Beat Every Algorithm With Stories
Updated: May 3, 2020
I’m Old(ish). Lately I can’t seem to muster the oomph I need to get to the gym 3 x weekly like I used to. Long runs have turned into ambling walks where I look at flowers & other assorted flora & take thousands of photos of them that no other human is ever likely to see.
And though it’s difficult to admit, the pre-internet-era was a time in my life that I remember with fondness. I often long for it. Days spent carelessly without wondering where we could find free wifi or an outlet to charge our phone on. Yep, I’m old enough to remember what it was like to live without phones in our pockets & screens in front of our faces 24/7/365. Those were the days, eh?
Some argue that pre-technological revolution times were simpler. Less complex. Some would even say that we had longer attention spans (that’s right, fellow-goldfish, if science is to be believed we used to be able to look at something for more than 3 seconds before growing abjectly bored by it).
I’ve also heard it said many times that, before tech became interwoven into our every waking (& some sleeping) moments, that we made more meaningful connections with others than we do today.
In our tech-drenched modern world, the beep-beep-boop of algorithms rule our world.
Seriously, they RULE it. Whether you’re hyper-aware of it or not, computer learning & AI-driven platforms are behind almost everything we see, do, eat, buy, & decide.
And, while I love a nice spicy hit of hyperbole just as much as the next person to help start off an article for me, the truth of the matter is this: The machines aren’t taking over – they already have.
I’d wager big bucks (if I had them) that you’re reading this right now on some sort of device that’s connected to the internet. Desktop, tablet, mobile phone, old-school projector on a wall… whatever your poison. You’re online, aren’t you? If you’re not, let us all take a minute & send a big shout out your way for being hardcore enough to have printed this out on actual paper. Whoa, Throwback City USA.
Beyond the fact that I’m typing this on a laptop & you’re reading it online, I’d also put more cash that I don’t have on the fact that us sharing this moment right now is due to an algorithmic equation. Somewhere along the line a mixture of our browsing history, engagement metrics, keywords, & shared sass levels, a mathematical equation brought us together.
With a plethora of predilections when it comes to the kind of content we consume, the algorithm goddesses that rule our digital universe have matched us up today. Nawww… my heart’s a bit warm & gooey thinking about it.
I’d like you to think about your day – how it begins, what you do in your waking hours, & how it ends.
I bet you the morning looks something like this:
Wake up & groggily grab your phone
Squint to check the time (Gah! Time to start getting moving already?!)
Check a newsfeed on autopilot (probably Facebook)
Check another newsfeed – less autopilot (though denial grows at wanting to get out of bed)
Browse your Insta (Yassssss-Feed-The-Feed)
Click through to watch something inane on YouTube
Check emails – click through the interesting ones, bin the boring ones without clicking
I can’t pinpoint when my waking moments (those unencumbered, quiet times when we all move from dream-land to waking reality) became heavily laden with the white noise of over-information & buzzy technology.
All I know is that this is my new reality.
A new reality for most of us.
A shared experience determined by machines with built-in biases.
Biases that aren’t our own, but that have become so by default.
The freaky part? We can’t escape them. They hunt us down. Those AI, key-word, audience vertical, & segment driven content proliferators. Those tricky little red notifications that pop up on my phone, Mac, & watch send our dopamine receptors into outer-space.
Sweetly named cookies consume us instead of the other way around. Sugary-sweet promises of relevance are promised in their name alone. Tracking pixels know us better than we know ourselves. And, the algorithmic super-sleuths of search find us.
They all work in unison with one goal in mind. The goal is getting MOAR!
They want us to consume more. Click more. Read more. Watch more. Share more. Create more. Buy more. MOAR MOAR MOAR!
Which, if you’re in the business of reaching people, puts us digital/social/new-age marketers in a funny spot.
We spend so much time & effort trying to gather data (the kind of data that means something) so that we can then creatively extract true insight. And we go to lengths hiring on ‘experts’ who charge exorbitant rates to expensively dig their way to the bottom of the ever elusive consumer purchase funnel.
There has to be a better way? A more cost-effective way of achieving both reach & relevance.
Because, as it stands, we’re drowning in a sea of over-information – without a lifejacket to keep us afloat. And as much as “purists” out there don’t like to admit it… we need to invest in reach to then have deep engagement metrics eventuate off of the back of exposure.
Which leaves us with quite the conundrum.
In an ever-changing & very very busy marketplace how do we find a North Star by which to find our way home?
Easy (kinda): we face the truth.
The truth? We’re all being punked by algorithms on the daily.
What do I mean when I say we’re getting punked by algorithms? Simply put, I believe we’re being distracted. By the new & the shiny. And, by jargon. We’re all so busy talking around solutions & looking for ‘innovation’ that we forget the basics.
I truly believe the basics are the basics for a reason. To change hearts & minds you need to be seen & heard. To grow, you must know how to scale. But before worrying about any of this, there’s something every single marketer or advertising bod worth their weight in salt (or organic tea leaves) needs to remember.
After 15 years working as a leader in digital & social media marketing I can say, hand-on-heart, that you only need to do this one thing to create impactful, successful & memorable campaigns:
Tell a good story well.
That's it. That's the one thing.
If you do this, algorithms will sort themselves out in your favour.
It’s that simple & that complicated.
The hard part is the empty page staring back at you when you start.
You can’t just magic up a good story. You need data, then you need to find a true golden-nugget of insight to build a story upon. There’s no shortcut to creating amazing work, either. Creating a GREAT story, takes time, skill, & a truly human connection.
Remember, always remember, that humans are at the other end of your communications. Not clicks. Not CPM. Not any other digital metric – human eyes, human hearts, human minds.
I promise you, if you invest in the people you’re looking to influence, & spend the required time & effort on your story & your brand, you’ll be so far ahead of the competition that you’ll never have to worry about algorithm changes or channel shifts again.
Channels come & go – they always have & always will.
The basics are the basics for a reason.
Humans have been telling stories since time immortal. Learn how to weave a quilt of mixed experiences, prerogatives, & emotions into a your narrative.
Thread your needle carefully, thoughtfully. Welcome people into the fold.
Have a reason for being – & always aim to add more value than you’ll ever ask in return.
If you do that & if you include your audience in your narrative then your story becomes their story.
And, when your story is built upon shared ownership, others will share it for you freely. There’s literally no app, website, or social channel that could track, re-target, or plan for that.
Keen to beat the AI newsfeed?
Dig deep. Be real. And have fun doing it.
If you’re keen to learn how to build your brand & campaign stories to ensure impact & success, drop me a line.
I’m happy to help you do this.
Click here for more information on storytelling for business, & to get in touch!