It’s a Weird Time To Work in Social Media
Image generated using Midjourney AI
The only constant, as the say, is change – but this is getting ridiculous.
Just a year ago it seemed that the biggest adaptation we’d all have to make was the growth of TikTok and the shift to Reels-style video content.
Now, TikTok and Reels are still very much a thing; the platform formerly known as Twitter is melting down; Meta has launched an alternative called Threads that 100 million+ people signed up for, but no one seems to know what to do with it; and Canadian news organizations are getting shut out of their accounts.
If you’re feeling like there is an overwhelming amount of chaos happening at the moment and nobody knows what they’re doing: trust your instincts. We’ll try to make sense of it all in few short paragraphs:
Social Media is no longer some cute side-hustle that is contained to “kids these days” and memes. It is today’s mainstream media, so it is creating mainstream impact, but the rulebook everyone is playing by is still the same one we used before a hashtag ever appeared on a TV ad.
Culture, elections, news, advertising, and civil rights are all happening in these undefined spaces that we loosely tie together as “social media.” The result is that regulators, public opinion, and marketers are all battling to create norms and rules at a scale that has never existed before.
Of course there’s going to be chaos.
To give just one recent example, here in Canada many publishers lost access to their social media accounts this week. That’s because of a recently passed bill called C-18 that would force platforms to share revenue with publishers when they use their news stories. The platforms claim that they can’t figure out a way to run their businesses while sharing a piece of the pie with journalists so, at least in this country, they’re taking their ball and going home. You can read the specifics in this CBC article.
The government of Canada is fighting back by suspending all advertising on Facebook and Instagram. If we’re being honest, their ad spend is less than a drop in Meta’s revenue ocean, but the advertising pause makes sense in principle, if not in impact. Bloomberg wrote about the ad suspension here.
Then, there’s the battle over at X (Twitter), which is actually about much more than just the world’s richest man flexing his influence (but it’s also that). Until recently, we have kind of assumed that social media channels were like public utilities – that they should operate openly and the same for everyone. But they are now, and have always been, businesses with owners who can choose to operate them however their moods dictate.
When X chooses to allow certain types of accounts back on, while banning others that its new owner personally doesn’t like, that goes against how we all thought platforms were supposed to operate. But it turns out, under the current set of rules, they can do whatever they want whenever they want, and we’re slowly coming to terms with that reality.
People are so fed up with X that they rushed over to Threads, but didn’t really know what to do when they got there. According to some recent data (ironically, posted on Twitter), usage of Threads is down more than 50% from its peak right after launch.
It turns out that plugging 100M users into a copycat product isn’t a slam dunk.
One week after launch, DAUs on the ~other app~ are down 40% and average daily time per user dropped 4x.
Why isn’t it working? ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/rMO4IBHDHf
— Olivia Moore (@omooretweets) July 17, 2023
So, the very foundations that the digital marketing industry was built on have shifted, and it seems that the only stable ground can be found in an app that’s based out of China.
We wish we had a comforting bow to tie on this story for you that will give us all peace of mind, but the best we can offer is the following two thoughts:
- Chaos shakes up markets, and the brands that tend to thrive are the ones that find ways to offer value and build relationships with their communities, regardless of which channels that happens on
- None of us have this all figured out – or at least no one we’ve talked to. Over the past few weeks and months we’ve checked in with many of the marketing leaders who we respect most, and they are feeling just as overwhelmed as the rest of us.
Good luck out there, and if you somehow get it all figured out, please let us know, won’t you?