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Can You Compete With Algorithming?

June 28, 2021

Never heard of "algorithming?" That’s OK. It’s not a word …yet. Neither is "algorithmed," although the Urban Dictionary describes it as "having your comments, art, or videos hidden from view by an automatic process employed by a tech company, often as a result of a form of soft censorship that is built into the algorithm employed by the tech company to suggest or deliver content to a viewer.”

Think for a minute how much we love this “post junk mail” era we are living in, where most of the advertising we’re presented with on our screens seems eerily relevant, appropriate, and tailored to our overt, expressed, and even hidden wants and desires. Recommendation engines that not only approximate what we want to read, click on, or buy have mastered the mathematical task of knowing what we want by using our past behaviors as a marketing crystal ball of what we want (or should want) next.

Social media companies make money based on the duration of time we spend on their platforms. The longer we’re there, the more ads we can be fed. And the way they keep us there is to feed us with more of what they know we want and less of what we don’t.

Why is this relevant for you? For starters, you probably have never thought about how algorithms are competing for your audience's attention, and that they are a major competitor for your organization and, specifically, the events, publications, and memberships you are attempting to sell to your audience. It’s becoming harder to compete with Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Walmart, and every news outlet, marketer, and app that is vying for the time and attention of those members that you are seeking to engage, retain, and attract.

So … how do you keep up? Three steps to keep you in the game:

  1. Know your audience better than those trying to distract them, sell them, and compete for their time and attention. I often hear that “we have research” on our members when what that really means is that we’ve surveyed them or interviewed a sample of our audience and we know what they want. True audience research, segmentation, and persona insights yield a much different picture based on who you ask, what you ask, and why you are asking. If you're going to compete with an algorithm that is always analyzing an audience’s actual behaviors, you have to level the playing field, and a new approach to research is a good start.
  2. Offer them more of what they want and less of what they don’t. “Feed your opportunities and starve your problems” is an aphorism that will serve you well. In advertising, we always say: if the dogs don’t eat the dog food, it doesn’t mean they aren’t hungry; they just don’t like the dog food. Of all the products, services, events, and offerings you have for your members, do you really know the relevance, impact, and ROI of each in a way that ensures you are meeting the current needs of your audience and anticipating what they want next? A simple cost-benefit analysis that indexes everything you offer against the market share and revenue each provides is the first step towards rationalizing your product and services portfolio.
  3. Speak their language. Know what messaging resonates with the cohorts that comprise your membership. AARP talks to its members differently than a university talks to its recent grads when they are seeking alumni donations. You, too, have the range of career and life-stages, attitudes, and “care-abouts” within your diverse membership base. Words, language, and nuance matters to how relevant you are perceived to be. Do you have a team of copywriters who are deeply rooted in the audiences you communicate with? If not, you’ll be surprised at how much better your membership offers and event marketing results can be when you change-up how you are communicating based on tailored messaging and copy-writing.

We are all in a battle for the time, attention, and loyalty of an audience that is being waged by the data-quants, algorithm engines, and copy-writing mavens that know how to attract and captivate the audience that you have worked so hard to cultivate. Don’t seed ground to these organizations … you have a mission, a relationship, a value proposition, and the permission that they don’t.

But that doesn’t mean that you can win in 2022 the way you did in the past. Will this be the year you adopt a few of these twenty-first-century approaches to strengthen your member relationship? If so, I hope to hear from you … we can help.

Don Neal

don@360livemedia.com