Gaming Social Media Algorithms

Social Media networks use algorithms. Recently, there was news about changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm. Those algorithms – processes or sets of rules to be followed in calculations – are not made public and business users are always trying to figure them out.

If you knew the way Instagram or Facebook programs their feeds, you could “game the system” to have your content featured prominently.

Those networks would tell you that they are programming to get the best content in front of people. You can find articles that try to break down the factors that determine your content’s ranking, but remember that those algorithms are always being tweaked and often in ways to best display advertising.

I doubt that anyone but Instagram knows exactly how their algorithm works, but one post I saw listed these seven key factors.

  1. Engagement: How popular the post is
  2. Relevancy: The genres of content you are interested in and have interacted with
  3. Relationships: The accounts you regularly interact with
  4. Timeliness: How recent the posts are
  5. Profile Searches: The accounts you check out often
  6. Direct Shares: Whose posts you are sharing
  7. Time Spent: The duration spent viewing a post

Engagement is the obvious part of any social algorithm. Consideration of likes, comments, views, shares, saves, story views, and views of live and posted videos all drive content to the top of feeds.

Perhaps less obvious are things like profile searches, which are when you search multiple times for particular profiles. That interest in someone not in your feed would then rank those posts higher on your feed. Instagram says that when they experimented with this in a new algorithm, the number of searches went down, which they took as a sign that users no longer needed to search on their own.


Social Media and Democracy


It seems clear now that social media is changing democracies around the world. When I was teaching social media courses in 2010 and 2011, there was a lot of discussion about the role of social media in the “Arab Spring.”  The Arab uprisings started a debate over the role and influence of social media. Did Facebook and Twitter power the ousting of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the imminent overthrow of Mubarak.

The perceived Facebook and Twitter revolutions seemed to be centered on young protesters mobilizing on their feet and on mobile devices. Some called this “citizen journalism.”

My students, like many critiques, felt social media was a democratizing tool. But in the years since, opinions on social media and democracy seem to have turned the other way towards it as hurting democracy.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns. Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns.

Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

One critique of social media is the ability to create echo chambers — online spaces that only surround users with like-minded people and ideas.

Soledad O’Brien examined how social media is impacting democracy on her program Matter of Fact.

Harvard professor Cass Sunstein studies this effect in his new book Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. Sunstein talked with O’Brien to discuss the pros and cons of social media and why the ability to filter out opposing views is a threat to our democracy.

There’s another phenomenon at work: “group polarization” which says that when you are in an echo chamber, you can become more extreme and intolerant.


Learning Experience Design

I have been teaching since 1975. I have done instructional design (ID) since 2000. The job of an ID was not one I knew much about before I started managing a department tasked with doing it at a university. I hired people trained in ID, but I learned it myself along the way.

As others have said, the job of an instructional designer seems mysterious. One suggestion has been to change the title to Learning Experience Designer. Does that better describe the job and also apply to people who work in corporate and training settings?

I have taught courses about UX (user experience) which involves a “person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service” (according to Wikipedia). Part of that study involves UI (user interface) which “includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects” of the interaction as well as “a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.”

UXWith more online learning and also blended online and face-to-face learning, there is more attention being given to the learner experience (LX). How students interact with learning, seems to be more than what “user experience” (UX) entails.

UX was coined in the mid ‘1990s by Don Norman. He was then VP of advanced technology at Apple, and he used it to describe the relationship between a product and a human. It was Norman’s idea that technology should evolve to put user needs first. That was actually the opposite of how things were done at Apple and most companies. But by 2005, UX was fairly mainstream.

Learning experience design” was coined by Niels Floor in 2007, who taught at Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

I wrote earlier here about how some people in education still find the job of an instructional designer to be “mysterious.”  But call it UX or LX or ID, customizing learning, especially online, is a quite active job categories in industry and and education. Designers are using new tools and analytics to decode learning patterns.

In higher-education job postings and descriptions, I am seeing more examples of LX design as a discipline. That is why some people have said that Learning Experience Design is a better title than Instructional Design. It indicates a shift away from “instruction” and more to “learning.”

Originally published at Serendipity35


Does Your Business Need to Use Houseparty?

It is difficult to keep up with social media apps and networks. Though the big names have remained pretty much the same for a few years, there are always new contenders.

Last year Meerkat was a bright and fast burning star that brought a lot of attention to using mobile broadcasting. Meerkat got users quickly, but Facebook and Twitter introduced Periscope to quickly jump into the space too with their own tools and Meerkat fell.

