Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Train Your Social Media

This is not a post that is going to recommend your trim the people you follow or drop one of your favourite platforms.

I'm going to tell you a secret: you can now train your social media to show you more of the kind of things you want to see.

How? Well the start of understanding comes from the knowledge that there is so much content on sites like Facebook that even if you scrolled for a day, you could not view every single thing posted by people you follow (plus sponsored content). Same goes for Pinterest.

What both these social media platforms have found is that due to sheer volume and because you can't seem to curate your own content, they have had to figure out a way to do it for you. The answer was algorithms.

I don't know the nuts and bolts of it all, and can only speak from my own experience here, but I do believe that we have reached the point where you now have to "train" your social media.

The mechanics of it are simple - the "like", "comment", "share" and "repin" buttons are your friends. Everytime you indicate to Facebook that you LIKE something - a joke meme, a news story, a friend's photo - it remembers. It then tried to show more of that kind of stuff in your feed. Pinterest now operates on the same principal, showing you items that are similar to things you've recently liked or repinned.

I noticed this on Pinterest when I opened it one day and saw page after page of pretty landscape photography. I realised this had mainly been what I had been pinning lately. I figured out then that I had to tell the algorithm I wanted to see other things! Unfortunately those things weren't in my feed (because Pinterest didn't know I would like to view them) so I had to do manual searches and then like and repin different content. I now try not to pin too much of the same thing in the same session, thus ensuring my home feed stays interesting!

What is scary about Facebook is that it also pays attention to what you Google and shop for. I recently googled and looked at some foot spas for my mum's Xmas present. When I opened a new tab for Facebook, it showed me ads for foot spas for days. I looked up a cookbook on Booktopia, and sure enough when I flicked back to Facebook, there was an ad for it in my feed. Ta da!

YouTube remembers what you've watched and liked too; on the app it offers an a main feed called "What to Watch" compiled using this info. You can ignore this by going to your subscriptions, but the What to Watch suggestions shouldn't be ignored - most of the time there will be videos in there you will enjoy. 

So what's the moral of the story? Be aware that everything you search for, look at, buy online, like, share, comment on and favourite is being logged. It can be a good thing - but it can also make you the target of advertisers and marketing. Is anonymous browsing the answer, I wonder?

And how long until Instagram gets on board?

Have you had to train your social media lately? Got any good or unsettling stories?


  1. Instagram do ads now :/

    I don't really train mine. I am usually using it mostly on my phone these days, rarely on the computer so I wonder how much information it caches from there. Hmm.

    1. I guess we all knew it was coming with Instagram, but I have not yet found that the ads are targeted to me specifically - though I'm sure this will happen! I don' t know how cookies work with mobile browsing; definitely something to look into!



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