It’s not that easy. And it’s not that hard. We go back to the plan: What was the reason we were distributing to that platform in the first place? What will it take (translation – how much money) to maintain the level of activity required to meet our goals? What’s the next best solution? Then, compare the two. Sometimes, you need to make a subtle shift. Other times, you need to blow it up. Regardless, wear protective goggles.

Ron Tite, founder and CEO, Church+State 

Go back to the plan. How much will it cost to meet goals? Do you need to shift or blow things up? @rontite Click To Tweet

Be algorithm-proof

Ultimately, all changes to algorithms are designed to make the end-user experience better in some way. My strategy is to consistently deliver a superior end-user experience so I am, in essence, algorithm-proof. This is the strategy of being anti-fragile and being “so great they can’t ignore you,” as Steve Martin is famous for saying. We can’t win the game of chasing algorithms. But we can win the game of creating incredible content.

Nichole Kelly, chief consciousness officer, The Consciousness Marketing Institute

You can’t win chasing algorithms. You can win the game of incredible content, says @Nichole_Kelly. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Keep your eye on the prize

Developing a strategy that keeps the big picture and vision of what you are trying to do and where you are trying to go is key. Keeping an ongoing conversation with your audience about what they are looking for can help avoid the juggling act that social media can become.

John Bucher, strategist, author, Storytelling for Virtual Reality    

Avoid the #socialmedia juggling act, have an ongoing conversation w/ your audience, says @johnkbucher. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Don’t play

I think if you’re playing algorithms, you’re playing the wrong game.

Jonathan Kranz, principal, Kranz Communications       

Don’t play the game of changing #socialmedia algorithms, says @jonkranz. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Give up

Trying to keep up with the constant social media changes increasingly feels like attempting to outrun a train, which is why I’ve given up on it. Instead, my first instinct with every new algorithm tweak is to work even harder on our SEO, while being fully aware that search, too, is nothing but a big algorithm. The only viable alternative to all of it is continuously building valuable relationships with our audiences on our own platform that will enable us to reach them under the terms that we mutually agreed on. Admittedly, GDPR made everyone reevaluate those relationships recently, but I believe that in the long run it will help to strengthen them too.

Don’t chase #socialmedia, work harder on #SEO & relationships, says @AlenkaBester. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Alenka Bester, head of digital content marketing, Zavarovalnica Triglav

Get more great tips and insight from these and dozens of other presenters at Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register today using code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

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