One of the most common questions you’ll get at many blogging and influencer conferences these days from new content creators is “what advice would you give someone starting out today?”.
You’d think they’d be a ton of varying answers in a world full of consistently moving goalposts of social media platforms and technology advances. One bit of advice that has stood the test of time is to build your own space and brand that you own and control. In fact, I believe it’s the most critical thing you can do as a creator, yet you still see people with just an Instagram account as their only channel hosting their content.
Vine of the times
It becomes more obvious once you look at the history of popular social media platforms. Take Vine… many users built huge followings and put many hours in producing amazing content only to see the platform mishandled by Twitter when it bought it and to eventually in October 27, 2016, to shut it down completely. Some who’d made it big with Vine managed to pivot, such as Andrew Bachelor and Logan Paul (remember him?). That’s all well and good if you can convince your fans to move to a suitable similar platform that demonstrates your skills but if not, you’re pretty much hemorrhaging followers.
YouTube alienating creators
Take YouTube, treading a precarious line between content creators and brands. The appeal of YouTube was originally the way in which it allowed video creators to upload video content with ease in a time where it was a process plagued with technical difficulties. These days that’s not the case, there’s plenty of platforms including Facebook where users can upload, share video content and find an audience. Combine this with YouTube’s moves to appease brands off the back of controversies (including some adverts by the British government appearing on violent and extremist content) and you can see why some content creators might be feeling a little irked.
“controversies involving top creators, coupled with the appearance of ads next to violent and extremist content, led to public backlash and some advertisers boycotting the platform” – Erica Sweeney
Some video creators have found adverts being pulled on their content, including Chris Thompson whose videos about LGBTQ issues were seen as inappropriate according to YouTube’s algorithms. He’s since made the decision to try and port his audience over to the Amazon owned video platform, Twitch.
“I can talk about whatever I want on Twitch. I can speak my mind” – Chris Thompson
Putting all your videos in one YouTube shaped basket could be a risky strategy and just shows that even a hugely established platform can struggle to balance the demands of shareholder monetisation and its user base whilst evolving as a product.
Snapchat splitting content and users
Snapchat is facing its own monetisation dilemma attempting to split its media content from that of friends interacting on the platform. This led to a user backlash with around 800,000 people signing the ‘Remove the new Snapchat update’ online petition for Snapchat to go back to the original design. Some users are so annoyed with the changes that they have started using VPN’s to get access to the previous version of the app.
A number of high profile Snapchat users are leaving for rival platforms including Dillon Francis who’s not exactly loving the recent changes.
“not really feeling this update so I’m going to be moving my stuff to Instagram and Instagram Stories. If anything changes I’ll be back, but for now you can catch me over there (Instagram) and I’ll hopefully see ya. Alright, it’s been fun. We had a good run.” – Dillon Francis
Could this major user interface change be the final nail in Snapchat’s coffin? Who knows, but surely the lesson here is that you can’t rely on the platform owners to do what’s in your best interest.
Facebook kick in the teeth for business & media
Now there’s Facebook, pretty much kicking businesses and media in the teeth with its latest news feed algorithm update that’ll de-prioritise such content in favour of content from family and friends.
With small businesses and publications putting years’ worth of time and resources into creating content on the platform in order to engage with audiences, they might be forgiven for scratching their heads in wonder at what they did wrong. Or perhaps, why they bothered committing time and money into something that has decided to work against them in the long run?
Is Facebook invincible? It may well have been around since 2004 but that doesn’t guarantee that the platform won’t make big changes that affect your business or blog in favour of appeasing shareholders. Let’s not even get into the wasteland of Google plus, Google’s ill-fated ‘Facebook killer’, that’s just about still alive and gasping for air.
And now there’s Vero? What? Exactly…
Take back control
The lesson in all of this mayhem is clear… you can’t trust social media platforms to look out for anyone’s interests but their own or their investors or shareholders.
Build your website, build your brand, own your content and own your data. Demonstrate your content creation skills on your own platform, one that you own and control.
Use social media channels to distribute and engage in the place where your audience is, but don’t solely rely on one platform… because, let’s face it, if past social media history is anything to go by it won’t last the test of time.