Episode 99 – Don’t chase algorithms.

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Episode 99 – Don’t chase algorithms.

Don't Chase Algorithms | Sideways8 Interactive

My guest on the show today is Katie Koranda. Katie is the Digital Content Specialist at Feed My Starving Children. She manages digital content from strategy to creation, including video blogs, social media, and public relations. She has a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College, Chicago and has worked for news media in Chicago and the twin cities.

Adam: [00:00:09] Hi, and welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast, a podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so the good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways8, a digital marketing agency and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.

[00:00:28] My guest on the show today is Katie Koranda. Katie is the Digital Content Specialist at Feed My Starving Children. She manages digital content from strategy to creation, including video blogs, social media, and public relations. She has a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College, Chicago and has worked for news media in Chicago and the twin cities. She is passionate about telling stories of hope in an effort to feed more kids. Katie, welcome to the show.

Katie: [00:00:56] Thank you, Adam. I’m very happy to be here.

Adam: [00:00:58] I love that you’re passionate about telling stories of hope in an effort to feed more kids. That’s a great ending line summation of what you’re about. That’s really fantastic. I appreciate that. Okay, so question number one. Related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has worked well for you?

Katie: [00:01:16] Yeah, definitely. So my specialty really is in content marketing as you know from my bio, just really managing blog content and video and social media. And so for me what’s worked really well is just keeping it simple, knowing your audience and writing stories or producing stories across that sort of multimedia that they want to consume. The funny thing is is that it takes a lot of work to keep things simple. Knowing your audience takes work, producing quality content takes work, but it’s really a strategy that’s worked for us. In the first year that I was here, we were able to grow our monthly blog issues by 112%, just really by focusing on that simple strategy, so yeah.

Adam: [00:02:10] I love that. So when you say keeping it simple, do you have any kind of tangible example of what you might mean by that? Do you mean creating a very simple campaign that has one direct message and then you create a very simple piece around each of it or— Just kind of give me something to chew on for that.

Katie: [00:02:27] I think sometimes we get really very flashbang, getting very starry-eyed about new things and exciting things and glittery things. And so for me, I think keeping it simple, so telling those stories and getting them in front of the right audiences and obviously there is trying new things and etcetera in there, but I think just boiling it down to that one thing and then you can kind of go from there. But I think yeah, just keeping it simple in that.

Adam: [00:02:58] Yeah, I love that. The idea is just stay focused. If you’re going to do something, stay very focused on that one thing and do that one thing extraordinarily well and don’t try to do everything all at once because that is a recipe for disaster and we all know that and yet we try to do it anyway. So don’t. I like that. Don’t do that. You know that thing you do, don’t do that. I like that. So, okay, great. So that’s what’s working well for you. Can you share with us something that has not worked well for you that we can learn from?

Katie: [00:03:58] Yeah, definitely. So chasing algorithms hasn’t been super helpful. It’s important to stay on top of algorithm changes obviously, but it’s one of those concepts like know the rules so you know which ones you can break, I feel like. And I think that at the end of the day, and this kind of ties into what I was saying for the first answer in terms of keeping it simple, but it’s easy to lose your mission and your audience when you’re chasing an algorithm change on a search engine, on a social media platform. But as a content marketer, it’s just important to stay grounded in the principles of good storytelling while exhibiting a commitment to pursuing innovation and that’s what you need to do in order to be effective. So obviously, I’m up to date on what algorithm changes are happening with Facebook or Instagram, but just not letting that drive my content creation, not letting it drive the strategy, knowing that it’s there, knowing when to use it, really staying grounded, I think in those principles of good storytelling and not being solely driven by those algorithm changes, trying to chase page views and eyeball.

Adam: [00:04:35] Right. So if I can extrapolate just a bit from what you said a minute ago to what you just said now, so I think what I’m hearing you say is, don’t chase algorithms, chase quality content that tells a story and let that speak for itself. Is that what you’re getting at?

Katie: [00:04:51] Yeah, definitely. Obviously those algorithms are important. That’s the world in which we live. Yeah, knowing them, knowing that Facebook prefers live video and video in general, but not letting that be what solely shapes what you’re doing. I think I just read something even this morning that was talking about how some of those numbers were inflated and then we see it a lot in newsrooms and in journalism, but where writers and reporters might be fired— It’s like that whole idea of pivoting to video where it’s just so managed by Facebook point where, “Okay, we’re getting rid of our writers and we’re pivoting the video and everything is video,” and then come to find out some of those numbers were inflated by Facebook and then, “Oh my gosh, we got rid of all these writers.” But more than that, it’s knowing your audience too. It’s more than just what Facebook is telling you or what Instagram is telling you. It’s what your audience is telling you, which can be kind of hard because it’s a catch-22. You’re reliant on those algorithms, if that makes sense.

