Quality Content on Social Media Isn’t Actually “Quality”

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on May 13, 2024.

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If you are a creator that is frustrated about the current state of social media, with networks not showing your content to your audience, we're here to tell you that you're not alone.

At some point in the not-so-distant past, social media functioned like everyone thinks it does. You post content. Your followers see it. Everyone was happy. But at some point, that changed, and the algorithms appear to be completely different than they used to be.

Defenders of the networks all have one saying that they love to repeat again and again, and that is simply this- “Create quality content. If your content isn't being seen it isn't quality!”

While this is a rather poor take often without defining what the term quality means, there is some truth in the matter here because quality content isn't inherently good content, it is content that is seen.

This is an important distinction, and one that we thought we'd break out further in this one!

What Creators Think Quality Content Means

Camera capturing sunflowers field

Creators of all types generally have a positive view of what quality content means on websites and social media.

We could go down a rabbit hole here, but at the end of the day, we think of it as objectively good content. Think of a well-composed photo, a valuable piece of advice to help someone out, a great recipe, etc. In a way, the sky is the limit here, but it all revolves around delivering the type of content people expect to receive when they click that follow button.

Do something interesting, share your expertise, and deliver on what you're promising to your followers? Well, that is generally what creators think of as quality content.

But true quality content is not this. At least, not how social networks are treating it.

What Quality Content Actually Is

Clickbait Button

Sadly, this is not how social media works anymore. Quality content, as likely viewed by algorithms, actually has nothing to do with what your content is about- it is the engagement that matters.

Algorithms no longer care about showing your content to your followers who opted in to see your posts. The follower/following concept is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Algorithms only have one metric that will determine if your post is seen or not- engagement.

Engagement keeps users on the app, more time on the app means more ads are viewed, and those views are what make social networks money hand over fist. If your content is not making the social network money, congratulations, it is not quality content.

As you may imagine, the actual content here is now irrelevant as long as there is engagement. This has created a bit of a race to the bottom as folks have figured out what triggers this new algorithmic world. We have engagement bait, trends copying trends, hype machines where everything is the best thing ever, and so on.

For the most part, this content is truly terrible, but if it gets engagement, the algorithm is ready and willing to promote it almost 100% of the time.

Can These Two Overlap?

While we always believe that true quality content should reign supreme, at the end of the day, we're simply playing in social media companies' sandboxes and have to play by their rules.

So, do you have to create objectively bad content in the form of engagement bait to get your content seen by readers? Yes, you could, but objectively good content and engaging content can overlap in some ways.

We do not have a tried and true blueprint here, but there are a number of things you consider when creating your next post/Reel/TikTok that could help encourage engagement:

  • Ask a question or insert copy that encourages a like/comment/share.
  • Create an appealing aesthetic within the first two seconds that encourages further views or engagement
  • Convert your top posts into Reels in the form of short video guides to tap into search results on app (yes, they're becoming search engines!)
  • Create consumable media for entertainment that makes sense for your niche

On my local blog, for example, I am turning most of my top-performing articles into Reels, and breaking down very large and involved guides into quick talking points of five or ten favorite items in a list overlayed on top of a drone video. Is it quality content compared to my robust guides? Not really. But for those who consume quick media, it very much is. Throw on some keywords to get indexed in search on any given app, and, well, an explosion of views followed.

On my travel blog and wine blogs, I've created really dumb but topically relevant videos within my niche. Think a quick joke. A five-second video with a semi-pointless caption. Or another simple video that is over just as fast as it starts and shows the app that it has been viewed in its entirety. Oh, they made it to the end? That must be a good one! It really isn't, but let's not split hairs here.

At the end of the day, engagement wins. How you go about this is somewhat irrelevant as long as it works.

It is on you to figure out where you can feel comfortable with that overlap. Will you create the 37,004,423rd iteration of a dumb trend that is going viral? That is on you to decide- but we are not. Will you alter your messaging to write or shoot photos/videos to hype up engagement? You may want to start doing this, as slight adjustments to how you create content can really make all the difference.

Yes, we're all sick of a creator copying another creator who copied another creator who magically blew up overnight without an original thought to be found. But, at the end of the day, they are also tapping into how the algorithms are working for now, and that is going to leave others who only value true quality content in the dust.

So, in this way, the social network defenders are right. If your content is not being seen, it is not quality content. We just need to take a different look at what that term means, because the two definitions of the term are not lining up right now.

Have you figured out balance creating “quality content” in an engagement bait world? We'd love to hear what you did! Comment below to share!

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