The social media algorithm is a perpetual battleground. Whether it’s a platform trying to create a better user experience or a content creator wanting to make sure that people see their posts, constant adjustments by both sides can often annoy users. Here are a couple of social media algorithm oddities that are driving people crazy lately
1) Still images being turned into videos on Facebook
I keep seeing still images being shared around on Facebook that are actually videos. Others have noticed this as well and have expressed anywhere from annoyance to bafflement at the practice. Page owners and marketers have long struggled with social media algorithm changes to get their content in front of the biggest portion of their followers without having to pay to promote every single post. Recently, they seem to have stumbled across the fact that video content gets delivered to more feeds than other types of media.
Your guess is as good as mine. I suspect it has something to do with Facebook wanting those sweet dominant numbers over YouTube in the web video space. So now, social media managers who are looking to optimize their metrics for the least amount of money are taking some of their most shareable still image content and converting it to video. This translates to more post views. More post views (usually) translate to more engagement. And for nearly any social media algorithm, more engagement means that all content gets delivered to a larger percentage of feeds for free. (This is kind of an oversimplification of how that works, but that’s the general idea.)
I’m not really sure what sucks most about this: The fact that it sucks down more bandwidth and data or that I can’t right click and save my favorites (or share them with friends and colleagues on Slack).
2) Instagram showing only the posts with the highest engagement
I actually had to unfollow someone on Instagram recently, not because I don’t like them or their posts, but because Instagram changed how they show posts from people you follow. Their algorithm assumes that if a post from someone you follow has a lot of likes or comments that you’ll want to see it. That makes sense in principle. But this approach is broken, and this particular case demonstrates why.
This person’s posts tend to get more engagement than just about everyone else I follow (except for maybe actual celebrities). They also post a LOT. The combination of these two things resulted in Instagram showing me ONLY their posts. I could count on one hand the number of posts I saw from other people I follow. There was simply no other option than to unfollow them. Users shouldn’t have to choose between seeing posts from a popular and prolific Instagrammer and seeing posts from literally anyone else.
I don’t want to be that curmudgeon who dislikes change for the sake of being curmudgeonly. I understand the purpose of a good social media algorithm. But the keyword there is good. There’s simply too much content on most platforms to let feeds continue to be a firehose in most cases. But a firehose is better than a poorly curated experience that drowns out the less popular or the less prolific.