Lots of negative news is coming in about different social media. Facebook, Instagram, and and Snap (formerly Snapchat) have all been the subject of negative reportage.
What’s up with ageing social media? And what comes next?
Personally speaking, I spend far less time on social media than I used to. I do Facebook and Twitter drive-bys, mainly to keep up with real world friends and family. Many artists rely on those sites, usually by creating a public page, to stay in touch with supporters and to promote brands.
Facebook recently undertook an algorithm change. This is not a new thing. Google did that several years ago, reportedly to improve search results. For the average user, though, I don’t think results were improved. I base that opinion on my own experience.
With Facebook, for instance, there seems to be no logic in how stories appear on my feed. With Twitter, I have no idea how that company chooses whom to censor and whom not to censor. Both companies have their hands full with various government entities because they, like virtually every other social media site, cater to a global audience.
In the US we still have mostly free license on speech. In other countries, including Europe, there is far less freedom of expression when it comes to governments. Consider China. That’s a market any transnational corporation wants a bite of. The downside is that China permits virtually no freedom of speech, and demands allegiance not to country, but to one political party.
It stands to reason that if some rights are diluted, there is a definite trickle down effect. How does this translate to art?
Whether it’s someone making an accusation of “cultural appropriation”, or misinterpreting the intent of a popular song—“Girl Crush” (Little Big Town) is a perfect example—you can be caught up in fallout even if you’ve done nothing wrong or vile. The greater challenge of course is budget. If you’re an indie, your promo budget is going to be far more limited than the budget for those on celebrity class radar.
Right now, politicos in the US are hammering social media sites amid a national conversation about everything from radicalization to guns. US Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) went into hysterics after a hoax on Twitter caused fake tweets claiming to be from a legacy newspaper to be distributed. No harm was done, and I fail to see why Nelson got involved, but there’s an interesting revelation from Twitter. The reporter whose account was hijacked (in a sense) is named Alex Harris:
“Nelson said Twitter executives told him the company’s algorithms elevated the visibility of Harris’s last response so that 600,000 account holders saw it. He said the hoax could have gone uncontested for many hours if it weren’t for the reporter’s quick response.”
In other words, you will see on your timeline what Twitter employees want you to see.
Facebook came under similar scrutiny for permitting ads to be run regarding the presidential election. Election hysterics aside, that algorithm change led to many complaints from those I know on both sides of the aisle and in between. Was the change the reason engagement dropped on Facebook? I don’t know, but the stats are in and they don’t look good:
“Now new numbers have been released that go through December, and the problem only seems to be getting worse. The updated data shows that Facebook’s core platform lost 18% in time spent, which is a huge change from the month before. This, says Pivotal, reflects a 24% decline in time spent per person.”
I do think live streaming is a boon to Facebook; it’s certainly been a boon to the Daysies, the band I’m personally involved with.
It wasn’t so long ago that MySpace was the go-to for musicians. Now that site is a mere speck on the social media landscape. As for Snap, that corporation is “reportedly” about to pink slip 100 employees, according to Tech Crunch.
What does all this mean to you, regardless of whether you’re an arts creator or supporter?
It just means that some social media sites have outgrown their infancy and tighter controls will be applied going forward. Tighter controls rarely favor the indie.
Not to despair, however. We don’t know what the next hot social media site will be, but you can certainly count on new ones coming. Building communities is what the Web is about, and all it takes is a new idea and new means for engagement.
Meanwhile, as I’ve said repeatedly, don’t put all your social media eggs in one basket. If you’re a musician or artist, consider how you message your supporters and stay in touch, and focus on the media that work for you. Don’t dismiss print, either. That’s an overlooked asset many young musicians and artists ignore.
Personally, I’d like politicians to stay away from free expression as much as possible. I see things on the Web every day that offend me. Sometimes I speak out. Sometimes I don’t. The beauty is that I can choose what to do and that is good enough for me.
If you’re interested in more on trends in social media, I recommend an article at Entrepreneur. Take a look at the info on live streaming and just as important, those controls social media entities are employing over content.
Something else to consider—remember all social media sites rely on you, the content generator. Most of these sites generate no content on their own. So you’re providing the product that enables them to even have a product.
(Kay B. Day/March 9, 2018)