Are You Working for the Algorithm, or is the Algorithm Working for You?

24 Mar, 2020

by Gwenna Laithland

What happens to your work when you start trying to create what you think the algorithm wants?

It always begins so innocently. You find a new platform on which to create, and that rush of new possibility washes over you. So many options, so many new outlets for your genius. It’s invigorating.

You feel like a god: the power of content life and death, comedy, and tragedy all within your creative control. You’re gonna make what you wanna make, and no one can stop you.

This feeling lasts about a month.

Then you start getting the algorithm feels. You read or watch other folks’ content in the same niche or style, and their views are better, engagement higher. You know your work is as good if not better, and yet they are getting the lion’s share of the views, clicks, and comments. Their work is hitting the front page of this new fantastic medium, and you’re buried on page nineteen.

Large platforms like YouTube, Medium, or Instagram are fantastic in some ways. There are a lot of eyes in one gathering place, all looking for content to consume. But there is also a lot of content available. It’s easy to get your work lost in platforms as big as those. Plus, they work on algorithms. Clever bits of code that are supposed to show viewers, readers, and audiences things they want. Or, at least, things they think they want.

If your content doesn’t meet with the mystery demands of the almighty algos, your work might not be seen. The right eyes won’t ever find it. 

So, you start doing some research and fiddling with SEO. You focus your content a little more on keywords and trending topics. You don’t really want to talk about unicycles today, but it seems to be ranking high on the Google Searches so, unicycles it is. Months go by, and your work feels less inspired—less like you. But your stats are trending upward.

You’ve started working for the algorithm. That’s a problem. Not only can this lead to some severe burnout, but there’s no way to know for sure if the people really want your content or if it’s just the algorithm showing it to a bunch of folks that don’t care.

Ever notice how many Hack-an-Algo articles and videos exists across platforms? 7 Ways to Find Success on Medium – Tips to Up Your Views on YouTube – Make Yourself an Insta-Influencer in 3 Easy Steps. These exist because so many people end up capitulating and writing to appease the bots that distribute content. Not because they want to, but because they need to.

When you start writing, filming, or creating to appease the algorithm, what part of your creative self must you sacrifice? As content producers, we all have this razor-thin wire to walk. We create because we must. But we also have bills to pay. Thus, we have to create what folks want. The personal need and audience demand don’t always feel like they meet in the middle.

Except, they can. They can when you find a way to connect directly to your audience.

Smartlike is an innovative way to get your content seen. You still publish to those platforms with all the viewers, but you can connect in a direct and personal style with your fanbase. Smartlike’s recommendation engine shows folks new content, including yours, based on their actual behavior and habits. Many algorithms work in favor of the platform’s advertisers and investors, filtering folks toward content that works best for served ads and stock points. Small creators, without an incredible dash of luck, may struggle to wedge themselves into that cumbersome door. You feel forced to create for the algorithm.

Smartlike has no such allegiances. No advertisers lining our pockets, and no venture capitalist investors to pay back. We aren’t trying to be the next big thing. Smartlike is trying to see you become the next big thing.

We exist as a support structure for content creators across multiple platforms. Our main goal is to let you see what content is actually working for you. When a fan smartlikes your work on our app, it is visible to our entire network of readers, fans, and consumers. It isn’t a random, easily clickable, easily dismissed heart or thumbs-up. It’s a pledge of real-world money, a real-time assessment of how great your content is and how in-demand your work has become.

No more creating for the algorithm. Create your best work and connect directly with your fanbase. Smartlike is here for you.

Gwenna Laithland

Gwenna is a professional writer, humorist and essayist. She also manages the chaos in communications with Smartlike.