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Personalized Feeds: What Users & Brands Need to Know in 2022

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You’ve probably encountered pop-ups on publisher sites. There are several ways they can get you to pay and the truth is that most people will, although they may not like it.
You’ve probably encountered pop-ups on publisher sites. There are several ways they can get you to pay and the truth is that most people will, although they may not like it.

It’s personal

No matter where you scroll, it seems that all our feeds show us exactly what we are looking for. A google search for a new pair of loafers results in multiple ads for shoe companies. Even simpler things like our likes and dislikes seem to govern our digital feeds. While our daily algorithms provide a level of convenience for many, there is another side to the story. Personalized feeds are in the hands of Big Tech, not the user. While personalized feeds provide many users convenience, Big Tech is collecting your data behind the scenes.



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How your feed knows you

The idea of personalization is very broad. In a digital context, the concept revolves around the use of algorithms. Personalization is the leveraging of user engagement data to build an interest profile for that given individual. These interest profiles can take the form of content feeds, news aggregates or personalized ads. Almost every app out there utilizes personalization in some form. Social media apps do it everyday. Platforms like Instagram and Tiktok employ personalization algorithms and machine learning to keep users scrolling.
Personalization can be seen as soon as you open any social media app. Instagram has their “Explore” feature that shows you pictures, reels, and videos you are likely to be interested in. They tailor this section to your preferences by using your past clicks, likes, watch-time, and engagement with a given post. AI and machine learning take these data points and then service your feed with content types that have been successful in the past.
Facebook is just the same, they use more advanced machine learning to prioritize posts from the friends you engage with most. They then push these to the top of your feed with the hope that you will interact more with them. TikTok is an app that is almost entirely based on personalization. The way the feed works is to constantly show videos that you may be interested in within a continual feed. The “For You” page uses a wide range of data to determine what you might like. The data TikTok collects and uses can be any of the following:
  • Which accounts you follow
  • Creators you’ve hidden
  • Comments you’ve posted
  • Videos you’ve favorited
  • Videos you’ve marked as “Not Interested”
  • Videos you’ve reported as inappropriate
  • Longer videos you watch all the way to the end (aka video completion rate)
  • Interests you’ve expressed by interacting ads
Social media is not the only pioneer of personalized feeds, most news aggregates do just the same with similar methods. Aggregation services and sites allow users to access content from multiple sources in one place. In 2021, Microsoft announced their own news aggregator, “Start”.
The service uses Microsoft’s artificial intelligence coupled with machine learning to produce news feeds tailored to user interests. The program curates news from over 1,000 world-wide publishers. Upon first use, a user tells the aggregate what they are interested in. There are also options within the app to indicate when you see a publisher or story you are not interested in. It also includes a “Personalize” button that allows a user to refine their feed at any time. Microsoft isn’t the only news aggregator out there, there are countless others out there that provide the same service and collect the same data.

Personal Appeal

The truth is that many people find personalizations appealing and useful. It makes sense, personalization algorithms allow you to cut through the digital noise and find exactly what you are looking for almost all of the time. In fact, 74% of customers feel frustrated when digital content is not personalized. Psychologically, personalized feeds provide the perception of control and help people feel less overstimulated by content. This matters to not only users but advertisers. Personalized feeds can help maintain engagement on a given platform and keep people scrolling. The longer you can keep a user online, the higher the likelihood that they will stumble across an ad. Personalized feeds have been so successful to marketers that around 88% of advertisers in the United States reported seeing measurable improvements due to personalization, with more than half reporting a revenue boost greater than 10%. What’s more, is that on the consumer side, 78% of internet users in the United States reported that personally relevant content from brands increases their purchase intent.

The pros and cons

With the majority of the population liking personalization in some form, the pros are relatively simple. Personalized feeds serve you content that you are guaranteed to love and engage with. It is a win-win situation. With you seeing what you like, digital publishers, companies and Big Tech can cash-in. Still, there is one very clear downside to these content feeds. You are not in control of your data. Roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced everyday. Any information is up for grabs. Here are some examples of what Big Tech collects, and often without user consent.
  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Browsing history
  • Contacts
Even more, the social media apps that are so proficient at providing you personalized content feeds are often the most invasive. Instagram collects, stores and sells around 79% of a given user’s data. However, Instagram isn’t alone, 52% of apps share your data with third parties. These data sharing apps include DuoLingo, Facebook, Linkedin and even Uber Eats. Being in control of your data is becoming increasingly difficult and personalized feeds grow in prevalence. The reason for this is clear, these apps need your data in order to make a profit and be successful.

Invisibly’s feed

At Invisibly, we are taking a different approach to personalized feeds. We believe you should be in control of your own data. With your Invisibly feed, you can enjoy the pros of a personalized content stream. You can see all the news and articles you enjoy without any of the behind the scenes data collection. The only person that can offer up your data is you. It’s easy to earn points with your data and spend those points to access content you want to see. We allow you to choose what you share, when and how. At Invisibly, we are making data practices transparent while showing you the premium content you love. Get started with Invisibly today to have your feed your way.
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