Adam: [00:06:00] That’s great. I love that phrase. Don’t chase algorithms. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say it that way, but I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. It’s just like you said a minute ago. You get stuck chasing the flashbang stuff, you can also get stuck chasing the algorithms. So question number three. Related to digital marketing, can you tell me something you are excited about?

Katie: [00:06:22] As someone who is really a content marketer more than anything, I’m excited that long-form narratives are sort of back. I think we hear a lot about people not having attention spans and things of that nature, but the long-form narratives and more in-depth projects are coming back into trend and that’s exciting for me because that’s what I like to do. Ann Handley, I read this article by her where she was talking about the days of snackable content being over and obviously there’s still going to be a place and a time for snackable content, but just that there’s more of a space being created for more in-depth content, I think is really exciting. It’s what I like to do and so I’m excited about that and especially in a nonprofit, I think we have a lot more leeway when it comes to that because a lot of nonprofit audiences want to go deeper. That’s the whole point of why they’re engaging with you on your digital channel.

Adam: [00:07:27] So would you say that nonprofit have a unique opportunity to provide more in-depth content even more so than other organizations?

Katie: [00:07:35] I think so. You know my background is in journalism and then I went straight from journalism into a nonprofit and I haven’t worked for a company or an agency at this point in my career, but from my experience, I see that as an opportunity within nonprofits for sure. For us, we’re volunteer-based, so volunteers handpack the meals, so they come in and they volunteer and then they connect with us on our social channels and on our blog. And so that’s our main audience. It’s people who’ve already been engaged with us and then they connect because they want to go deeper.

[00:08:10] So that might not be the same for another nonprofit, but for us, I know that that’s my main audience and I can kind of go from there and say, “Well these people have already been engaged. They’ve already packed meals, they’ve already been introduced to this child’s story or this very basic knowledge about our organization and they’re coming here because they want more.” And so then I have that framework to go from. And that’s kind of nice too that we have that built in, that we already have those volunteers. It’s kind of flipped model, right? So not writing blogs necessarily to have lead generation and writing blogs for people who’ve already been (inaudible 00:08:55).

Adam: [00:08:56] Right, to engage more deeply.

Katie: [00:08:57] Right and then there is a secondary audience that I can go and say, “Okay, well maybe I can flip that on its head and I can write some stuff that’s really good SEO and create some leads and bring people into the packing room.” But generally speaking, our main audience is people who’ve already been engaged and they want to know more and that’s what they’re telling us through our social media and through all these other means and person to person, that’s what we hear and so then we can kind of meet that need.

Adam: [00:09:28] That’s great. Well, Katie, this is great. Let me see if I can recap what we’ve learned so far. So for question number one, for what has worked well for you, you said content marketing. Specifically, you mentioned blog content, video content, social media, and really, your core message there was to keep it simple. Know your audience, produce stories that they want to consume and make sure you keep things simple by not getting distracted by all the flashbang stuff and focus on one thing, do it really well and execute with things that your audience cares about.

[00:09:59] For question number two, what has not worked well that we can learn from, you said chasing algorithms is not super helpful. We can’t let algorithms exclusively drive what we do. We do need to be aware of them, we need to understand how they work, we need to understand how it affects what we produce, but at the end of the day, we need to be producing stories that our people and our clientele, our customers, our audience cares about, not stories that are just going to produce for algorithms because it’s really not about algorithms; it’s about people.

[00:10:25] And for question number three, what are you excited about, you said long narratives are back, in-depth projects are coming back into trend. The days of snackable content may be limited. I think you said there’s a place for snackable content, but that being the primary form of content is becoming more and more limited and that nonprofits have a unique opportunity to provide in-depth content because people are passionate about their mission and want to consume more content from that nonprofit. Does that sound about right to summarize our conversation?

Katie: [00:10:54] Yes, definitely.

Adam: [00;10:55] Fantastic. Well, Katie, this was great. I really appreciate you taking the time to be on the show and join me here. I’d love to have you back another time.

Katie: [00:11:03] Thank you so much. It was a real honor and yeah, it was really nice talking to you, Adam.

Adam: [00:11:07] Nice talking to you too, Katie. Thanks so much.

[00:11:10] Thanks for listening to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast. To get more resources about digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me, your host, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker and on my blog at adamjwalker.com, where I blog about leadership productivity, habit building, and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks, and tune in next time.

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