Here’s a question for you: When no one trusts the traditional social measures of your content anymore, what do you do?
Jason Ball, founder of B2B digital marketing specialist Considered Content explains here that over in social media land, Twitter and Instagram are testing what might happen in a ‘post-like’ world.
Instagram is using Canada to pilot hiding public ‘like’ counts while Twitter’s new prototype app, twtter, hides likes until users engage with post.
The aim, we’re told, is to encourage users to focus on content, rather than on what others are engaging with. Of course, the cynics and realists among us know it’s also to protect Big Social’s own backs from the PR and legal consequences of mob-rule on their platforms.
But for the purposes of this piece, let’s take them at their word.
Likes have long been a voting mechanism that were supposed to help high-quality content bubble to the surface. It’s not dissimilar to how Google in part uses backlinks. It’s a simple measure of quality that helps tech giants work out what content should sit higher in a feed.
The problem is that Likes are easily gamed and bought, along with follows and reviews, by companies with deep pockets. The result is that these metrics are no longer so much about surfacing the best content – they’re about who can pay for the most fake followers or bot traffic. Smoke, meet mirrors.
So what was once seen as a level playing field for businesses of all sizes – where creativity and content, rather than size and budget, won engagement and followers – has ultimately been tainted. This started slow but has rapidly accelerated with the widespread emergence of the automated bots, ‘bought’ Likes and fake reviews that clog up our feeds. Survival of the fittest has been replaced by the success of the fakest.
Today, this has devalued content across the board because users are quickly learning they simply can’t trust the usual social validation metrics (in fact, large numbers of Likes now ring the alarm bells of suspicion).
What’s the result? Taking popularity out of the equation will take us to some interesting places. Most likely there will be a re-emergence of traditional media publications with strong brand values – that align with the reader’s interests and politics – and that are committed to quality journalism.
Less likely, but still possible, will be the emergence of new less algorithmically-compromised social platforms (such as Vero). And in B2B, there will also be a swing towards those companies that can make themselves ‘known’ for being insightful, trusted sources of valuable information.
In short, people will turn to what they recognise and trust. For businesses, that will hinge on the strength of their brands. But there can only be so many of these in any category (we only have so much mental availability). So the race is on to be one of the chosen few.
With the sheer volume of ‘content’ now available, this could be seen as a daunting prospect. Until you appreciate that so much of it is of such poor quality. Success, across every niche, will mean creating less but better content, making it available in elegantly simple ways and attracting more buyers than bots. Difficult for sure. But not impossible.
Those who succeed will achieve greater reach for less cost. Those that get left behind will have to buy their way out through increasingly expensive bought media.
Social media outreach garnered the reputation of being a cheap, fashionable and modern approach to marketing, but it looks like the future has just caught up with it.