Andrew Hutchinson in Social Media Today discusses three common social media hacks — strategies to artificially boost your status and rank within the social media alogrithms.
Not surprisingly (and correctly) he suggests that it is a bad idea to purchase “likes”. Beyond destroying the analytic value of your social media data, this strategy is quite easy to uncover, messing up your brand, and since it is against the Terms of Service for social media organizations, could easily get your account banned and thus totally negate your efforts.
The second strategy, Instagram Pods, may be less risky, but also is dubious, he asserts. Here, networks are formed where participants agree to “engage” with each other — thus boosting the overall engagement scores. Although not a direct parallel, this strategy reminds me of AdSense click fraud rings, where individuals agree to click on each others’ links, spread over time, to boost their ad serving revenue. Maybe some get away with this technique for a period of time, but I’ve seen the painful results when it fails — and a large group of disabled (for life) AdSense publishers appear on the help forum crying that they’ve lost their accounts for good.
But there appears to be one legitimate hack, Hutchinson says, and it relates to Twitter, where the advice is to “like everything”.
“You may have noticed that some people are liking and retweeting themselves at a higher rate,” he writes. “That?s because Twitter?s algorithm expands the reach of your content by improving the exposure of tweets which are generating engagement. So it makes sense that to try and give yourself a boost, you should add to your own metrics where you can.”
Actually, this one does appear to make sense ? Twitter?s algorithm is nowhere near as refined as the one on Facebook or Instagram, and can be easily influenced by even basic signals.
For example, if you don?t like seeing tweets which people you follow have replied to in your feed, check the ?I don?t like this tweet? box just once or twice on the offending tweets and they?ll disappear completely.
Unlike Facebook, which takes into account a much wider range of factors, Twitter?s algorithm is more basic, and therefore more easy to impact with smaller efforts. So liking your own tweets will actually increase your reach, boosting your chances of showing up twice in your audience?s feeds ? once on the initial tweet, and a second time when it may come up as ?John liked?.
Of course, it helps if that tweet has also generated a lot of engagement, but as noted, Twitter?s algorithm is a bit more sensitive to such actions, and therefore can be more influenced.
This also means that there’s benefit to liking and replying to all tweets ? which Twitter benefits from anyway, so they won?t discourage it – but every time you do engage, in any way, you improve the chances of your tweet being seen again in the feeds of your audience.
I suspect Twitter will look to refine their algorithm over time, but given the engagement boosts they?re seeing at the moment, they?re trying to find more ways to use algorithm-driven methods where possible, so there may be opportunity in this approach for some time yet.
Generally, I (like Hutchinson) find hacks to generally not be a good idea. Strategies to artificially defeat the intention of social media tools and ranking techniques, similar to fake testimonials, distort the fundamental reason for these systems and ultimately the risk is that your brilliant shortcuts will backfire.
There’s a lot to be said for authenticity — and if you are going to do the authenticity thing right, you, well, should be authentic.