It’s easy to complain about the Facebook algorithm, that confusing, frustrating code that publishers, brands and bands live and die by. After all, show me someone who says they’ve never posted great content only to see it die a slow, sad death on social media and I’ll show you a liar. We’ve all been there.
But, no matter how fickle the algorithm may seem, it’s wrong to demonise it. Sure, it might be hard to track, requiring hours of careful study and trial-and-error experimentation – but that’s the point. If this shit were easy, anyone could excel at it: your grandmother could stroll into any major publishing company and challenge the most senior digital expert there.
The Facebook algorithm is simply a tool – a tricky tool to master, but a tool nonetheless. And however arbitrary it might sometimes seem, it isn’t. Throwing up your hands and blaming Facebook whenever you have a post that sinks is like blaming the clouds for the rain. It’s not that Facebook has failed you; it’s that you’ve failed Facebook.
Of course, Facebook is a company that needs to make money – they can do whatever the fuck they want. They could scrap the algorithm altogether tomorrow. They could shift their focus from video to stills. They could – as they have been threatening to do – create a tab that separates brand content from the main feed. They could carry out their threats to totally shift the way we publicise music on Facebook. We could all wake up tomorrow and discover that Facebook have changed their rules on copyrighted content, sponsored content, video content… Literally anything. And Facebook don’t have to give us a second of forewarning.
But, again, that’s the game. That’s what separates the people who are good at playing, and the people who aren’t. And anyway, how is that different from the changing, ever-fickle taste of audiences? Things have been coming and going out of style for decades now – for as long as media has been a thing. The key to survival when it comes to publishing is staying ahead of the curve: that was true long before Mark Zuckerberg came onto the scene, and it will be true long after his company falls to pieces, or evolves into something unrecognisable.
Brands, bands and publishers should recognise the Facebook algorithm for what it is: an opportunity to make sure great content reaches the audience that it deserves. It’s about separating the good from the bad and the skilled from the unskilled.
‘Cause if you know how to lean into the algorithm learn about it – obsess over it, and use it as a tool to make your content reach and connect with your audience – then the algorithm can be your best friend (and your superpower).
Own your mistakes, let the algorithm teach you, and before you know it, you will be experiencing gains the likes of which you could never have expected. Trust me.
Luke Girgis is the co-Founder and CEO of Seventh Street Media, the music media parent company of Australian publications The Industry Observer, Tone Deaf, The Brag, J Play, and Don’t Bore Us.