Why and How Politics are Affecting Your Social Media Algorithm Right Now

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People ask me all the time, “What time of day is the best to post on social media?”

(Caveat: I HATE this question. In my experience, the time of day really doesn’t matter, good posts are good, bad posts are bad. That’s a blog for another day.)

The Answer? Don’t think about TIMES of day, think about BIG NEWS DAYS.

The time of day doesn’t matter. What matters is if it’s A BAD NEWS DAY. What many business owners and influencers forget to do when thinking about social media is thinking about it from their experience as a consumer. What are you looking at on social this week? Chances are, it’s the election of 2020, whether you like it or not, and this is, unfortunately, one big news day that doesn’t really seem to end. It’s not just messing with us mentally and emotionally – it’s screwing up our algorithms!

My Bat Mitzvah Anecdote.

I will never forget when I was 12, my friend had her Bat Mitzvah party on Sunday, August 31, 1997. It was a beautifully planned event and a little atypical because she wanted her party at her favorite downtown restaurant. The problem: the restaurant wouldn’t do a private event on a Saturday evening. Most bat mitzvah celebrations take place on Saturday evening, after Shabbat morning services. My friend was hell-bent on having her chosen venue, so she decided on a Sunday night event instead of the typical Saturday evening engagement. Why does this matter? Just after midnight on August 31, 1997, a tragedy that shook the world took place. The untimely death of Princess Diana. As you could imagine, the topic of conversation at the Bat Mitzvah party shifted. Where I’d normally care, think, and talk about where I bought my dress, what I did that weekend, The New Spice Girl’s album, what movies I had been into., The conversation shifted to the sad, sudden, and topical moment in time. It’s all anyone was talking or thinking about.

Think about when it’s socially appropriate to shamelessly self-promote.

This goes for any news day where there is a BIG story that everyone seems to be covering. From protests to celebrity deaths to major global tragedies, we need to think of social media as an extension of our social lives, and what we would normally discuss in real-time and in real life.  At certain times in history, talking about yourself just isn’t as appropriate or interesting to others. Think about it as a dinner party, where everyone seated around the table is discussing what’s new in their lives. If there is a HUGE news story that day, the conversation typically pivots to that. It’s just how it is.

What should I do if I have a post or promotion planned on a tragic news day?

Back in the old days, there was a pretty universal understanding that when major global or national tragedies happen, brands should step back from posting on social media – entirely. I remember making these calls for clients on days like Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon, and more. In recent years I’ve seen that trend change, as almost every day seems to teeter on apocalyptic, but it’s a good practice to take a moment to wonder if what you’re posting is appropriate given what’s happening in the world that day. This is another reason why I am not a huge fan of rigidly pre-planning posts, but again, that’s a story for another day.

It’s not about you.

This is why it’s typically a little silly to think there are better times of the day to post or to think the social networks are purposefully “messing with the algorithm.” They are responding to the WORLD, and the conversations humans in the world are having. Sometimes, sweetie, it’s not about you.

Here’s how you can stand out even when the world is only talking about one thing.

The good thing is that even on big news days, (not to be confused with tragic news days) there is still a human desire for escapism, and there are still ways to ensure your message is seen through all of the mess. Here are my tips:

  1. Make sure your visuals are insanely stunning and speak for themselves.

No matter how well we write, one thing about social media never changes: VISUALS ARE SO IMPORTANT. If your images on Facebook and Instagram don’t stop people in their tracks, forget about them taking a moment to read the corresponding text. Recently, Citrus as an agency began investing in a partnership with a professional photographer. Just because we can take iPhone photos, doesn’t mean we always should. Below are some fabulous photos were taken by our friend Caitlin Antje.

2. Boost posts here and there.

When you’re trying to SELL something, boosting posts not only ensures that your posts are seen, but also that they are seen by the right people.  You can do this for as little as $5 a post, and I promise you, it makes a big difference, especially on big news days. You can do this on almost all social media sites.

3. Create graphics so you don’t have to try to explain yourself in the small print.

Sometimes what you have to say is so exciting, you should say it largely and loudly. The problem is that social media sites only give you teeny tiny text to complete your thought. There are many ways around this. First, there is simple software like Canva and Impresso that allow even amateurs to create graphic images that tell the story for you. See some posts we put together in both of these programs below:

Something else we’ve been having fun with lately is the Instagram Font Generator. 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒉𝒆𝒍𝒑𝒇𝒖𝒍 𝒕𝒐𝒐𝒍 𝒂𝒅𝒅𝒔 𝒂 𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒕𝒍𝒆 𝒅𝒓𝒂𝒎𝒂 𝒕𝒐 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒄𝒐𝒓𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒐𝒏𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒆𝒙𝒕.;-)

4. Make posts topical so your brand can have their own POV about what’s going on in the world.

This one is a toughy – but let’s be honest – what would social media be without a little backlash? Lots of brands want to chime in on big events. But they need to know when it’s appropriate. There are countless instances of brands not hitting the mark or coming across as trying too hard or being opportunistic when trying to leverage big news stories. My advice is to put your social thinking hat on and think about if you would do or say what you’re attempting to say in real life, in real-time. For examples of brands trying to pivot but doing it badly, google what Cinnabon did (err… tried to do) when Carrie Fisher died.

They later had to apologize for their post (CNBC). Ouch.

There are ways to engage in big news stories as a brand but do so delicately and meaningfully.

In the “OUR WORK,” section of our site, you’ll find many examples of work we’ve done in the pivoting arena.

All of this being said, remember social media loves you and if you’re smart about it, you can stand out from messy news and get your day in the sun. Or, you can just wait for a slow news day and really shine.