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A Gold Rush for Brands...Until [the Day] The Algorithm Changed

Business

January 11th started out like any Thursday. Then the earth shook. A seismic shift happened in the marketing world, its impact so far-reaching, that two months later, it was the topic of the opening keynote at the Social Media Marketing World [SMMW] annual conference.


“You probably remember the fateful day – January 11, 2018," stated Michael Stelzner, CEO of Social Media Examiner, as he stepped on the conference stage. He went on to say that “on that day, the man Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, said, 'we are making a major change to Facebook'." This algorithm change, like those that are instituted on other major marketing platforms, can have positive, or often, devastating effects on businesses.

Before you think this it's an over dramatization to say an algorithm change can put you out of business, you must first understand the ecosystem that surrounds Facebook. While the public enjoys social networking on the platform, brands and entrepreneurs depend on Facebook to drive leads and ultimately sales for their businesses. It wasn't just revenue at risk, but entire companies, jobs and ultimately families would be impacted.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube all need content and users. There is a symbiotic relationship between the platforms and their contributors, who are dependent on what the other has to offer to thrive. The key component that is important not to forget, is that the platform owner is always in the driver's seat, and while they need brands and users to generate and consume content, they will act in their own best interest every time.

The January 11th announcement, and the algorithm change, proved fateful for LittleThings, the millennial, female facing company that built its business primarily on Facebook over the last three years. On February 27th 2018, LittleThings announced the sudden dismissal of their 100 employees and the last day of the business. The reason? Facebook's algorithm change proved devastating to both traffic and engagement, and the millions of followers on the popular page were effectively squandered. "Our organic traffic (the highest margin business), and influencer traffic were cut by over 75 percent. No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation. The position it put us in was beyond dire," a statement from the company reads. It's worth noting that LittleThings existed only on Facebook, taking a trendy route for today's crops of influencers by building their life's work on a third-party site.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

It's always risky business to put all your eggs in one basket, or in this case, build your entire business on one platform.

It's easy to see how companies get seduced into it. Like the Gold Rush or the heady days before the Dot Com Bubble, companies and entrepreneurs are easily seduced by the shiny object and the promise of riches, so much so that they lose perspective and rationality and throw caution to the wind. Heavy or total reliance on one client or platform, is never sustainable as it leaves you at the mercy of their whim, or in this case, algorithm change.

So just how did LittleThings, a former pet e-commerce site, hit a winning formula for sharing unique, inspirational stories about people and pets, and come to depend too heavily on Facebook?

Paul Kontonis, Chief Marketing Officer, of influencer marketing platform Whosay explains, “In a bid to woo publishers into producing content for their platforms, i.e. - Facebook, the early days of each platform were typically marked with fantastic reach and ease of building an audience for a business, whether a publisher or brand. Basically, this a pure feed that rewards early adopters who produce a lot of snackable funny, inspiring or emotional content."

In the case of LittleThings, after pivoting from pet e-commerce to content publisher, hit upon a successful formula on Facebook, rising at a meteoric rate reaching over 50 million unique views in three years. With business skyrocketing, it's easy to understand the temptation to keep riding the wave, feeling invincible. In fact LittleThings CEO, Joe Speiser was interviewed on the Digiday podcast in 2016 and said: “As long as you constantly pivot within the Facebook ecosystem, you'll be fine." This, unfortunately, turned out not to be the case.

With the discovery that fake identities were created on its platform by Russian operatives to interfere with the U.S. election, it's safe to say that 2017 was a difficult year for Facebook. With the additional disclosure that users were passively consuming content, and therefore less likely to make purchasing decisions via the platform, also Facebook's shining brand image.

In the wake of the news that Facebook was looking to support organic community building rather than business agendas, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful interactions." The shift, of course, meant that brands would get less visibility, as Facebook prioritized the content of our friends and connections. According to Zuckerberg, the move underscores Facebook's responsibility to provide value, as well as ultimately drive more revenue (as brands are forced to spend more of their advertising dollars).

Are we relying too much on 3rd party social sites for brand awareness?

Brands put a lot of marketing efforts and dollars behind raising brand awareness and getting in front of their target audience on a regular basis. The easiest way to get in front of your audience is to position yourself where they already spend time – on popular platforms.

“Publishers who focus all of their resource and energy on one platform are playing an extremely dangerous game. Algorithms are built with the sole purpose of eventually allowing the platform to monetize their service through ad-selling or requiring publishers to pay for reach. This means at any point, if it suits the platforms, the algorithm can completely switch without any warning, leaving your page in a position where it's barely half as effective as before," cautions Catty Berragan, Creative Director of Social Chain.

While the temptation can be great to rely on other platforms, marketers need to create compelling reasons for their audience to return to their own platforms, again and again. Marketers, like algorithms, must stay on top of their audience and foresee change on the horizon so they can be ready for the change before it arrives.

Ingredients for long-term success

Berragan advocates for more diversification and looking at 'less busy platforms' to publish on, while Kontonis recommends focusing on content that is irresistible to your target audience. Both ideas need to be embraced by brands that want to be successful in both the short term and the long term.

New platforms, new algorithms will come and go. Mark Schaefer, the author of Return on Influence, closed his SMMW keynote with this sage advice:

“Embrace this chaos, we'll be seeing more of it."

Brands that succeed over the long term will go back to basic good business practices of creating great content their audience wants, distributed over a healthy mix of their own platforms and those that they don't own, but that their target audience frequents.

Listening to customer feedback and being nimble, adaptable and ready to turn on a dime, as prevailing tastes and engagement shift are key components of long-term success for brands. While large numbers have dazzled advertisers, the truth remains that a smaller more relevant and engaged is more valuable than a larger, less engaged one. Know your audience better than they know themselves. The right kind of content in front of the right audience is very valuable, just make sure you keep most it on platforms you own or control.

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Health

Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.


As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.


Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."

https://www.drvalerie.com/