The networking algorithm

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When was the first time you heard the word “algorithm”? I’m a bit more of a nerd than I let on and did A level maths and physics, plus my Dad got us our first home computer in 1981, so it was a word I learnt when I was quite young?

But how about you? For a load of you, I bet the word first started holding any relevance when Google and Facebook first started regularly messing around with their algorithms to make their various services more relevant, and to drive more advertising revenue.

Over the last month I’ve seen an enormous amount of panic on Facebook over people sharing posts saying the algorithm has changed and you need to do this or that to make sure you still see each other’s posts. Mostly nonsense of course, but based on so much background chatter about the big, scary algorithm.

Now Mark Zuckerberg, the guy whose idea we all wish we’d had first, has announced yet another change to the algorithm (I’m being paid based on how many times I say the word). You can see his full post HERE. In summary, they, Facebook, know that most of us log onto Facebook to stay in touch with our friends and family, to see what they’re up to, to get to know them better, to share moments in their lives and for them to share moments in ours. Put it another way, devastatingly, ain’t none of you log on to see my adverts for my latest events, and yet that is what your newsfeed has been full of. My business stuff, other people’s business stuff, and adverts from websites who were clever enough to grab your details when you visited (I still find that spooky).

So the latest change is going to mean that you see more personal stuff, and Facebook will be, as always, calculating what it thinks you like and showing you that. My sister is getting married next year, my nieces and nephews have birthdays with alarming frequency, that’s the stuff I like the most and, apparently, I’ll see more of that now.

All of this has got good, honest business people panicking, mainly because they use Facebook as a cheap or very low cost advertising platform. They tick that “marketing” box by putting an ad on their Facebook page and, if there is money in petty cash “boosting” it, without, in truth, a great deal of thought or planning.

There are experts out there in getting the best out of Facebook ads and some of them really know their stuff and can help people get an honest return on their use of Facebook for business. But many small businesses use Facebook as an extension of their local paper. Pop an ad on, that’s the “marketing’ done for this week. You know it’s true, you can see them doing it.

And this is where I reckon the great networkers, the people who really put effort into their relationships will win out. Because we, and I include myself in this, understand and work the networking algorithm. We make friends for the sake of making friends, we are interested before attempting to be interesting, we engage, we chat, we don’t just paste ads in front of you. And we do all that as people, not just hiding behind a business name and logo.

This isn’t about advertising to our friends. This is about spending time, and effort, being genuinely interested in others and their lives, and being prepared to show our own lives too. This is about showing up, regularly or, in my case, constantly, and engaging, and building relationships. Deepening our relationships with those we already know, as well as growing our network along the way. This is about connecting with the people we meet at networking events on multiple platforms, and being genuinely interested in them, not just advertising to them.

I couldn’t explain the networking algorithm in a mathematical formula, but it goes broadly like this. The more you are genuinely interested in other people, the more people show genuine interest in you. And then Facebook algorithms become less scary, as we aren’t relying solely on them to get in front of people who might become our customers and our clients.

Over the last ten years I’ve been accused so much of “messing around” on the internet or “you spend so much time on that networking group, when do you do any real work”. I realised early on that this is my real work. Getting to know people is my real work.

Both of my Grandfathers collected people and spent their lives being genuinely interested in the other guy, one was a barber, the other was a butcher. Different trades, but they both knew instinctively that showing genuine interest in the other guy wasn’t just good for business, it was a deeply rewarding way to live your life too. I reckon that’s where I first learnt all this stuff I talk about now. And neither of them ever used the word “algorithm”.

A load of you will read this, reckon all that engagement sounds like far too much hard work and go and blow a load more money on boosting posts, and you’ll get likes and views so you’ll feel better about that.

The real opportunity right now is to deepen those relationships and go back to old fashioned ways of getting to know the people around us. The real opportunity is to get out there face to face and actually shake hands and share coffee with the people we want to get to know, deepening those relationships further in real life as well as online.

I won’t be scared by changes in the algorithm, I’ll continue to put massive effort into keeping in touch with you all and, if I choose to advertise on Facebook, I’ll get an expert to help me, and not just do it to build my ego.

And the real opportunity, as always, is that most people won’t bother. So I will, and recommend you do the same.

Algorithm, That’s another £0.10

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