Learn how an algorithm works and learn about the main examples on the market – WAU
The algorithms have contributed to the technological evolution seen in the last decades and are increasingly complex, with the objective of understanding human behavior on the internet, especially on social networks. Knowing them can contribute to improving your company’s digital strategy.
When it comes to algorithms, many people think quickly about computers, technology and even codes that are difficult to understand. However, the concept and application are much simpler than they appear.
The algorithms date back to Babylonian times, but they have become better known in modern times, especially when associated with computers and search engine optimization strategies.
In the next topics, check out what they are and how they can be used in your Digital Marketing actions!
What is it, and how does the algorithm work?
First of all, let’s understand the concept of algorithm. The term can be understood as a sequence of reasoning, instructions or operations to achieve a goal, being necessary that the steps are finite and operated systematically.
Does it look complex? Easy, let’s simplify. Some examples of algorithms that we can cite are: culinary recipes, device instruction manual, mathematical functions and even web pages, like the one you are reading.
Think of the cooking recipe, for example. It has the necessary ingredients (input data), step by step to make the recipe (processing or logical instructions) and achieves a result (the finished dish).
An algorithm, therefore, relies on the input (input) and output (output) of information mediated by the instructions..
It is essential to understand that the algorithm is justified in the result that it aims to achieve, therefore, it must have a specific objective. A sequence of simple instructions can become more complex as you need to consider other situations.
In this way, the algorithm grows and becomes more complex for encompass all possible scenarios. When a computer program crashes, for example, it is because it is receiving information that was not programmed to process, that is, not all scenarios were considered.
It is also relevant that the structure follows a systematic logic. For example, if you are making a cake, but “skip” the step of inserting flour, in the end, you will no longer have a cake.
With the code, it’s the same thing, being necessary to read line by line so that it reaches the final goal. The structures of an algorithm are:
- variables: it is the input information inserted that determines where the algorithm can go. The most common are text, integer, logical and real;
- repeat commands: consists of using “if” and “while”, so that the algorithm knows what to do when certain processes occur and what to do if they change.
With these two structures, the algorithm is more complete and capable of encompassing multiple situations to allow the final result to be achieved.
What are the main benefits?
Now that you understand what an algorithm is and how, through commands, it allows “A + B + C” to result in “D”, you need to know the benefits provided by the adoption of the model.
Currently, several controversies are related to how big technology companies have used algorithms to impact people’s lives.
One of the most famous cases is the Facebook algorithm, which defines what will be displayed in each user’s news feed (we’ll see more about that below!).
Although widely criticized, as the algorithm can be changed for certain purposes, the feature provides an more neutral mediation about what is displayed to each user.
Thus, more commented subjects tend to appear to more people, but they are also related to preferences, history, behavior etc.
Therefore, one of the benefits today is that the algorithm seeks to make this mediation more balanced between everything that is available online and to filter what is most relevant to be displayed.
The programs are composed of sequences of algorithms. Thus, it is this systematization that enables all types of software that make life easier and also allow the automation of processes.
From Machine Learning, the processes are learned by the machines and reproduced, consisting of a complex algorithm that inputs and processes the data, in which the output becomes the input of a structure and, thus, sequentially, providing logic and software learning ability.
Human evolution in recent decades is totally linked to the idea of algorithms. Devices such as smartphones, computers, smart TVs and tablets work with systems based on algorithms.
As new commands and possibilities of use emerge, it means that more improved and complex are the instruction levels of an algorithm.
Just like the technology itself, applications are widespread in different areas, such as marketing, sales, relationships, online shopping, logistics, finance, etc.
An unprecedented example of using an algorithm is VITAL, which since 2014 has been on the board of Deep Knowlegde Ventures, a Hong Kong venture capital firm.
With voting rights on the board, the algorithm makes investment recommendations after analyzing large amounts of data and clinical tests.
But it is also necessary to be aware of the use of algorithms, especially when not supervised.
In 2011, an unexplained situation caused Peter Lawrence’s book “The Making of a Fly” to reach $ 1.7 billion on Amazon and then rise to almost $ 23.7 billion (plus shipping). The company, which uses an algorithm for pricing, was unable to explain the abnormality.
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How are algorithms used on the internet?
When exploring the world of algorithms, we can follow an infinite number of fields and examples.
Below, we highlight the use of these models in social networks and most used online tools, such as Google and Spotify, directing a more specific vision for digital strategies. Follow!
It is likely that Google’s algorithm is the best known and it is no coincidence that its secret is very well kept by the company.
PageRank, as it is called, was created in 1998, for the purpose of tracking and presenting search results to the user by relevance.
The importance of a website was determined by the number of sites linked to it, which made it relatively easy to circumvent the results, with the appearance of the black hat, which uses bad practices to try to “trick” PageRank.
Since then, Google has already made a series of changes to the algorithm, considering hundreds of variables for a page to be ranked. Currently, the model checks issues such as user preferences, device used, content quality, location, etc.
