After seeing post after post on Instagram last week, asking me to turn on post notifications for their account, I thought I'd take a bit of time this week to discuss social media - for me in relation to coffee, but if you're an aspiring Blogger/YouTuber/Instagrammer etc then this post might also be for you! I definitely don't have the biggest social media accounts for coffee, but I have been creating coffee related social media content in one form or another for almost five years, and in that time have watched a number of social media platforms develop and evolve.
Social Media Platforms Curating Your Experience
Let me just start by saying that Facebook/Instagram/YouTube and many
other social media platforms have been curating your experience for a long time. For example, on Facebook, if you interact with one of your friends a lot more by liking and commenting on their photos, then you will see a lot more content by them in your newsfeed. The same thing is true for Instagram and for YouTube, for example I recently started watching Casey Neistat on YouTube, and because a lot of his videos have 1M+ views, now in my suggested videos, his are always featured along side videos which relate to the current video I'm watching.
The opposite is also true - If you don't interact with a friend on Facebook, or stop liking photos from an Instagram account you follow, slowly these social media services will decide that you're not as interested in this person anymore, and drop their content out of your news feeds. However, if they post something which is particularly popular and gets lots of interaction, they will then slip it back in to your feed, because it's 'viral' content which everyone is interested in. Wedding photos or baby photos anyone? Your mother hasn't paid Facebook to send subliminal messages, it's just the stuff which people can't help but engage with.
It's an interesting question: Why is it that these social media platforms want to control your experience? Basically, when it comes down to it, all of these platforms are about you spending more time on their service, and they want you to be engaged while you're there. So to do this, they deliver you the content which you have previously engaged with. It makes sense. The more time you spend on their service, the more potential they have to earn from advertising revenue - which you might see as a bad thing, but at the end of the day, these services cost money to run, and if they don't make money then they don't exist. They also want you to be engaged while you're there, so that you feel like their service is useful, and you keep using it. For example, if people stopped finding Facebook useful, and all their friends weren't using it, it would be easy for another Social Media service like Google+ to become the 'default social media'. Remember back in high school when Myspace was a big thing?
What do I do? - As a social media user.
Well, you certainly don't need to run out and turn on post notifications for every account you follow. You don't even need to turn on post notifications for the accounts you love the most. What you do need to do is just be aware of what the algorithms are there for and what they do, because although these formulae are often reworked and rejigged, they can only work based on how you interact with the platform. If you are interested in what a friend has to say on Facebook, then reply to their status and like their photos. If you like an Instagram photo, make sure you give it that double tap. This way it will indicate you're interested, and you'll keep seeing it. Also, if you liked someone's content and don't recall seeing it for a while, check their account and see if they're still posting. It may be that it's fallen off your newsfeed for one reason or another - these are actually the accounts which you should set up a push notification for, until you have interacted with them enough that they again become standard newsfeed material.
What do I do? - As a content creator.
Again, be aware of how the social media platforms work. Don't post content which is half-assed, and people are unlikely to be interested in. Do post content which is topical and likely to gain a lot of interaction. Have a distinct style, so that if someone likes some of your content, they are likely to interact with a lot of your content. But also, remember that if you post exactly the same thing over and over, in time people will lose interest. This is for example why on my Instagram I have 5k followers but only get 100-150 likes, but some other 'new' latte art Instagrams can have 800 followers and get 200+ likes. When you're new and fresh and exciting it's a lot easier to keep people engaged! It is also why on YouTube, I quickly discovered that if all I did was latte art compilations, both I and my viewers would get bored very quickly.
Should we be worried?
In the short term, I don't think so. In the long term, I'm perhaps a little bit worried about Instagram's direction. For example, my Facebook Page for Coffeefusion is almost useless now for gaining organic reach to the people who like my content. Facebook have said that they are phasing out organic reach for pages, they see them as something for businesses to own, and so in order for their post to be seen they will be happy to pay for it. If I had known things would go this way, I would have set up a Facebook Group for Coffeefusion, as what I wanted to achieve from the page was to be a place where people could interact and discuss the topics I present in videos.
If Instagram was to go in the same direction, it would be a real shame. However - I think it would be too hard to differentiate between personal users and business users on Instagram, which means it would be hard to pull back the reach on accounts without affecting the average user. Also, Instagram has strong competitors in Snapchat and Vine, who do similar things and also have huge user bases.
In the end
I think it's important as both a user and a content creator on social media to be aware of how it's working, so that you can gain the best experience from your time on the platform. It's definitely not something to be angry about, as at the end of the day, we want the same thing: the best, most engaging content, which we can look at instead of participating in the real world.
This was obviously a little different to my usual content, but a subject I love to talk about. If you really enjoyed this, then obviously as you now know, you have to engage ;-)