Is it just me or can algorithms feel like a creative killer? I just remember that feeling when we were at school embarking on a project for art, music or drama or even making a small short Godard-inspired film for French class and all our ideas were popping off, your classmate was riding a creative wave, teamwork is on fire and all of a sudden we fall from cloud nine as our teacher reminds us of all the restrictions and requirements our project must meet.
This is kind of what today’s social algorithms are. Yeah okay, do that editorial but you don’t know which look will soar, okay yes you can have three looks but you have to tease them in this way, your song can be intricate but just make sure every section is catchy…
Essentially when you choose a platform, you choose to play by their rules. Sure, you can choose what to upload to YouTube and when to hit publish, but YouTube essentially owns the journey that content takes once it’s published. The same for TikTok, Instagram etc…
Which brings us to the need to feed the algorithms. If you want people to see your content, you have to make content the algorithm will recommend. YouTube prefers a high click-through rate (CTR), Twitch prizes high retention, TikTok requires frequent posting (although this is shifting). Creators know this all too well, which is why our stressors aren’t the dentist or a first date—they’re getting a 1/10 on YouTube or hiking your average view duration (AVD). Because getting your content in front of the right audience doesn’t just feel good—it keeps your business humming, your employees’ salaries paid, and your brand partners happy.
This takes me to a point I made in another article yesterday about the need to balance the artistic and the business as creatives. How do creators stay true to their artwork and keep their creative business front and centre without succumbing to the algorithm?
Every platform’s algorithm has different demands and it can often feel like there is a rule book. In a way there is but realistically, top tier creatives make their own rulebook.
For example, TikTok may seem to push trending videos. For the everyday creator that may work but as an artist it is not ideal to just churn out other people’s trends. Try treating your TikTok as a moving moodboard or Pinterest/Tumblr board in motion. I always recommend asking yourself what artistic content you would want to see and isn’t already out there then curate that content to fulfil others’ desires.
To further echo this, I want to quote colouring creator Sarah Renae Clark;
“I think it’s a great exercise for creators to stop and think about your ‘why.’ Why are you doing this? What is the motivation beyond just numbers? What would you do if the algorithm didn’t matter? And find a way to realign everything else with THIS as the focus, NOT the vanity numbers. For me, there were a lot of things I started saying ‘no’ to and a lot of opportunities I decided not to chase when I really thought about the kind of creator I wanted to be, instead of always just trying to gain more followers.”
Every creator has a different strategy to manage creativity and channel performance. When you exist on the spectrum between artist and distributor, expect yourself to fluctuate across it throughout your career. There will be weeks, even months where your work is 80% business, 20% creative and others which are 70% creative but you experience anxiety because you’re not finding as many business leads. So bank those ratios and spread them accordingly.
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