Facebook was the first social network to use algorithms to categorize posts and use criteria to define what would or would not be displayed to each user. The objective was to show the most relevant content according to the user’s behavior, preferences and engagement.
Despite criticism of the company, the excess of publications makes it difficult for a person to follow everything that happens on the network. Thus, some of the thousands of criteria used by the social network to define the composition of the feed are:
- posts to be shown;
- level of proximity of the user with whom the content was posted;
- engagement of other friends with the publication;
- potential user engagement considering previous behavior.
Therefore, several elements are considered by the algorithm before defining what content will be displayed in the news feed, seeking more relevance and user engagement on Facebook.
Unlike other social networks, Twitter does not exclusively use the algorithm to determine the feed. This is due to the chronological character that needs to be maintained by the network in order to meet the objective of making the most recent events available.
To achieve this goal, the social network considers:
- previous user behavior;
- preference for themes and content formats;
- user’s relationship with the account that posted the tweet;
- engagement of the tweet itself.
Based on these criteria, the tweet can be inserted into the 3 categories used by Twitter, which are:
- ranked tweets: they are the most relevant for the user based on his previous behavior and engagement of the network itself;
- in case you missed it: those that are relevant, but that are older;
- timeline: where all tweets are displayed in chronological order.
With these structures, Twitter allows the user to access most of the content and, mainly, to know what are the news of the social network.
When it was founded, Instagram followed the same chronological logic as Twitter, displaying all posts in order, from newest to oldest.
This structure was changed in 2016 and, currently, the social network considers the following factors to scale how users’ feeds will be:
- temporality: even if it is not the only criterion, the order of posting is still considered in the definition of the feed;
- engagement: the number of comments and likes determines whether a post will be prioritized on the network or not, especially considering this engagement right after posting;
- relationship: considers the proximity of users through engagement, direct messages, etc.
Therefore, it appears that the algorithms used tend to get more complex, including new variables, in order to make them more accurate.
Back in 2005, when YouTube emerged, the algorithm used analyzed only how many times a video had been started to determine the ranking. However, this made content producers prioritize appealing and even hyped calls.
YouTube realized that this practice did not guarantee the quality of the content and, since 2012, the algorithm considers the average viewing time, encouraging good practices when managing a channel there.
With this, the recommendations of the website guarantee higher quality of content and relevance to the user, ensuring a better browsing experience.
With more than 40 million users, Spotify launches the weekly “discoveries of the week” playlist, which is personalized for each listener and contains 30 songs. Some of them, probably, the user has never heard, but may like, according to the algorithm.
The goal is to create new experiences, but to achieve this goal, the tool uses different data to process the information. Among the criteria used are:
- the user’s musical profile, considering the genre he likes to listen to and also recent artists;
- how other users combine the songs, adding certain musical groups or songs to playlists;
- considering the user’s preferences and what the algorithm has learned from the others, 30 songs are chosen that have not been played by the listener in the tool.
Spotify has been dedicated to improving the algorithm used to enhance suggestions and lists created using a comprehensive Machine Learning model.
The system learns preferences and even identifies whether a song is happy or sad, seeking a better recommendation to improve the user experience.
How can algorithms improve digital marketing strategies?
With all that we have seen so far, it is possible to see that the algorithms – which we explained initially as an instruction system with a specific objective – gain very complex outlines according to their use in more robust areas, such as digital marketing.
Currently, the model can be combined with Machine Learning and generate more complex and surprising results, and it is essential for those who work in this area to know these possibilities.
Below, we highlight some ways to use algorithmic knowledge in digital strategies.
Choose the most suitable channels
If the marketing manager knows the company’s strategy and the criteria considered by the algorithms of the different social channels, it is possible to list on which platforms the solution proposed by it can be more effective and generate better results.
For example, if the strategy is more based on engagement, Facebook is highlighted, however, if the goal goes through many more urgent publications, Twitter becomes more appropriate.
So, knowing how each platform works, along with other criteria, it is possible to list which one tends to contribute more to the online presence of the brand.
Create quality content
Regardless of the channel used and persona, the different companies have a common goal: improve the user experience.
Thus, it is essential that there is quality and relevance in the content created for the different platforms, in addition to considering the SEO strategies to execute them.
For example, a campaign published on Facebook and Instagram must consider the particularities of each network’s algorithm to be more interesting and thus gain greater prominence.
The algorithms undergo constant changes to improve the user experience and avoid negative practices, such as the black hat. It is estimated, for example, that Google makes more than 500 changes per year to the PageRank algorithm.
Although it is difficult to know all the changes in the algorithms, the most important ones are always disclosed, and it is essential that marketers know these peculiarities to adapt and improve online strategies and not lose results.
When talking about an algorithm, it is important to know that it is a logical system, carrying out instructions sequentially until reaching a result. Despite the complexity of more modern models, understanding what it is and how it works helps to understand its impact on a digital strategy.
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