Worried faces. Conversations trying to avoid the elephant in the room, and more worried faces here and there. Endless speculation about how much of the budget must be allocated to ‘push’ the publications, and then trying to sustain all those slides of strategy with the promise of KPIs that will be a bit above the market average, leaving those people happy who can only think in terms of ROI. All of this, discussed and agreed in meetings with serious faces. And the worried faces too.
Those same faces had been struggling with the latest news from some social media platforms: the decision to modify the algorithms that decide what and when it will appear in the billions of social media feeds that are seen and read every day around the world.
Apparently, some of those worried faces are the result of having learned that business, brand and media news will no longer be as ‘successful’ as they have been; favouring content that encourages conversations between families and friends instead.
If you’re old enough, maybe the latter will remind you of the early years of this thing called the internet (those ‘information superhighway’ days, remember?), when the conversations and content generated by the users were as or more important than the activity of the brands and businesses, since the brands and the media had not yet became aware of the cultural change taking place right in front of their eyes.
A cultural change that in its very beginnings naturally let stuff become popular or ‘viral’ on the internet because of the nature of what they were, and not because of the amount of money that was used to push them and show them to users who never asked to see them.
“Oh, what a romantic and naive guy. The old days, when everything was about the power of ideas and when there were way less people online, and everything was easier on the internet…” Yes, so what? What was wrong with the fact that the content that made it was the best and not the one with the most money behind it? What is wrong with users voluntarily choosing you, your brand or your business, instead of you chasing them because you have chosen them according to their demographic profile?
Of course, that’s when the elephant appears in the room, looking at us from a dark corner and saying: “Oh, I understand, it’s way easier to discuss how and where to put money from a media budget than to use time and energy in trying to work together with the client to figure out how to generate a really powerful, relevant, original and effective message.”
Powerful. Relevant. Original. We have all consumed content that can be described with those three words. It’s not the usual thing, though. Unfortunately, it’s more the exception than the rule. And yet it was more of an exception when that content was created for or by a brand or a medium. So many layers of decisions intervene in the process of approval and validation, in something that seems – although I do not think it is at all – subjective that a great chunk of what we produce ends up smelling like ‘meh’.
For a long time, and for the comfort of all those layers of people involved in decisions, the numbers of the analytics and Excel spreadsheets did not lie – data has always been objective and not questionable at all. Ugh, dude, what a pleasure, that comfort and calm of knowing that beyond the quality of our message, it will be seen by millions and most of the times against their will… meh.
Until one day Mark Zuckerberg said something like “we received comments from our community members that posts from companies, brands and media are displacing the personal moments that allow us to connect with each other”. Worried faces all over the place.
YES! Thanks, Mark. Like in the old days. Apparently (or as I understood it from my subjective point of view) the best content for each of us will gain visibility and will be what we will see before we end up watching some random post of a brand looking at their belly button. I don’t know you, but I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Powerful. Relevant. Original. That’s the way the content we look at – when we want to and voluntarily – is, in platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix and even YouTube or Vimeo. The same way the regular internet user experience used to be years ago.
And that puts us all in a place of very healthy competition, both for the content creators and for the brands and the media people: it’s time to stop using our time to plan so much, to speculate so much, to try to predict what is going to happen, to move amounts of money from one square to another as if it were the Game of Life (I know, another retro reference in addition to the title of this post, but please understand that I am a child of the 80s…) and refocus on the power of good ideas, ideas that grow legs, ideas that generate genuine reactions, ideas that are authentic attention magnets, ideas that move those who see and interact with them.
Maybe it’s time to really think about how well we treat users (btw, it’s not by coincidence I never used the degrading term consumer), show them a bit of respect, understanding that their attention and time is priceless, regardless of the many times we tried to translate the way we used to do business in the old world – applying 50-year old marketing techniques and just selling spaces and chunks of time while advertising – into this very different digital culture.
What if we just stop complaining and ranting about that apparent ‘zero f*cks given’ attitude we have in front of the many screens we interact with during our day? It’s not that we don’t care about what brands and media platforms have to say / show to us, it’s just we care a lot about how and when we use our limited time and attention. We’re more selective and fortunately, we don’t like to be treated like brainless beings. Other industries, like the ones producing music, TV series or movies, are showing some serious efforts in terms of transforming their business by embracing the digital culture. Not to mention the ‘phenomena’ people we always mention in our very serious meetings watching them from the outside: bloggers, engineers, vloggers, content creators, entrepreneurs, strategists, technologists, directors, photographers, and many others that instead of standing there with worried faces they got down to work.
Maybe the whole algorithm thing came to open a new discussion. Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking so much about quantities, spreadsheets and metrics, and to seriously start focusing on the quality of what we say, show and publish.
Don’t panic. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The algorithm is gonna get you: sit back, relax and start thinking about how to create great ideas that will get people talking, regardless of how much money you have to produce and / or promote them.
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