Have you ever gone onto social media after a long day of talking with friends, partners, co-workers, etc. And notice some of the things you spoke about are popping up on your feed? This is because our phones are always listening. Platforms use algorithms to understand what their users want individually. No two social media feeds are exactly the same, they are specifically made for each user. Posts you are viewing are not in order of when it was posted but how relevant it is to that you.
Why Do They Use Algorithms?
Algorithms are used to analyze users’ behaviour and get a better understanding of their likes, dislikes, preferences, and what specific users engage with. This allows platforms to gain more attention and interest from their users who will now spend more time on the app. This also leads to more personalized ads. Now that TikTok for example knows what videos you engage with most, you will see more advertisements for those products or brands. You might also see content creators pop up doing brand deals because people are more likely to stop and shop from a trusting face who is supporting the brand. This is a way for them to gain your attention and hopefully a new customer.
Do All Platforms Have the Same Algorithm?
No, every social media platform has its own algorithm that constantly changes to keep user engagement. TikTok for example has a FYP (for you page). This is different for every user and the videos on everyone’s FYP are based on the videos you interact with the most. If you watch a lot of cooking, cleaning, or makeup videos, that is going to be the majority of the videos on your feed. TikTok is also one of the apps I mentioned before that listens to your conversations, so it can put more related content you’ll interact with on your FYP. Most of us don’t realize this setting is on but do you find it helpful or creepy? Here’s another blog with what Brent Barnhart thinks about algorithms.
Twitter as another example has a different algorithm. Where TikTok has a section specifically to watch videos from your following, Twitter puts tweets from people you follow as well as tweets they think you will be interested in based on your interactions and following list. The algorithm also sends push notifications of recommendations and trending topics. I can be one to say this algorithm worked on me! I kept getting notifications from accounts I didn’t follow but that interested me. This leads me to follow the account and look at more of their tweets and content. Has this ever happened to you?
What Are Your Thoughts?
Algorithms are constantly changing and are hard to keep up with. I like most of you figured out these algorithms on my own, but who knows if they will be the same tomorrow. Apps are constantly being updated to keep up with their user’s needs, and they even add similar features that are popular on other apps to see if they can get the same or more attraction. Each platform is fighting the other for user engagement and it’s interesting to see new updates and features. Do you find algorithms helpful or would you prefer your feed to not be prioritized based on your engagement on each post?
Ever wonder why your feed isn’t always in the order it was posted & why some people are always at the top? Read my blog about algorithms to understand why https://bit.ly/3E9Xgel #algorithms #newsfeed
Do you ever log in for your daily updates and laughs and find yourself interested in every post on your feed? Read my latest blog to know why https://bit.ly/3E9Xgel #personalizedcontent #predictions
Creepy! It is a smart way to do business and gather consumer information, but when, for example, chatting with friends about a book I want to read and then all of a sudden it appears as an ad on my newsfeed it can be a bit unnerving. Also, the friends that I have on Facebook I want to be able to read what they post. Those seem to be decreasing and being replaced by other generic posts that apparently the algorithms decided I would like. They are wrong. I understand the purpose of using algorithms, but it is too much. I feel like any of the human connection that was the original reason for creating an account on a social media platform is now secondary.
Great blog. Thanks!
McKenna, great blog. I think you hit the nail on the head as to where social media is headed. Algorithms are the “soft sandwich center between two entities, whether they be friends or a business and potential customer. Their evolution, or regulation, will drive the future use of many social media apps. For example, I was buying some tires last year, and searched many sites for alternatives. To no surprise, tire adds started popping up on my screen. Unfortunately, even after I had bought tires, and had moved on, the popups still had tire adds. The algo did not switch to my new interests, which surprised me. Certainly Google has access to Visa records, and should have seen my purchase of new tires, and updated its responses. Or perhaps I was seeing a limitation of the data flow, and the algorithm is not as fully ubiquitous as I had assumed.
Do you think the evolution of algo’s is a good thing, a social good, or should they be controlled ?
Hi Jeffery. This algorithm is highly helpful to retailers. They can more successfully contact their potential clients and leave them with a wide choice of spending options. But for the users, the right algorithm and promotion can assist us in quickly and precisely locating the correct one. However, overzealous pushing can be extremely grating and lead to dislike to the social software.
This is a scary reality for me and it is exactly this type of activity that makes me want to cancel my phone and delete my social media. Go back to living off the grid. Then I calm down and think about the positives there are to staying connected with people and try to at least minimize the amount of information I am sharing hopefully. Being a product of the 70’s, these advances in technology terrify me for sure. Great topic and awesome breakdown of information for us less adept folks.
Great post, McKenna! I can see how this is super useful for brands and how to get their product in front of you on social but it is so creepy. Sometimes you can just be thinking about something, not even saying it out loud and it will still show up on your feeds. It’s great when they post discounts on items or shows you want tickets to but it is still unnerving when you think about them listening to everything. It will be interesting to see how it evolves in the future.
Amazing blog post! I had a moment the other day where I was talking about how much I want to work somewhere and that same day I had a video on TikTok talking about a national hiring event for that company! I think it is creepy that my phone is constantly listening to me, but it’s also pretty helpful sometimes.
Great blog post. I think there are some benefits to social media algorithms because it allows your feed to be tailored to your interests. I definitely enjoy looking at my own social media feed compared to my boyfriends whose feed is full of things like cars and anything with an engine.
But having an algorithm too tailored to your interests can also be harmful. I think it can make us very narrow minded about the world around us. If your social media is filled with nothing but the things you are interested in and with people who only see the world as you do; it can be easy to forget about the rest of the world. I think our social media feeds being so focused on our own values can foster a lot intolerance of other views. It can also make us think downplay some of the prevalence of a lot of intolerant groups because we may see them as insignificant or fringe groups