Viraj Sheth
Guest Article

The battle of the social media platforms - What should a creator focus on?

Here are some tips and tricks to hack the algorithm, and build a loyal follower base on the most-used social media platforms.

The year is 2020. The Internet explosion has taken off in the Indian subcontinent and, of course, the rest of the world. The phenomenon of hyper-connectivity, enabled by this very explosion, vows to connect (and disconnect) the human race. Content is the new oil. Attention is the new currency.

And, the most powerful people on the planet are not the politicians having access to the most advanced armies, or business tycoons having access to unlimited funds, or the religious leaders with hordes of worshippers. But, the coders who control the algorithms of the most-used social media platforms - YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.

Hold on, though, I’m not going to sound like a cynical boomer complaining about the advent of social media. I’m going to, instead, dissect some of the most-used social sharing platforms, and offer some tips and tricks to hack the algorithm and build a loyal follower base.

1. YouTube: The undisputed king of video

The true pioneer of video content, YouTube, was one of the first video platforms to set the tone for the democratisation of video content. Before the era of YouTube, it was only the large and overtly intimidating production houses that could produce content. YouTube entered the picture, changed this monopolisation of content, and provided a broadcasting platform to anyone with a camera.

This crowd-sourcing of content enabled YouTube to build a massive directory of videos, thus, becoming the leading video platform on the Internet. Cooking videos, short films, comedy sketches, music covers, dance challenges, and spiritual conversations - you name it, and the platform had it.

YouTube has now grown into a behemoth-sized platform. With size, comes saturation. With plenty of content creators - over 1,500, with a million-plus subscribers in India itself, it is getting constantly difficult for fresh creators to make their mark on the platform. Hence, here are a few of my personal hacks to make it big on the platform:

Hack the algorithm:

● YouTube is a long format video platform. Create consistent long format content (5-15 minutes).

● Make good use of the SEO tags, thumbnails, and title of the video. These three elements will define the fate of your video. Avoid clickbait titles that have nothing to do with the content of the video.

● More the watchtime, more your videos get recommended.

● Top format on the platform: Roasting.

2. TikTok: The usurping prince of video content

While everyone believed that YouTube would be the long-reigning king in the video space, TikTok was swiftly building foundational blocks to become the world’s most downloaded app. With attention spans getting consistently shorter, the opportunity for short video platforms to blossom was wide open.

TikTok’s biggest USP was its accessibility to the masses. While YouTube enabled democratisation of video content by encouraging and promoting user-generated content, TikTok really took it to the masses. The funky transitions, the slo-mo shots, and the ability to shoot with just a selfie camera were all the right ingredients to flourish as a short video platform.

TikTok learnt from the mistakes of Vine and Dubsmash, and made its way to becoming the most engaged video platform of India, and the world. Unlike Vine that relied only on entertainment content, you could find all sorts of short educational content on TikTok, like cooking, fitness, fashion, technology, and finance.

Unlike Dubsmash, users were not limited to only lip-syncing famous songs, or movie dialogues; thus, enabling them to create fresh, original content. Marred with a handful of controversies and moral policing, TikTok, while the most downloaded app in the world, still struggles to find its footing in building the same amount of brand equity and repute as YouTube, or Instagram.

Hack the algorithm:

● The first three seconds of the video make, or break, it.

● Quick-witted short form content works like a charm on the platform.

● More the watchtime, more the video recommended to the users.

● Top format on the platform: Education and comedy.

3. Instagram: The most glam of them all!

Amidst the whole YouTube versus TikTok battle, what people tend to conveniently forget is a platform that is equally accepted and loved by users and brands alike - Instagram. A platform that popularised photo content and truly paved the way for an alternative carrier, one that of an 'influencer'.

By roping in early celebrity adopters, Instagram quickly grew to be one of the most popular social media platforms. Instagram was always quick to bring in new, interactive features on the platform that increased the stickability factor, with the average user spending 53 minutes a day on the app.

I personally believe that while Facebook turned to favouring brands through its targeted ads feature, and YouTube was preferred by creators, it was Instagram that found the 'sweet spot'. The platform is now directly responsible for facilitating livelihoods of millions of small businesses, influencers, and brands. As a content creator, Instagram definitely needs to be in your social media starter kit.

Hack the algorithm:

● Video, video, and more video. Video content enables more discovery on Instagram.

● More the engagement with your posts, more the reach.

● Use your stories well. Instagram stories create more depth in your audience due to their relatability.

● Top format on the platform: Comedy and social commentary.

4. Twitter: The dark horse of the social media game

While Instagram and YouTube consistently had the glamour and fancy of the young audiences, Twitter was the one that garnered the attention of the most powerful, rich and influential of the world. Presidents, bureaucrats, CXOs, celebrities, multinational corporations, and religious leaders were all active on the platform.

Unlike other platforms, Twitter tested your storytelling skills with a very limited set of words (140 characters initially). This was an art in itself, and the creators, who made their mark on this platform, were touted to be some of the wittiest, and most intellectual personalities of our generation.

While the platform is very influential, it is also often thought to be very toxic. There is a lot more polarity in audiences, owing to the inflow of political and religious content posted on Twitter. But if you look at the positives and the sheer ease of accessibility to connect with some of the brightest minds in the world, and connect with them over thoughts and ideas, this is the platform to be on.

To summarise this into a 'TL;DR' version, as a content creator, you can't afford to be unidimensional in picking the platform of your liking. If you put all eggs into one basket, you are setting yourself up for failure. The one skill that stays common across all platforms is the art of storytelling. Text, photo, short-form video, long-form video, and audio - they all demand you to be a prolific storyteller.

Hack the algorithm:

● Tweet consistent and relevant content.

● More the likes, comments and retweets, more the discoverability of your profile.

● Popular meme formats, combined with funny text copy, can bring about high engagement and virality.

● Top format on the platform: Motivational and meme content.

(The author is the CEO and co-founder of Monk Entertainment, a Mumbai-based creative organisation.)