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Instagram Outlines Steps to Address Potential Areas of Racial Inequality on its Platform



Last week, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri published a video on his Instagram feed in which he seemed particularly emotional about the #BlackLivesMatter protests across the US.

Mosseri, in general, is a pretty calm and collected character, and rarely shows much emotion in his posts and presentations. But it felt like this issue had really hit home with him, and that he wanted to do more to address the noted concerns. And today, Mosseri has outlined how, exactly, he plans to do just that.

In a new post, Mosseri discusses the role Instagram has played thus far in the #BlacLivesMatter movement, while also noting that, in some areas, the platform has fallen short.

“We’re hearing concerns about whether we suppress Black voices and whether our products and policies treat everyone equally. The irony that we’re a platform that stands for elevating Black voices, but at the same time Black people are often harassed, afraid of being ‘shadowbanned’, and disagree with many content takedowns, is not lost on me. This is a moment when people around the world are rightfully demanding actions over words, and we owe the same to our community.”

Tackling these concerns, Mosseri has outlined four steps that Instagram will be taking to improve racial representation and equality on its platform.

  1. Harassment – Mosseri says that Instagram will be looking to address any potential gaps in its policies which may be seeing different groups experience more harassment and abuse
  2. Account verification – Mosseri says that Instagram will also re-assess its verification process to ensure that there’s no endemic bias in how verification is allocated and approved. “Verification is an area we constantly get questions on – what the guidelines are, and whether or not the criteria is favoring some groups more than others.”
  3. Distribution – Mosseri also says that Instagram will review its content policies to ensure that there’s no inherent bias in how content is chosen for its Explore and Hashtag pages. Mosseri also says it will investigate “shadowbanning”, which sees content get less exposure without explanation as to how or why. “Soon we’ll be releasing more information about the types of content we avoid recommending on Explore and other places”.
  4. Algorithmic bias – And lastly, Mosseri says that they will examine their algorithms to avoid repeating patterns, like racial bias, which are instituted based on biased inputs. “While we do a lot of work to help prevent subconscious bias in our products, we need to take a harder look at the underlying systems we’ve built, and where we need to do more to keep bias out of these decisions”.
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The last point is a key note of emphasis raised by virtually every AI and machine learning academic. Because the input data is often already tainted with behavioral bias, based on the actions of people, those same leanings are intrinsically built into the systems, meaning that we can’t escape racial bias even when it doesn’t come down to humans doing the thinking. 

That’s a significant problem to address, and the solutions to such won’t come easy. But it is an important element, and it’s good to see Mosseri raising it as something that he plans to take on at Instagram.

Though Mosseri does also note that it will take time to investigate and implement any subsequent changes:

“We’re going to provide updates over the next few months – both about what we learn and what we address. These efforts won’t stop with the disparities people may experience solely on the basis of race; we’re also going to look at how we can better serve other underrepresented groups that use our product.”

The issues Mosseri highlights here are actually all very technical, and in large part, difficult to address, because they require more in-depth assessment of accepted logic, and will see Instagram looking to search beyond what user data tells it. That’s generally Facebook’s stance on most elements like this – it’s not up to any person to decide, for example, what gets traction and what fails on Facebook, it comes down to people, our activity dictates what Facebook is. The system is merely a host, a mirror for society as it really is.

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With these investigations, Mosseri is looking to dig deeper than that, and use Instagram at least, less as a mirror and more as a view to how things should be, in a more equal and balanced world.

While Mosseri has summarized these into some fairly short dot points, the actual work required is very in-depth, very challenging. And it may well end up being hugely important – both for Instagram, and Facebook more broadly.


Does Posting Memes on Social Help to Increase Traffic to Your Website? [Study]



Does Posting Memes on Social Help to Increase Traffic to Your Website? [Study]

Does posting memes help to increase traffic to your website?

This is a key question, which really relates to all kinds of engaging social media posts – because while these types of trending updates very clearly garner Likes and comments, do they actually benefit the stats that really matter to your business?

I mean, Likes and followers are great, but what you need is conversions, relative to what that means for your business. For SMT, we’re working to get as many people to read our posts as possible, and as you’ve likely noticed, we’ve recently been trying out memes as a way to boost engagement, and see what that gets us in this respect.

So what have we found? Here’s a quick overview of the initial results of our meme experiment.

First, a quick bit of background…

We’re always looking to try new things, and test out the latest trends and processes, and not just because it might help us generate more traffic and build community, but also, because that’s what we write about. If we’re going to write about it, we need to know and understand it as much as possible, in order to ensure that what we’re communicating is correct, and makes sense for our audience.

In this respect, we’re always testing new approaches, apps, tools, etc.

