For publishers and bloggers social media now presents a double edged sword – with a twist few saw coming. Craft your content and share on social media they said. Myself included.
This month, the beast has turned.
With instant articles Facebook has turned into the world’s largest publisher, with a view to hauling in more and more content locked away inside it’s own walled garden. Wave goodbye to a future of free social traffic.
The more you feed it, and rely on it for growth and reach; the hungrier it gets.
Blogs such as this very one you are reading struggle with the dichotomy of trying to find an audience and traffic, flirting with social media platforms to find new readers, yet Facebook’s and others’ opposing long term strategy is designed to keep people active solely within the walls of its platform, locking your fans within, and forcing you to continue to get your wallet out to reach them.
Sometimes an audience doesn’t matter: Ben writes:
Not all of us need to be brands. Not every piece of content needs to be a performance. If we unduly worry about audience, we run the risk of diluting our work in order to appeal to a perceived segment. Sometimes the audience is you, and that’s enough.
I had forgotten how much joy and introspection there is in writing for yourself, instead of waiting for the retweets to roll in. The social web has made us not only crave the dopamine retweet, but fundamentally change how and what we publish to receive attention. You only have to look at some of the viral platforms and the content they create to identify how fickle the (social) web has become.
I’m reminded of a brilliant article written way back in 2012 by Anil Dash. The web we lost. Not to sound too old man nostalgic, but I remember those days, and this site lived through them. A pingback felt like a thousand retweets. Someone elsewhere on the web was reading your thoughts and opinions, agreeing with or disagreeing with them and spending the time to reference your work. A retweet or Facebook like takes virtual no time or effort, and feels meaningless as a result.
It’s well worth a read and expresses perfectly the frustrations the publishers feel with the social platforms you know and love. There are however some engineers attempting to bring something of a revival back to the web we once knew.
The IndieWeb movement is designed as a people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’ that is gaining traction. As Tim Berner’s Lee describes it ‘Re-decentralizing the web‘. There are a number of levels of participation, going from simply starting to publish on your own site right up to auto syndication out to silos rather than creating content within them. As the growth of social media silos are largely down to two primary concepts; ‘ease of use’, and ‘everyone can find an audience’ the movement aims to break down the technical barriers to entry that don’t exist on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, providing the average man on the street with the capability to quickly and easily setup a blog on their own domain, and indeed publish and find an audience once there. The movement applies the best aspects of social media to independent websites all whilst running your own ship.
Rather than trying to replace the larger social networks entirely their aim is to build tools that let you host content on your own but also easily share that data with other sites across the net. They call this POSSE, short for “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.” Overall the aim of the project is to promote a free and open web that doesn’t rely so heavily on silos, and encourage people to build content on their own platform instead of someone else’s.
As the web becomes more and more noisy with more and more people and business vying for attention via micro content, we should be asking ourselves the value that this creates. Right now, the web we exist upon is McDonalds – Fast-food content without much substance hosted by entities that care little for the health of the web. I still hold out hope that in the future we see more people grasp the nettle, set up their own home online and instead of simply consuming bucket loads of content, realise the joy in creating it as well in a environment that is entirely within your control.