PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN! Like the mysterious figure behind the curtain in the Emerald City, social media algorithms operate behind the scenes, hidden from plain view, which begs the question, is this a good or bad thing?

In the age of rapid technological advancements, algorithms have become an integral part of our daily lives, influencing everything from the content we see on social media to the recommendations we receive from streaming services. However, as algorithms wield increasing influence, the question arises: are algorithms bad? In this article, we’ll navigate the complex landscape of social media algorithms, examining their positive and negative aspects to illuminate this controversial topic.

What is an algorithm?

An algorithm is a sequence of instructions a computer must perform to solve a well-defined problem. Think of an algorithm as a recipe that guides you through well-defined actions to achieve a specific goal. A social media algorithm is a set of rules or calculations used by social media platforms to determine the content that users see in their feeds or search results. Social media algorithms stand out because they significantly influence what we see online and how we interact with digital content.

The Good

Social media algorithms play a crucial role in enhancing the effectiveness of social media marketing by ensuring that content reaches the most relevant and engaged audiences. These sophisticated systems analyze user behavior, preferences, and interaction patterns to curate personalized feeds, making it possible for marketers to connect with their target demographics more accurately than ever. By prioritizing content likely to resonate with users, algorithms help increase engagement, drive higher conversion rates, and foster brand loyalty.

Moreover, algorithms can amplify the reach of high-quality, relevant content, enabling smaller brands or businesses to gain visibility among potential customers without large advertising budgets. This level of content curation and targeting capability ensures that marketing efforts are more efficient, with resources directed towards audiences most likely to be interested in the products or services offered. 

Efficiency and Automation

Algorithms streamline processes and automate tasks, improving efficiency in various fields. From data analysis to complex calculations, algorithms can perform tasks precisely and quickly.


Many of the online services we use rely on algorithms to provide personalized recommendations. This personalization enhances user experience, offering content and products tailored to individual preferences.

Predictive Analytics:

Businesses leverage algorithms for predictive analytics, helping them make informed decisions based on historical data and trends, ultimately enhancing strategic planning.

In essence, social media algorithms can dramatically enhance the precision and impact of marketing campaigns, making them indispensable tools in the digital marketer’s toolkit.

I am Oz

The Bad

The Echo Chamber Effect

Some social media algorithms prioritize engagement over accuracy and mental well-being, which can lead to the spread of misinformation, sensationalism, and mental health struggles. Social media algorithms can also create filter bubbles, trapping us in echo chambers of similar ideas and opinions. By showing us content similar to what we already like, algorithms can reinforce our biases and limit exposure to diverse perspectives, leading to polarization. The more obvious examples include political polarization, wellness communities, alternative health, and conspiracy theories. Here are some examples of how this phenomenon manifests in the context of social media marketing:

  1. Content Homogeneity: Through their algorithms, social media platforms tend to prioritize content that has proven popular among a specific audience. The effect is that marketers and content creators produce content that aligns closely with existing successful formats, themes, or topics, leading to a lack of diverse content. As a result, users are often exposed to a narrow band of ideas and styles, reinforcing existing preferences and potentially stifling creativity and originality.
  2. Feedback Loop Creation: Brands and creators become trapped in feedback loops where the content they produce is tailored to the tastes and preferences of their current audience based on the engagement metrics they receive. This can discourage experimentation with new content types or topics that might not initially resonate with their established audience, limiting growth and discovery of new niches.
  3. Platform Dependency: The design and function of social media algorithms can lead to an over-reliance on specific platforms for audience engagement and growth. As content creators and marketers tailor their strategies to what works best on each platform, they might overlook cross-platform opportunities or fail to develop a diversified presence that could protect against changes in platform popularity or algorithm updates.
  4. Audience Polarization: In marketing, the echo chamber effect can intensify audience divisions, especially when dealing with contentious or polarizing products, services, or ideas. Content that resonates strongly with one segment can alienate or be hidden entirely from another, leading to increasingly polarized communities that only interact with content that reinforces their existing beliefs or preferences.
  5. Misinterpretation of Success Metrics: The viral nature of some content can be misleading, as virality often depends on how well content resonates within specific echo chambers rather than broad appeal. Marketers and creators might misinterpret these metrics as signs of widespread success, potentially skewing future content creation strategies towards these echo chambers and neglecting broader audience engagement strategies.
  6. Influencer Echo Chambers: Influencers and thought leaders can create their own echo chambers, where their recommendations and content are amplified within their follower base but fail to reach beyond their existing audience. This can create challenges for brands looking to break into new markets or to reach and impact demographics outside the influencer’s core audience.

The echo chamber effect in social media marketing and content creation can profoundly impact brands’ and creators’ strategies and outcomes. This effect has also led many SMMs to blame the algorithm for the content rat race, which may be accurate but is also problematic.

