Even though the sobering beginnings might tend to let you down, let me tell you a secret before we go any further. We will end on a note that is triumphant hence you need to persevere through the story that I would like to tell you even though it is going to be filled with facts and logic which is usually a heavily disguised aspect that is seldom seen on the internet and fair a dosage of speculation.
The myths of social media being a meritocratic or democratic system does not seem to be holding very well to the pressure of scrutiny and hence social media for a good number of us is crumbling to pieces. While it has come to be a good place to meet new people, slowly and surely, people have come to find out that it is not the best of places for one to start a thoughtful discussion, find intricate solutions to problems that are related to certain fields or even express the new ideas that they might. It might be the ideal place for snide comments that are usually cast between the world leaders, celebrities and the general public but most of us are sidelined as simple spectators to just watch and comment periodically.
Relying on 2013 Twitter data, a user that has 1,000 followers is in the upper 4% of active users on the platform. If you have around 25,000 followers, then you are in the top tenth percentile. Additionally, nearly 10% of twitter activity has been found to be spam according to a recent study that was conducted by Network Insights.
If you are stuck there wondering, “What in the world does all these mean?” Well, if you are looking to start an intelligent conversation about topics in a certain niche, there is no audience to support that. For instance, to discuss a topic around astronomy, you will need to create an audience that has a vexed interest in astronomy. The problem is that if you are relatively new on this platform, you should expect it to be much more complex to build an audience that is engaged on the topic by relying on content alone.
Truth be told, all that social media is bring each and every being on the planet on the same platform and lets them compete for attention. Mathematicians and mothers compete for the same attention as media entities that have multiples of millions of dollars under their belt. Yes, we might all be in a position to be publish. But are we guaranteed that anybody is going to take the time to read?
In the event that you have not been following closely, the publishing and media camps have been up in arms because Facebook is pressuring them to entrusting them with their content in full text. As much as the core reason is biological, the feed algorithms of Facebook favor video auto play over the simple text posts. We are all more drawn in by the movement in videos hence making it harder for media to get a share of voice over the immense noise.
Even though Twitter at the time has Photos, Periscope and Vine, they are also tending to follow the trend of testing video auto play hence with time, it is going to become more and more visual leading to slide in clickthrough rates if there are no graphics that are eye-catching.
Even before video started being favored on social media, it had already been established that it would be challenging to get a following and reach out to an audience that you can have a meaningful engagement with. After stating that “It is okay not to tweet on Twitter.” The CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo seemingly threw his weight on the fact that most people do not get much value out of tweeting.
Instead Dick should have simply stated that it is impossible for to compete grabbing popcorn and still enjoy the show.
The Canary in the Coal Mine
In a bid to make products that would make it easier for people to share their content on all the new networks, I missed a larger party of the social network party. Because of this, I have learnt firsthand of how hard it is to build and audience and start conversations. This is even more so the case if you are not comfortable with talking to each and every person that you meet.
Just like everyone else, at first I believed that I was not interesting enough. There was no data to show me how my content was doing but when Twitter added analytics, my data gave me another story.
Compared to my more socially famous friends, my engagements were relatively high. The problem was, I did not have enough numbers at the top to make content go viral. I explored new platforms and products on the market. Partly because I had realized that these platforms were not designed to give all users a voice and also to see what was going on in the market.
What I discovered was that there was a new type of social platform where the more thoughtful and intelligent people were taking their discussions. This shift became a validation of the log in the eye – the canary in the coal mine which is social media was not the remedy that most people thought it was.
Social networks like FigShare, Academia.edu and Researchgate were created by scientists who wanted to cast their voice. From the open-sourcing of Reddit, Hackernews was born and quickly became the home for start-up and many programmers.
A variety of spinoffs like Designernews; DataTau for data scientists; Librarynews for librarians; Growthhackers and inbound.org for marketers, outbounding.org for travel enthusiasts; Betalist for launching products; other crowd funding sites like Gadgethunt; Kickstarter get funds for investment in commercial property; The Drop for sharing music and new electronic; CMX for community managers.
There are so many options that it is overwhelming. Nearly two years ago, Han Leijström attempted to heroically create a mind map with close to 600 online communities but that did not work out. If you were to search the term “marketing” on LinkedIn, the results will include 32,000 open groups as well as 36,000 groups that are for members only. Parody studies indicate numbers that are continuously ranting had that have a wow factor that symptomless approaches the giver.
We Deserve the Pleasure of the Algorithm
Audiences are increasingly spending more and more times in the walled gardens and the value of the silo-ed media companies’ is rapidly diminishing. Brands like Newsweek and New York Times that we grew up on are not the best vehicles of distribution any longer.
Their writers are driving traffic from their mobile phones now providing a temporary audience from their followings instead of being chained to the desk. In a bid to exert their independence great writers like Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, Kara Swisher and many others left their prominent media companies courtesy of their brands that helped them to build massive followings on the social web.
Lara Setrakian who worked for Bloomberg TV as a correspondent in the Middle East Co-founded NewsDeeply which affords a plethora of news experiences that surround topics like the Syrian Civil war as well as Ebola. Klein also moved to Vox Media founded data driven and Swisher Co-Founded Re/code.
The fight and conquer policy that Facebook and Twitter employed gave power to the writers while at the same time eliminating the need for the parent media company for the writer to succeed.
However, this makes the writer a slave to such platforms. Instead of being able to serve as an editor, they now serve as a simple algorithm. While time will tell who the better boss is, Facebook at every chance it gets reminds the media that the high profile staff hold the power.
As Vox.com explains, there are various approaches that can be used in news and publishing to help create a highly engaging audience on Facebook and among these include leveraging high profile staff. A good example of this is the Editor-in-chief Ezra Clein whose 220,000drive a quarter of vox.com’s Facebook referrals.
Banding together to earn a voice
Winning on social media is getting tougher. To reach a lift-off capacity on social platforms, one ought to have more polished ideas that have social proof. Shared context is the only way that a great number would be able to break through the noise. In communities, not only can you band together, you can also take ideas, polish and improve the message and also create memes that are memorable and videos and launch all these collectively into the social web.
Niche communities will receive the conversations that are most moving to us and they will be responsible for broadcasting the ones they find to be the most important to a larger and more diverse eco-system of social media. The journalists on the other hand will continue to be storytellers and translators who help the world understand the importance of the niche conversations. They will be able to create a reputation within the communities within which they tell their stories.
The communities will be used as the grounds for breeding fresh and new ideas. Even though some might be bad, off-color and inappropriate, it is okay. They will decide what evolves and what is acceptable.
People living and working within owned audiences has become the expected nature for the past decade. However, this will be replaced by “Vote for us” which will be the new phrase for “Follow me.” Whether you are looking to learn, build an audience or even teach, every individual will be better equipped to help a community in a shared context.
For those that will continue broadcasting on social media, community media will be the place where they get new ideas and new stories. This is because communities provide an avenue for people to discover new ideas and voices.
New relationships are built and they trickle over to the social networking, eventually into the physical world. Even though this does not mean that social media will die out, it is going to get harder and harder for one to get a presence on this channels. However, this will help the niche communities to work more cohesively to spread the messages they deem important through existing mass market feeds.
When the next generation realizes that social media is not going to afford them a voice, community media is where they are going to go next so find yours and build it.