In terms of posting, last year, we tried out polls on Twitter and LinkedIn, and question posts on Facebook, to see if they would help drive more engagement. And they definitely did – these types of audience-prompting updates garnered a heap of Likes and comments. But when we cross-checked this against Google Analytics tracking, we didn’t see a big uptick in sessions or users visiting the site.

That’s not to say that these aren’t valuable, but they weren’t shifting the needle in any significant way on our key metrics. At the same time, too many polls can get annoying. In our experience, they’re an interesting tool to use, in moderation, but not a massive driver of our ultimate aims.

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Yet, at the same time, our social traffic, like all platforms, tends to have ups and downs – and in a down period this year, we decided to try something new to freshen up the feed and give our audience something else to engage with, and maybe lighten the mood a little at the same time.

Enter memes

The inspiration in this instance came from SEMRush, who’ve also tested out memes as a means to boost engagement, and build community.

SEMRush’s experience saw them significantly increase their social engagement by posting timely, on-trend, niche memes. So we thought we’d give it a try, to see if that helps drive more interest in our articles.

The first step, of course, is creating relevant, engaging memes. Which is not always easy. Many of our memes never made it out of test phase, with some clearly failing when viewed in the templates.

Some that we’ve posted also haven’t connected in the way that we’d hoped.

But this is the game – if you’re going to post memes, you’re going to have hits and duds, and you just have to live with it. I imagine it’s the same as a comedian, some of the jokes work, some don’t. But ideally, more of them get a laugh than not.

Which, luckily, our memes have.

On average, the memes that we’ve posted are generating around 135 Likes on Facebook, which has helped them generate significantly more reach than our average post, while they’re also performing strong on both Twitter and LinkedIn.

And they’re fun. The way I view them is like the comic section of the traditional newspaper, a light-hearted moment between the news updates and informational elements.

The increased engagement obviously has some benefits in boosting algorithmic reach (if people engage with one of your posts, the algorithm is more likely to show them more), as well as building community around the SMT brand. But the key question is – ‘do they actually get more people clicking through to the site?’

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In our case, when comparing our overall social media performance against the previous 3 months before we started posting memes, we’ve seen a 12% increase in sessions from social, and a 16% increase in users.

That’s not a massive shift, but when you’re working with the ebbs and flows of referral traffic, as well as changes in analytics due to shifting data regulations, any increase is positive, and a double-digit jump is definitely worth the effort.

This is only around a month of data, so it’s not definitive, and there are also other factors to consider that could influence the results. But the numbers, thus far, suggest that it is worth sticking with – and as noted, it’s fun too, adding a little more relatability to our presence, as opposed just the latest news.

A few other notes:

  • Some commenters are going to take your memes literally, no matter it is that you post. There’ll always be a couple of comments like ‘well, actually, the reality is that…’ Yes. We know. These are not meant to be literal, they’re a moment of light-heartedness in amongst our regular, marketing strategy-focused news updates.
  • We’ve found that more general memes work better than trending ones. A couple of memes where we’ve tried to tap into news events, like the changes to Twitter verification, haven’t done as well as jokes about more common social media marketing experiences. This also, of course, relates to the memes themselves, and whether they’re actually funny, but in several examples, trending topics haven’t been as big a hit.
  • Every meme is a bit of a risk. You’re trying to find commonalities with your audience, and some things that you might think are common might not resonate. You need to know your niche, and know your community, which takes some experimentation – and a lot of research (I’ve been writing about social media trends for eight years)
  • One guy on LinkedIn keeps saying that he’s envious that we’re able to get these memes approved by management. For those that don’t know, SMT is an editorial team of two (2) people. Approval, in this sense, isn’t exactly a barrier.
  • Does it take a long time to come up with them? Not really. We usually do them in batches or around 10 at a time, then schedule them out on different days/times across FB, Twitter and LinkedIn. We can make 10 or so in, maybe, a couple of hours, once every week and a half or so. Not a major commitment.
  • We’re currently scheduling around one meme a day on each platform, again, taking that newspaper comic approach. Maybe we miss a day here and there, but that’s the general aim, as something to keep that engagement flowing, and keep the entertainment value up.
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Look, it’s not necessarily a walk in the park to keep coming up with funny memes – and it may be that we run out of ideas at some stage and suddenly it becomes a lot more difficult. It’s also not for everyone. Coming up with a (relatively) clever joke that fits a meme template doesn’t always come easy, and there are days when you just don’t have it, no matter how hard you stare at the screen.

But for a minor time commitment, it does seem, at least at this stage, like this may be a good way to help engage your audience, which can also drive direct traffic benefits.

We’ll post another overview of our meme experience three months in.

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