The Impact of Social Media Algorithms on Online Communities

By Ashley Friedlein

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For a number of years, it has been increasingly challenging to retain visibility on the large social media platforms, thanks to algorithms that favour high-performing content, like the long broetry-style posts that now dominate LinkedIn.


Brands have long been struggling to get their content seen by those who have already actively connected to them on social networks, without either gaming the system, or paying to reach their audience.


Aside from the businesses and organisations looking to connect with their followers, it’s also creating a poor experience for the average user too.


Are social media sites the right space for community platforms?


Online community platforms have been around far longer than social media platforms, in spaces like forums and bulletin boards, web-based communities and group chats, but over the past decade and a half, it’s true that more professional communities have emerged on social media.


The biggest draw is that in almost any sector, a brand’s audience is already likely to be on these platforms, at scale. Arguably the most challenging part of running an online community is launching and growing it. Attracting the right people to a new platform, then actively promoting its growth takes time, which also means resources, so it’s easy to see why many brands make the job a little easier and start where their customers are.

However, when we consider that social media algorithms are becoming increasingly geared towards paid content, as well as posts that simply aim to ‘beat the algorithm’ it can really begin to compromise the values of a community.

An equal share of voice is really integral to community, and to ensure this, an algorithm and ad-free environment is necessary.

Large social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have an algorithmic feed that favours certain style posts, meaning that valuable content frequently gets lost in a sea of marketing messages or popular content with thousands of likes. As a result, individuals with something valuable to share often find it difficult to cut through the noise and get their content seen – and sadly, these are often the most interesting.


Algorithms encourage the wrong behaviours


The problem with an algorithm that rewards a certain style of content is that it removes the authenticity from that platform. Users move away from creating the kind of useful content they would like to see themselves and are pressured into mimicking the type of posts they see perform well.


Often these posts take on the overused, formulaic approach we see on LinkedIn, where every sentence has its own paragraph, a challenge is overcome, and the post ends with an unexpected twist. Often self-promotion is disguised behind a motivational message, and nearly always the truth is being stretched.


While these platforms are well recognised by most people, they aren’t always the right home for a community; people become disconnected, and values and purpose become compromised.



Finding a better home for your community


As a result of the above, we’re seeing those professionals who value community, and the trust, honesty, and closer relationships that come with it, seek out less noisy environments. Purpose-built online community platforms are becoming popular alternatives, with more focus on engagement and the forging of longer-term, meaningful relationships.


For the brands that want to attract these people, selecting platforms without algorithms and ad-funded models is a good step towards creating the right community.



Ashley Friedlein is the CEO & Founder of Guild, an app designed for businesses, professional groups, networks and communities who want the advantages of messaging – ease of use, immediacy, intimacy, engagement – but who also care about proper privacy, quality, legal compliance, and professional standards of support and service. As easy to use as WhatsApp, advertising-free and GDPR compliant.


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