Meerkat’s Ben Rubin said last year that its appeal was “spontaneous togetherness.” Requiring only a few taps on a phone to reach friends and interested strangers was very appealing and the company quickly raised $12 million in new funding from investors who thought it could be the next major social tool.

The app was released in February 2015, and found an audience after its debut on the website Product Hunt and use during the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in March 2015. But on October 4, 2016, Meerkat was shut down.

If businesses put any effort or money into using it, it was time and resources without any ROI. But there is always that temptation to get on board with new tools rather than look behind the times or have to play catch-up.

Meerkat is no more but its website now redirects you to Houseparty another app for video chatting with friends that the company is calling a “synchronous social network.”

The app for Android and iOS has been gaining traction with young people with about a million users.


Rather than billing Houseparty as a way to broadcast to the world, it is billed as a way to have frequent, candid conversations with friends and family.

Does it have business applications? Not so far.  Will it last longer than Meerkat, and will Facebook, Twitter and any other networks have their own version soon?  I don’t place bets on social media.



Opportunities for Higher Ed Social Media (webinar)

The Social Campus Report: 8 Opportunities for Higher Ed in 2018 is a free webinar offered by Hootsuite on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 11:00AM PT / 2:00PM ET.

Based on surveys of hundreds of social media pros from schools around the world to understand where they are now—and where they’re going, the webinar will share the results for insights into the state of social media in higher ed – and to discover 8 strategic areas of opportunity.

If October 3, 2017 doesn’t work, register now and they will send you a link to the webinar archived recording once it’s ready.




This Generation Thing

gen z

When I started working at a university in 2000, there was a lot of talk about Millennials. That generation gets a lot less attention these days. I am not much of a fan of these generation generalizations, but that won’t stop them from being topics of conversation. They are particularly of interest to marketers.

The generation that follows the Millennials are those born between 1995 – 2012. That makes them 5- 22 years old. I don’t know how we can generalize very much about that wide a range of people. But educators should take note because they do include kids in kindergarten through the new college graduates and all those students in between.

The post-Millennial generation hasn’t gotten name that everyone agrees on. I hear them called Generation Z, Post-Millennials, iGeneration, Centennials and the Homeland Generation.

Although “iGeneration” might suggest that they are self-centered, the lowercase i references the Apple world of iPods, iPhones, iPads etc.

“Homeland” refers to the post-9/11 world they grew up in. September 11, 2001 was the last major event to occur for Millennials. Even the oldest members of Generation Z were quite young children when the 9/11 attacks occurred. They have no generational memory of a time the United States was not at war with the loosely defined forces of global terrorism.

I’ll use Gen Z to label this demographic cohort after the Millennials.

Here are some of the characteristics I find that supposedly describe Gen Z. You’ll notice that much of this comes from the fact that this generation has lived with the Internet from a young age. This is usually taken to mean that they are very comfortable (don’t read that as knowledgeable) with technology and interacting on social media.

Besides living in an Internet age, they live in a post-9/11 age and grew up through the Great Recession and so have a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.

They get less sleep than earlier generations.

They are mobile phone users – not desktop, laptop or landline users.

They are wiser than earlier generations about protecting their online personalities and privacy, but they live in a world that also offers more threats.  For example, they are more likely to create “rinsta” and “finsta” Instagram personas. (Rinsta is a “real” account and finsta is a “fake” or “friends-only” profile.)

They are wiser to marketing and more resistant to advertising. Less than a quarter of them have a positive perception of online ads (Millward Brown). But, perhaps ironically, they trust YouTube stars, Instagram personalities, and other social media influencers and that includes when they make purchasing decisions.

Having grown up with more of it, they are generally more open to efforts to increase diversity and inclusion.

They’re easily bored with an average attention span of eight seconds (Sparks & Honey). Of course, the attention span of the average millennial is supposed to be 12 seconds. That makes them hard to engage, but they self-identify as wanting to be engaged.

That haven’t had or expect to have summer jobs.

They are said to be slower at maturing than earlier generations. They postpone getting a driver’s license. Many of them even postpone having sex.

Rather than a generation gap, like the one made famous in the 1960s, they are more likely to hang with their parents.

They are very open to sharing their opinions in many ways from consumer reviews and other consumer behavior, and online they like collaborative communities and the exchange of ideas and opinions.