The Ugly

Blame and Bias

Blaming the algorithm deflects accountability from the humans who design and implement it. In many cases, an algorithm’s design reflects its creators’ intentions, biases, and values. Blaming the algorithm also overlooks the underlying issues in the design process, such as a lack of diversity in the development team, insufficient testing for biases, or inadequate consideration of ethical implications. These biases can shape which content gets promoted, who sees it, and who succeeds on these platforms. Here are some examples illustrating the effects of bias:

  1. Demographic Bias: Based on historical engagement data, algorithms may favor content created by or featuring certain demographic groups over others. This can lead to the underrepresentation of minority voices and perspectives in users’ feeds, affecting the visibility and success of content creators from diverse backgrounds.
  2. Content Type Bias: Based on user engagement patterns, algorithms can develop a preference for certain types of content (e.g., videos over text posts, short-form content over long reads). This can disadvantage creators who excel in less favored formats, forcing marketers and creators to alter their content strategies to fit the algorithm’s preferences rather than their audience’s needs or their own creative strengths.
  3. Engagement Bias: Social media algorithms often prioritize content that generates high engagement (likes, shares, comments), which can perpetuate a focus on sensational, controversial, or clickbait content. Marketers and creators might feel compelled to produce content that appeals to these algorithmic biases, potentially at the expense of quality, accuracy, or authenticity.
  4. Feedback Loop Bias: Algorithms that create feedback loops by recommending content similar to users’ previous engagement can reinforce existing preferences and biases. For marketers and content creators, breaking through to new audiences becomes increasingly complex as the algorithm tends to circulate their content among an existing echo chamber.
  5. Visibility Bias: New or smaller creators often need help to gain visibility due to algorithmic preferences for established accounts with larger followings or higher engagement rates. This creates barriers for emerging voices and can limit the diversity of content available to users and the opportunities for marketers to reach new audiences.
  6. Ad Bias: Bias in advertising algorithms can affect which audiences see certain ads based on demographic data and inferred interests. This can lead to discriminatory practices, such as certain job advertisements being shown primarily to one gender or age group, affecting the fairness and effectiveness of social media marketing campaigns.
  7. Cultural Bias: Algorithms trained primarily on data from specific geographic regions or cultures may not accurately understand or promote content from other areas, leading to a homogenization of content and perspectives. Marketers targeting global or culturally diverse audiences may find engaging effectively across different regions challenging.

Recognizing and addressing these biases is crucial for creating a more equitable and diverse social media landscape. For marketers and content creators, understanding algorithmic biases can inform more inclusive strategies representative of their potential audience, not just the segments most favored by the algorithm. To address the bias, we must hold the humans and organizations designing them to account and call for more transparency.

The symbolism of Frank Morgan playing multiple characters in “The Wizard of Oz” provides a thought-provoking lens to examine how we perceive social media algorithms and the individuals who design them.

Oz the man behind the curtain

Pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Algorithms are not responsible entities. Remember, behind every algorithm is a team of engineers, developers, and stakeholders who make decisions. Thus, the humans who create, deploy, and oversee them are responsible for ensuring their fairness, transparency, and ethical use. Therefore, when an algorithm produces undesirable outcomes or perpetuates harm, it’s essential to hold humans accountable for its design. 

The actor Frank Morgan, who portrayed The Wizard of Oz, also played Professor Marvel, The Gatekeeper, The Carriage Driver, and The Guard in the movie (1939). Each character represents a different facet of the illusion and deception that pervades the land of Oz. Like Frank Morgan’s various characters in Oz, these individuals operate behind the scenes, exerting influence over the digital landscape while remaining largely invisible to the average user. 

Emerald City and the digital realm

Like the multiple characters portrayed by Frank Morgan, the people who design social media algorithms exert influence over our digital experiences while remaining largely invisible to the average user. This hidden influence can be unsettling, as it raises questions about accountability, transparency, and the balance of power in the digital age. The symbolism of Frank Morgan playing multiple characters in “The Wizard of Oz” provides a thought-provoking lens to examine how we perceive social media algorithms and the individuals who design them. It highlights the illusion, deception, and hidden influence that can shape our online experiences, prompting us to question the nature of power and authority in the digital realm.

Horse of a different color.

The character of Oz serves as a central figure in “The Wizard of Oz,” embodying themes of deception, self-discovery, and the journey toward authenticity. Through his role in the story, readers and audiences are encouraged to question appearances, embrace their strengths and abilities, and find their way back to what truly matters to them.

By acknowledging the human role in algorithmic decision-making, we can address systemic issues and work towards more responsible and ethical algorithm design. Embracing algorithms’ benefits while staying mindful of their pitfalls is a delicate dance. In the meantime, seeking diverse voices, fact-checking information, and engaging thoughtfully with your feed is essential. Advocating for transparency and accountability in algorithm design promotes a more trustworthy, fair, and user-friendly digital ecosystem. It benefits users and enhances digital platforms’ ethical standards and societal impact.

In the quest to answer the question “Are algorithms bad?” it becomes apparent that the issue is nuanced. Algorithms bring about undeniable benefits regarding efficiency and personalization, but their negative impacts, such as bias and lack of transparency, must be addressed. As we move forward in this era of digital evolution, it is imperative to approach algorithm development and implementation with a critical lens, embracing responsible practices that prioritize ethical considerations and the well-being of individuals and society.

Here at Verve Creative Studio, we mean it when we say we are a collaborative creative studio. Our services and practices represent an anti-extractive paradigm that values creativity and those who nurture and cultivate this finite resource. We partner with in-house teams to provide tailored social media marketing solutions.

Let’s Collaborate


We love messages and meeting for coffee or tea at one of our favorite local spots. Drop us a note and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible…