The Technology of OutreachThere is one fundamental flaw with any computer system. It’s not a human being.
All that it can see are zero’s and ones, binary to be exact. It can contain data but it can never have true knowledge, because it does not have any way of evaluating that data. Put simply it can never have a context.
Countless Science Fiction films and books have questioned this reality, usually with the out of control Artificial Intelligence pondering its existence before wiping out human life as we know it. The reality is that this is still fiction and we are no nearer to understanding the true process of thought than we were when HG Wells first came up with the genre.
The end result of this quandary is that computers don’t know if something is good or bad, interesting or boring, inspired or unoriginal, funny or just bad taste. It can stream the Adam Sandler or Michael Bay film over the Internet, it just can’t fully explain quite how bad it really is.
Fixing the issue of how a computer can judge whether something is good or bad actually turned out to be really simple. It just needed the humans to do it for it.
Every social engine works on one simple concept. An interaction.
An interaction can be a like, a +1, a share, a retweet, a favourite, a comment or any other variation of the concept of acceptance or authorisation. By liking something on Facebook or +1’ing it on Google the user is providing the algorithm with interaction. Think of it like adding an extra gold star to the good versus bad scorecard that all the engines keep.
The computer now knows that the user likes this thing, whatever it is.
Now the social engines can use this information to understand you, to probe in to your inner desires and needs and offer more tailored products to what they think you will appreciate. This is very big business and something you may want to look in to.
But it can also now evaluate the content. If enough people interact with something then surely it must be better than something with no interaction? If lots of people were shown something and interacted with it then perhaps it is worth showing that thing to other people. Remember that the social engines are in the entertainment game first and foremost. Their survival depends on their ability to keep their user base occupied with exciting and up to date content.
Ultimately, it’s all about showing relevant, interesting content to relevant, interested people.
How Social Outreach and Trending works
The concept is actually very simple. This is how it works.
A user posts some content on a social platform and the social engine will show that content to a certain number of people. If enough people interact with that content then the social engine will show the content to more people. If enough of those people continue to support the post with further interaction then the social engine will show the content to even more people.
This process repeats and expands to infinity and beyond. Each level of new visibility is greater than the last one – the social engine will continue to show the content to more and more people as long as it meets the requirements in terms of the quantity of interaction necessary to keep it expanding.
View it as an ever expanding series of circles with each level capturing an exponential number of organic reach. The secret is getting enough interaction to meet the criteria of the next level and keep the process going.
Like some nuclear chain reaction, the ever increasing levels of interaction eventually turn the content into a sustaining, replicating juggernaut. More views, more interaction, more views again, more interaction, more views. The process repeats and almost takes on a life of its own.
Congratulations, your content is now trending.
Judged by your peers
This whole concept is quite revolutionary in the world of computing. In the past, content was evaluated based on keywords, associations and relevancy, usually by a computer. Now with a social engine the evaluation process is controlled by a human instead, even if it’s still the computer that is keeping score in the background.
What the effect of this means, is that content can no longer be faked. A human will judge the effort based on the fundamental principles of content – Educate, Inform, Entertain. If the content doesn’t do one or more of these things then it will not pass the human test, irrespective of how well optimised or fine tuned it is.
Likewise, the process cannot easily be messed with, at least not beyond a certain level. The numbers required to make something trend cannot be achieved through automation as the engines are fine tuned to ignore or ban those that try to interfere or adjust this process. No-one interacts with spam, at least in volume, and most of the engines are capable of spotting this. Even if they don’t there is usually a manual fail safe as those being spammed report it as such. Turns out humans are quite happy to point the finger of blame, who would have thought?
Give outreach a helping hand
It is possible, even sensible, to give this process an initial helping hand. Getting some close allies and friends to interact with the content shortly after it posts is a natural process that is done by pretty much every social media professional on the planet. Mum, can you just share this for me on Facebook please? Does Dad have a LinkedIn account? Is Granny still on Tumblr?
This mate sponsored interaction will give an item of content a level or two of free outreach and is never a bad thing. Users are less likely to interact with a zero so having some kind of simple comment on it at the start will give it a fighting shot.
Ultimately your content must stand or fall on its own merit. Fundamentally, it is why every Internet Marketing professional worth anything will tell you that you always need better content. Even if they don’t necessarily understand the underlying technical reasons why.
Trending is not the endgame
Everyone loves a bit of trending. If you can get it then ride that beast for all it is worth. Friends, followers and connections all mean more starter outreach. Connecting in whatever form can be considered your default outreach – these are the people who get your content without the social engine having to decide – so having a higher number of connections means that you start from a higher base.
Unfortunately the day to day reality is that not all content trends, in fact very little content trends. Most people are very disappointed to find that it is actually incredibly random. Turns out the humans don’t really know what they like either, who would have thought it?
Content may be posted and a small outreach achieved at regular intervals. The simple act of repeatedly posting content and gaining a few levels before dying back is actually the more regular form of social activity. Each time the circle grows outwards it picks up new opportunities. New people are being exposed to the brand and hopefully exposed to some helpful words that Entertain, Inform or Educate. All of this is good.
Each time the process occurs the circle should get bigger on average. Good content obviously helps but this regular activity will bring in business, slowly but surely. Finding partners who also have good content can mean regular cross sharing.
The big disadvantage of social media is that it dies very quickly. Once that circle has expanded and retracted the content is effectively dead. An older piece of content might pick up some residual random searches based on the words contained but this will be nothing compared to a big push.
This is in contrast to things like Google listing that may last for months after the effort spurt and even traditional marketing. It may take months before that leaflet in the drawer is actually used to order a pizza.
Stimulating interaction by prompting a user with a call to action is probably the most common digital marketing technique out there.
Comment below if you agree with this statement
Everyone does it. Loads of people fall for it. Don’t ask me why.
As a result, there is a real art in crafting a word or phrase that suggests. The real masters of the technique can do it without a user even realising it is happening. It is important to appreciate that sometimes even the masters just hit the user over the head with a hammer. Whatever works.
Continual overuse of this technique is not advised.
SummaryA social engine works on a very simple principle. Let the human’s judge whether the content should be shown to more humans. If you can create good quality, well thought out content that can Educate, Inform or Entertain then this process will happen naturally.
Just randomly posting nonsense on your social accounts means that you are just talking to yourself. Understand that social media is a way to reach out to your customers. The more they interact with the content you provide, the greater your social outreach.
Yatter is all about fostering high quality interaction. It’s that simple.
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