Does your business depend on social media? If you didn’t know, the tech overlords are slowly pulling the rug to make your audience and leads go “bye bye”.
It takes a while for some to realise. Caught up in the deal-making, politics and market forces surrounding tech giants are self-employed individuals and businesses of various sizes merrily posting to social media without much cause for concern.
Unfortunately, many businesses’ approach to success through the use of social networking sites add up to little more than a bunch of short-term tactics instead of a long-term strategy. ❌
I’m guilty of it myself.
In the worst cases, people have thrown time and money at easy-to-create ads on their social platform of choice like it’s a gambling slot machine, building a following that ends up being worth nothing because organic reach within that very audience is continuously throttled for one reason or another.
The State of Twitter (X) in 2023
A tone-deaf, smug-looking Elon Musk is standing atop the smouldering ashes of the dumpster fire that is Twitter, or X, as he’s now calling it.
The intergalactic “genius” spent $44 billion to acquire the social network in 2022, despite it being worth nowhere near that figure. Then, he did the following:
⚠️ Laid off crucial Twitter software engineers (but tried to bring them back once he realized the mistake)
⚠️ Challenged Mark Zuckerberg to a dick-measuring contest
⚠️ Annoyed the few remaining advertisers on Twitter
⚠️ Suddenly rebranded Twitter as X and began transforming algorithms/functionality
Rest in Pieces, Twitter
Hey, Elon, when exactly will
x.com? When does the redirect go into effect?
The new branding looks awful. In an episode of the This Old Marketing podcast, the hosts joked: “The 1990s called – they want their logo back!”
Musk behaves like the 13-year-old boy of the internet we really don’t need right now. To add insult to injury, Tweetdeck is no longer free for X users and can only be accessed with a paid bullshit blue tick X subscription. FFS! ♂️
Social Media: Predictably Unpredictable
Depending on what mood they’re in, Big Tech oligarchs possess the power to choke your business. What happens if Elon wakes up with a hangover, or enters his so-called demon mode, and decides to fire staff because they tell him hard truths while he’s in a bad mood? ️
The point is, tech overlords have their hands around the throat of culture, commerce and society.
They only need to squeeze hard enough for the online business networks you spent years building to begin declining, which, by the way, actually already has been happening for years.
Side note: We’re seeing big platforms piss off people more overtly, resulting in stuff like the Reddit blackout protests because the company is at odds with its user base.
So, are you feeling confident in the Big Tech decision-making that doesn’t include you? No. Me neither.
They Do What’s Best for Them ♟️
Right now, we’re seeing more emphasis on what is known as “native” social media content.
In other words, if you’re posting links to a website which is sending users away from the social platform you posted to, the platform is losing its audience. The platform doesn’t like that because external website links are a competitor to the platform itself. ⚠️
It’s safe to assume your interests don’t align with theirs.
Boiled Like a Frog in The High-Walled Garden
Social media users are held within what’s informally known as the Big Tech Walled Garden (or “compound”, as I think of it) with punitive algorithmic measures levied on those external link posts I just mentioned.
That’s the playbook from Big Tech and social media.
Many of us have tolerated this slow but sure change like a clueless frog sitting in warm water that slowly boils the poor creature to death as the heat gets turned up.
How BuzzFeed Leverages Email
If you want to be smart, take note of BuzzFeed. I always thought they got most of their traffic from social channels because their content is (or was) so prolific there.
Turns out they pursued MASSIVE email subscriber growth for years, which still fuels most of their website traffic today.
I took a look at BuzzFeed’s traffic stats and discovered most of that traffic to their website was “direct”, which absolutely will include lots of clicks to the site from the emails they send to subscribers.
Note: in web analytics, direct traffic includes many sources that couldn’t be attributed to a specific channel, usually because the referring source was stripped out (user rejecting cookie tracking is one reason for this).
