Algorithm Evolution: Adapting to Social Media Changes

The first time I heard the concept of Moore’s Law was exponentially mind-blowing. (See what I did there?) If you’re not familiar, it’s essentially the idea that roughly every 18 months to two years, the processing power of computers will double.

I learned about this concept at a lecture on how advances in technology are at odds with human adaptability to change. The presenter talked about how this 1965 theory would flourish in the future of biomedicine despite human resistance. It reminded me of the history of social media; the seemingly overnight explosion of platforms and the rapid rate of changes thereafter.

Related: The future of digital advertising is in the hands of the end user.

Moore’s Law has extended beyond the world of transistors and circuits into the fast-paced, ever-connected realm of social sharing — a phenomenon Mark Zuckerberg dubbed the “Law of Sharing.” In typical chicken-egg fashion, the doubling nature of sharing on platforms led in part to algorithmic feeds across channels.

Pioneered by Facebook, preference-based algorithms changed news feeds dramatically, shifting prioritization from recency to assumed relevancy.

Here’s a quick look at how social media feeds have “grown up”:

  • Adolescence: From 2003 to around 2010, feeds were pure and simple. They showed what your friends were doing in the moment.
  • Teen years: Then, from roughly 2011 to 2014, Facebook and friends started flirting with algorithms and advertisers — they were in a constant state of trial and error, finding their identity and re-prioritizing their interests (photos and videos, for example).
  • Young adulthood: Since about 2015, platforms have grown into themselves. Algorithms are appearing on every major platform, and the learning curve is mostly over. Now, it’s all about fine-tuning skills and services.

To make it into their middle-aged years, social media platforms will need to identify the gap that current algorithms can’t adjust for, like allowing for user curiosity and determining true intent. The timeline below shows the life stages of major platforms, from their launch to their most recent changes.

Regardless of how quickly social media platforms age from here, brands need to realize that these channels aren’t just kids on the playground anymore — they’re full-fledged marketing tools that can’t be neglected.

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Of course, this is just one strategist’s take on which updates have been the most impactful. There have been myriad other changes to how these social platforms deliver information over the years (a more comprehensive look at that here) — and no doubt even more to come in 2018 and beyond.

To keep up with how those such future changes will affect your business, we’ve got you covered — just keep following our blog, and be sure to follow us on our own Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages.