Tuesday 2¢: Slave to the Algorithm?

This week, some shenanigans that I assume are intended to game the LinkedIn algorithm, the balance we have to strike when marketing through the machines with a title inspired by Grace Jones.

The other day, someone in my network, an entrepreneur who I have watched over the years build a consulting, education and event business and is a very decent chap posted on LinkedIn that they have something to share with their community. It was some research and if you wanted it, you needed to ask for it in the comments and apparently they would DM a link to it under the auspices that they would like to give it away for *free*.

I’m disappointed with this chap, why play games? If they were genuinely being generous, why didn’t they just share a link to their research in the post?  While my interest was piqued, I didn’t take the bait to publicly display my feelings for this content, although a dozen or so people did comment and express their desire to get their hands on the asset.

Oh, silly, I hear you say. You know exactly why, because, however, this may appear to be a perverse way to “give away” a “free” asset, he was gaming the LinkedIn algorithm in a way that I assume the “ninjas” would all recommend, as the LinkedIn algorithm rewards posts with comments.

Plus, the chap was using this as a surreptitious form of gating, rather than linking to a gated page, he’s getting the contact details of those interested in this “free” resource. 

As I have expressed before, I am of the content marketing opinion that gating every f’in’ thing is against the ethos of the craft. Give people something useful without all the shenanigans, you build trust and they will engage with you when they are interested. I’ve shared stories before about how I got into Hubspot in the early days, through their content marketing years before I was in a position to be an influencer or buyer of their products.


As Groucho Marx said – 

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others

That’s the challenge for modern marketers, while I am indignantly sniffy over the tactics to game the LinkedIn algorithm and disappointed to see a nice chap make (what I consider to be) a cock of himself. It’s easy for me to say as we are all walking this line as we seek results.

Whether it’s writing for the machine with SEO, remarketing for that 0.1% of uplift, optimising our email subject lines or gating content – we are balancing what works by the algorithms, the ninja’s best practice or the numbers, and what will delight and engage a human being. 

One of my favourite podcasts has recently changed its format to put all the credits and directions to their website and request for a review, all that stuff that’s normally at the end of a podcast just before their last feature. Why? The hosts heard that the podcast platforms penalise podcasts that people don’t listen to all the way through, and they theorised that when that stuff is at the end of the podcast, people immediately stop listening, making an incomplete listen. Whereas if they finish the podcast with a feature, people will listen to the end. Maybe that’s true, but it kinda compromises the listening experience for the sake of the algorithm.

It’s the same for the content creators who are creating LinkedIn newsletters. As content marketers, we know that LinkedIn is “rented land”, you don’t own the audience and won’t be given direct access to the contact details of your subscribers, whereas a newsletter is normally an owned property where you can capture that direct connection. Yet, even the champions of having an owned platform are using LinkedIn newsletters, as the algorithm rewards content creators who keep their audience on the platform.

And how do you feel about seeing something interesting on social media with a link and then realise that it’s an invite into the advertising shanty town of advertising hell that is the Forbes website? Has a real person at Forbes ever looked at that shit show?

I’ve digressed.

We, as marketers, have to walk this line.

Be slaves to the algorithms, maybe as in my first story, with the risk of looking a little foolish (avoiding saying the word cock again) and taking the quick marketing sugar rush or being human to human with our communication that may be less immediately effective and almost certainly harder to measure.

A chum of mine, with a successful consulting business and a great following, refuses to put a pop-up on his website to promote his newsletter, even though he KNOWS it works because he doesn’t want to do that to his audience. 

My point isn’t what’s right or wrong and I have no idea if the chap in my original story got what he wanted from his LinkedIn gating behaviour; it’s that we need to do this purposefully. The algorithms are imperfect, however much they claim, and sometimes we need to do odd things to get their attention.

But, we balance, using these things to our advantage and are not slaves to the algorithm.

The image was created using A.I. through NightCafe Creator – I thought it would make a change from pictures of me. 🙂

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