This is what BuzzFeed do:
✅ Siphon website traffic from all channels into their email list
✅ Alert subscribers of newly-published content with email blast teasers
✅ Drive email subscribers to the full article on their website
Never, Ever Build Your Business “Home” on Rented Land
Even if you’re not actively sending email newsletters, at least be collecting email addresses in anticipation of the social media business lead sources you rely on disappearing.⏳
It’s common sense. It’s about:
Identifying threats to your business supply chain (protecting your sales pipeline)
Becoming less reliant on unstable channels (diversifying and mitigating)
Build Your List!
Starting an email subscriber list need not be expensive or complicated, but you should probably start.
The best time to begin such endeavours is five or 10 years ago, which is the kind of advice that irritates people when they finally realise they really are unfashionably late to the email party!
MailChimp is a good one to get going with, since it’s free for up to 500 list subscribers.
Pay Attention to the Businesses Your Business Relies On ️
What is the future for social media? We can reasonably say there is a golden period for each new platform, where early adopters reap the rewards before advertisers and algorithmic changes (referred to by Cory Doctorow as “enshittification”) ruin the audience reach you may have enjoyed.
Threads was apparently the hot thing this year, but as far as I can see, there aren’t many monthly active users.
What’s Does TikTok’s Future Look Like?
In 2018, concerns arose about TikTok’s Chinese backers and their ties to the state. If you didn’t know, doing business at a macro level in China requires being a Chinese Communist Party member. It’s a funny old system with many pitfalls.
To cut to the chase: in 2023, the UK parliament banned TikTok on its devices due to security fears. Then, the BBC instructed all its employees to remove the app.
India banned it completely for all users in 2020.
At the time of writing this, the app has been banned from government and federal devices in 34 US states with other countries following suit.
Oh, by the way, privacy law known as the Digital Services Act (DAS) is being rolled out in the EU. This hamstringing of TikTok’s ability to collect data and use targeting will likely affect app tracking and therefore TikTok’s algorithm.
Not good for creators.
If you are using TikTok as a creator to get business, it could be time to wean yourself off, and by that, I mean funnel TikTok traffic into an email newsletter.
Make hay while the sun shines! ☔
Vine, Anyone? ⚰️
I don’t know if you remember the short-form video social sharing network, Vine, but that too was the hottest thing… until it wasn’t. ️
There was a fairly quick end to Vine in 2017 after being acquired by Twitter in 2012. I never used Vine despite the hype. But I remember the story of Zach King on the Social Media Examiner podcast who went all in on it, with massive success.
Hope he jumped ship!
This is a good one… for the wrong reasons! After being touted as the daddy of social networks, Google Plus was launched in 2011 with personal and business profiles similar to Facebook, as well as various community groups with the ability for posting/commenting.
Its integration with Google search, maps, YouTube etc had SEO folks positively foaming at the mouth for this would-be Facebook challenger with all its added Google power.
Many bought into the hype but ultimately it was waste of time.
By 2019 Google Plus had been absorbed into other parts of the Google product ecosystem.
The Google Plus profiles, communities, posting and commenting were all wiped out.
Summary: Storm’s Coming… Plan Ahead ️
If you’re using social channels for business growth, then please, for the love of God, spread business risk. Diversify.
Build an email list, even if it’s a small one. You don’t necessarily need to have a newsletter or whatever it is you plan to send just yet, but think about getting people to opt in to your list.
Already got an email subscriber list?
Consider segmenting email opt in forms to bucket what you plan to send into specific content topics or different stages of the marketing funnel.
Think of it as maintaining email subscriber lists within your main email list. Therefore, when you send email blasts, it should be that the subscribers receive a slice of the cake they’re interesting in eating.
Satirical Alternate Universe Social Media Comic Book Drama
The ridiculous social media soap opera that has been playing out includes Zuckerberg training for a cage fighting match with Musk.
I made a funny comic book using AI (Stable Diffusion and Eleven labs) poking fun at Musk, Zuck, Trump and even Joe Rogan.
Download comic book (PDF)