There’s been an explosion of activity in social media over the past year or so, and the force has left us with a whole spectrum of new places to post/share/create.
New platforms have casually crept into the conversation – names like Clubhouse, Patreon, and Substack are all of a sudden appearing next to Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube as places that brands can show up.
I’m going to take a moment to pause and define each of these new communities so that we can all be making informed decisions when this inevitable question comes up: “Why doesn’t our brand have a TikTok?”
Of course, in digital media, a wave of tools and toys that we need to adapt to is nothing new – in fact, if there’s been a constant over the past decade it’s that the moment you get comfortable is the moment everything is about to get flipped upside down. What’s interesting about this latest crest is how the new channels have entirely different relationships with media, and with value.
Media is just the way that stuff is distributed, and every channel is some version of either earned or owned. When our audiences see our content as the result of an algorithm’s judgment of its value, then we’re earning that distribution. The newsfeed is a classic example of earned media. When our audiences opt-in to receive what we publish and it gets delivered to them consistently, then we own our media.
When it comes to value, the relationship has pretty much always been one-way. Brands publish content that people like, and in return, they get value from those people in the form of traffic, engagement, and awareness. This new crop of channels is a rebellion against that paradigm. Instead of some vague promise of future value, brands on these platforms are earning real dollars for their work in the form of subscriptions and other payments.
When we look at the new digital media channels for brands through the lens of media (owned vs earned) and value (revenue vs cost), a pretty clear picture appears:
Notice that there’s a clear line that extends from OnlyFans to TikTok, we’re calling that the value threshold. Along that line there’s a balanced exchange of value – the brand gets some combination of algorithmic reach and revenue tools. All the way at the top left, the platforms offer no distribution, but make monetization easy and profitable. At the bottom right, brands can get access to millions of people, with very few ways to generate cash.
What emerges is two clear categories of new social channels:
EARNED MEDIA/ COST CENTRES
These channels are a new spin on the old model. The platforms have created a space where we can go to create content, and use their tools to attract people to consume (or in some cases, participate) in that content.
- TikTok — What started as an app to post short, lip-synced videos has become one of the most creative places on the Internet for everything from comedy to sports to activism
READ THE TIKTOK BREAKDOWN
- Clubhouse — The hottest new toy in the tech and marketing communities, CH, as it’s come to be abbreviated, is for live audio-based conversations. Its future is uncertain, but it has introduced a whole new type of content into the mix.
READ THE CLUBHOUSE BREAKDOWN
- Twitter Spaces — Much like Facebook/Instagram ripped off Snapchat, Twitter is coming for CH by introducing its own collaborative audio-only channel. Facebook won its battle, and it remains to be seen if Twitter will realize the same fate
READ THE SPACES BREAKDOWN
OWNED MEDIA/ REVENUE GENERATORS
In the earned/cost model, the platforms get super rich by creating huge audiences and then charging brands to get access to them in the form of advertising. The owned/revenue platforms asked the question: What if we teamed up with brands and shared the wealth?
This is an opportunity that was never previously possible, because media companies couldn’t just create a newspaper/TV show for every person who came along and wanted to try it out. Technology and high speed Internet connections have created the conditions for these platforms where anyone can start up their own digital media business and start attracting paying customers on day one.
- Substack — The preferred platform for independent journalists, Substack makes it easy for anyone to launch a free or subscription-based newsletter.
READ THE SUBSTACK BREAKDOWN
- OnlyFans — A simple social profile platform that allows creators to hide some, or all, of their content behind a paywall.
READ THE ONLYFANS BREAKDOWN
- Patreon — A subscription-based tool that’s a bit like a GoFundMe and a bit like a Facebook Page. Patreon is commonly used by podcasters and other creative artists to monetize their work.
READ THE PATREON BREAKDOWN
You may also notice an opportunity beyond the value threshold, and that’s available only to the digital elite that we’re calling Internet Famous. For these brands, the whole equation is flipped. They bring value, in the form of their audiences and their reputation, to the platforms and, therefore, they get rewarded with monetization opportunities. Obvious examples include RedBull on YouTube and The Tasty on Facebook.
For the vast majority of brands, that will always be a fantasy land, and we’ll be best served by figuring out where we generate the maximum amount of value for our businesses, and how we can use the various channels to create a positive outcome.
Has your brand thought about investing in new social channels? We’d love to hear from you – shoot us an email about your experience: firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at us: @HeyJunction.