Being Authentic Amidst the Algorithms

Being authentic means being honest, unpredictable, and engaged, even amidst the algorithms.

Being authentic amidst the algorithms in marketing can be complicated. Sometimes it feels like an ongoing battle between what is real and what is perceived. When all businesses want to do is lead potential customers to their product or service, it shouldn’t be difficult. Right? Yet, to reach our target consumers, we need technical strategy. We also need to know how to navigate through algorithms while staying true to our brand. 

What even is an algorithm? Algorithm (a word that I honestly misspell every time) is defined as follows:

Definition of ALGORITHM

a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation; broadly : a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end… See the full definition

Still confused? Me too. My daughter uses an algorithm to solve her Rubik’s Cube. How is this related to business?

In marketing, algorithms look at demographics, online behavior, and purchasing decisions. They can dictate which websites appear on an online search, for example. Algorithms track trends and obtain insights based upon key words and phrases that are being searched. They give endorsements and suggestions to the user based upon their online history. They determine what content shows up on social media, what products appear in ads. Products and services appear to be flowing into consumers’ lives — whether they know they’re in need of them or not! Basically, algorithms create a sense of knowing customers well and understanding their motivations and triggers. 
Unfortunately, the business-to-consumer relationship is suffering. We need to connect more like humans with our customers. People are people, after all. The customer experience depends upon a certain level of personalization. Algorithm-based marketing minimizes opportunities for forming emotional bonds. Customers want to know that they’re getting the best product or service for their needs. And they don’t like thinking that their decisions are being swayed by online messaging. Consumers value face-to-face, phone and email interactions. Similarly, recommendations from family and friends are influential –often more than online ratings and reviews. Humanness can produce value for customers that algorithm simply cannot.

Even for tech-savvy consumers who are always connected, cross selling can feel invasive. How can we sell our product or service in a way that balances the tech and the human? 

Businesses can learn how to optimize their brands online. There are formulas for improving the SEO on websites, blogs, social media posts and advertisements. And while the formulas are ever-changing and difficult to predict, there are some steadfast tricks to befriending the algorithms. The internet likes short sentences. Similarly, it’s key to use transition words. Speaking of keys, keywords and key phrases are important to online presence. So, to effectively reach our consumers, we just need to speak the language of the internet. Sounds simple.

So, just how can you stay ahead of technology? And how can you assure you’re being authentic amidst the algorithms? 

Being Authentic Means Being Honest

First, stick with what you know. Let your product or service speak for itself. For customers to see your brand’s value, be honest about everything. When you’re always honest and authentic, it simplifies the process of marketing. About honest messaging, in the words of Jolie Hunt of Hunt & Gather, “You can’t stand for something if you don’t stand for something.” (Fast Company, The New Rules of Business, Oct/Nov 2020)

Be Unpredictable

Second, introduce unpredictability into marketing. An unexpected call or a new product announcement can make your brand more authentic and human. Unpredictability allows customers to respond emotionally to the brand in ways that algorithms can’t.

Stay Engaged

Lastly, stay engaged. Make sure your customers and your community feel they’re known. The importance of connecting with others is paramount. When a company’s shared values of compassion become the essence of its work culture, you’ll see employees who have a mutual respect for each other, the work they do, and the community that surrounds them.

Public relations and marketing used to be simple. For example, a company with an idea or product would write about it, publish an ad, or have an event. From there, consumer interest would spark. And, voila!  Now, it feels like we need to trick the internet to like our efforts. Blog writing and website copy must fit within specific parameters and algorithms to have a good online presence. We need to know what topics are trending and how to deliver your story. Really, it’s not as bad as it sounds. To be authentic amidst the algorithms, we just need to remember who we are and stay connected with others.

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