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Download: The Social Media Landscape Is Always Changing: Be Prepared
You have to keep up with everything you are involved with or get left behind, and social media is no different. Changes are always in flux on social media platforms, as the companies running them are constantly optimising for optimum effect.
The social media landscape is always changing and the change can be fast. You may wake up one day, and find that the feature of a social media platform you relied on for the bread and butter of your business, is no longer there.
Social media means different things to different people. However, the areas of deriving meaning from social media, can be grouped into a few general categories. For one, we all look to social media for connection, be it as a business or brand or as individuals.
Social media connects us all, at least those who participate in it, in wonderful ways. It can connect us with friends and family, or customers for a business. It also allows us to make new friends, and new connections, with what were initially complete strangers.
Social media is also a “feel good drug”. I don’t care who you are, but we all derive a great feeling when our posts gain traction and receive a couple of likes or comments. The more the merrier right?
We also like to engage on social media, just to pass away the hours. Even though I think a lot of us spend too much time for this reason. Personally, I believe this reason should be minimised as much as possible. By minimising the time spent on social media just to pass the time, we can work on growth and development.
Some flock to social media to stay in the know. Social media is a source of news and information for a lot of people. It must also be said that social media is also a source of great misinformation, for which we must be on the lookout.
For business, social media is a huge marketing tool. This can be done organically, by the business simply engaging with its followers. Or it can be taken a step further, where a business can spend money to gain a wider audience.
There are a lot of reasons why social media platforms change. Changes come both from within and from outside the platforms. Whether the change comes from within the platform or from outside, you or your business will be affected. The effect can be good or bad.
Three of the main ways changes on social media platforms arise are outlined below;
If you spend some time educating yourself about social media, you might have heard of the “Algorithm”. This is a term applicable to software in general, but has an ominous ring to it in social media circles.
In a nutshell, an algorithm is a procedure used for solving a problem, or performing a computation. Algorithms act as an exact list of instructions that conduct specified actions step by step, in either hardware or software based routines.
In the context of social media, an algorithm essentially refers to the software that decides what you see on a social media platform. It decides what to show you and your friends, and at what time to show it to you, in your feed.
For instance, an algorithm decides whether to show you your feed in chronological order of posts, or to decide what to show you in an order desired by the platform. This is why you will find that over time, what is shown to you fundamentally changes, as the platform optimises your feed.
One other major impact of algorithmic change that impacts social media users due to an algorithm is the reach. Without an algorithm controlling your social media feed, your reach would not be as limited as it often is. The social media platform algorithm actively limits your reach, so that only a limited number of people in your network can see your posts and vice versa.
Social media platforms are businesses, and as such, they are governed by internal policies and guidelines. For instance, you are not free to post anything on Facebook. There are rules that you must abide by as a user.
Same thing on Twitter, and any other social media platform. You will find that certain content may be covered over with a warning for viewers with regards to the content, such as graphic imagery.
And if you contreven these rules and guidelines, you risk being banned, either temporarily or permanently. Case in point is Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter and indefinitely suspended from Facebook in 2022.
There are also trends that bring change on social media platforms all the time. For example, as of late, in 2022, video has become a major form of content, especially with short-form videos as popularised by Tiktok.
Social media platforms are also under the purview of regulatory authorities, in the jurisdictions they operate. The rules of the authorities in these jurisdictions also determine what you see, or are allowed to post on social media platforms.
An example of the regulatory impact as reported by the Financial Times in December 2022, is that a new regulation will take place in the European Union, where social media websites will be obligated to remove extremist, or any other terror-related content from their platforms in less than 60 minutes or they will have to pay huge fines.
Social media platforms do not operate in a vacuum.Every business is impacted by other businesses on which it depends. And when the businesses that a social media platform depends on change, they impact the platform, and the effects trickle down to the users.
A good example of this is when Apple implemented a feature on the iPhone, that enables users to opt out of being tracked by advertisers. This happened in April 2022, when Apple released an update for iPhones, that gave users the option whether to prevent advertisers from using a device ID. Which effectively prevents tracking.
This change has had a big impact on companies that relied on this feature. A company that was notably affected was Meta for Facebook, which could no longer properly run its advertising platform due to the update. iPhone is a major player in the cellphones space, and this update greatly impacted advertisers, who relied on the tracking feature when advertising on Facebook.
Over six months later, it’s clear most iPhone users opted out, and the feature, called App Tracking Transparency, is now presenting challenges to companies ranging from Snap to Meta for Facebook to Peloton.
After looking at some of the major changes that can affect you as an individual or a business on social media platforms, the obvious question is: how do you shield yourself from the impact these changes bring about?
If you were paying attention, you would have noticed that most of the changes I discussed are for the most part out of your control, as a social media user. Nevertheless, you must still do something to prepare.
Social Media Algorithmic changes are hard to prepare for because the details regarding how they operate are not in the public domain. They are a closely kept secret. But you can still infer what works, and what doesn’t, with your posts and adjust accordingly.
Regulatory oversight is also difficult to anticipate, and so are external factors like the Apple update for Facebook marketers.
One good way to be prepared for uncertainty, is to have your own website, which you completely control, and make it a central repository for your content, by means of features such as a blog. This way, you can preserve your content for posterity and control that content the way you see fit.
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