Whenever new social platforms are introduced, I’m an early adopter. I sign up to evaluate them for clients – as to whether or not they’ll be helpful for a business, if not now, perhaps later.
Because I’ve been an early adopter, I’ve seen how they’ve started.
I’ve also seen how they’ve evolved over time.
And I see how they’re used now.
And along the way the best practices that I’ve seen and developed are what I bring into my work
These existing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the main three platforms that I’m going to talk about. They’ve been around a long time. They’ve evolved, and every time there’s an algorithm update it kind of drives you crazy and you have to do things differently – and your buttons aren’t where they should be.
These older, existing social media platforms all started up pretty much in the same spot these new ones are starting now. That’s something you need to understand, even though it doesn’t mean the new ones are going to end up in the same place.
How Existing Social Has Grown
I’ve been on the Facebook platform 14.5 years (it started 15 years ago at the time of this writing). Just think about the length of time it’s been around – if you gave birth to a baby now, they would be a teenager and well into those sometimes really annoying teenage times in 15 years. Sort of where we see the social media platforms, right? 😉
Realistically, the older existing social media platforms started much in the same place as these new ones; and over time they grew (vastly). More users joined the platform, more and different types of content were available to be shared. Think back to the early evolution of these platforms … on Twitter, previously all you could do was 140 characters of text – no images or video. Facebook was pretty similar although they had image capability and video sooner than Twitter.
Consider the hardware that these platforms needs – the servers that they purchase and pay for as part of their server farm – sort of like your computer; and the bandwidth for people to access the server – think of this sort of like your wifi.
If you store a text document on your own computer, like a Notepad or Word document, it’s going to take up a LOT less space on your computer than storing an image file, and an image file is going to take up a lot less than storing a video file.
Now image if you had 10 people in your house, all using the same computer. It starts getting bogged down and you have to go buy a couple more computers. That’s vaguely similar to how these social media platforms have to purchase more servers to meet the demand of more users. That costs money for hardware, and doesn’t even include the software that they have to pay people to code and maintain As even more people join the platform and the data usage increases more, costs increase more, and it also then takes more personnel – and those employees also cost more and more money.
Over time these platforms start off free, and at some point in their future they’re going to have to make money. Yes, at the beginning it can be almost like a hobby on the side, it doesn’t cost you a lot, it works good enough, and you may not need to make money.
Back in the days before social media (and early after it arrived), I had a chat room/forum on my website. I hosted it; it cost nearly nothing to host with the number of users that it had at the time. At some point, if it needed to grow drastically, I would have had to put it on its own server, which would have cost more money, and then I would have had two main choices – either charge the users a membership fee; or offer advertising.
As these new platforms grow, as more and more people sign up, it’s standard that you have to have a way to generate money. Most of the new platforms find out rather than charge a user membership fee, it’s easier to charge advertisers who want to reach those users. And those advertisers will begin having needs and expectations as to the software capabilities, and the platform has to start working within those needs.
Remember at the beginning Facebook and Twitter didn’t moderate content at all. They didn’t have fact checkers; they may have had an abuse email address that you could message and report a concern, and at that point someone may review your concern, and take an action if appropriate. The sheer volume of people now has caused the need for content moderation.
Even on that chat forum I hosted years ago, that’s the exact same thing we saw. When it was 50-100 people who were online friends and liked to chat with each other and keep in contact as a group, we had no need to moderate the chat forum. Everyone knew how to behave. They knew not to cuss each other out; not to threaten others; not to post illegal things like child pornography. We all knew the expectations and we didn’t have to have a lot of formal rules.
As it started to grow, the new people who joined didn’t always know those same expectations; and then it grows even further, the new people get even further removed from the original group of people that all inherently understood the guidelines. That’s when you have to start enacting policies and at some point restricting people and posts.
Mob Mentality on Social Media
What happens is a couple of things. If you’ve ever studied psychology at all, you’ve learned about mob mentality and how there can be a mob of 100 bystanders watching something take place like a little old lady getting her purse stolen on the street.
Those 100 people may just stand and watch, and until ONE person does something, the others won’t act.
It’s sort of like going to the buffet line at a party, and the buffet line opens and even though the food is nice and PIPING HOT, no one will head that way. I don’t want to go first. Is it really time? I’m not sure. Are we supposed to wait for something else to happen first? Is a band supposed to play? Then as soon as the first person heads over, everyone else feels comfortable and hops in line to start getting their food.
Same concept here … but it can go one of two ways – good or bad.
If someone steps forward and stops the purse thief, and says “this isn’t right, you shouldn’t do this”, all of the other people will follow the lead, and in this case it’s a positive. The opposite can also happen, and this is what we often see on social media because of the anonymity attached to it. Whenever you can be behind a screen name, it changes how people behave – even in the case when the screen name is your real name. With mob mentality, what if instead of stopping the thief, someone steps up and also steals a purse? It’s also more likely that the group would then lean that direction and also do something negative. You see that mentality happening in some of the riot situations that have happened this year. Mob mentality can always swing either direction.
What we saw on the chat forum, and what hs happened ot the existing social media platforms over time, you get people who misbehave. They don’t know the rules. Or they don’t care about the rules. Or they’re just there being a troll. Whatever reason, they start to misbehave.
At that time, you have to have a way to stop the behavior (if you don’t want all of the behaving users to leave, at least). That’s where what we will call censorship comes into play. The platform, in conjunction with the users depending upon how large the platform gets, has to decide what type of content is appropriate and what isn’t; and when it isn’t, they have to decide what to do – keep the content from being seen, kick the person off, block their IP address?
We saw that evolve in the chat forum I had hosted – the more people who joined, the more likely that you start getting bad actors and people trolling who are just there to stir up crap, which just isn’t healthy. We had to start doing something, and what that entailed likely felt like censorship and restricting of free speech to some.
This is similar to what the larger platforms have experienced over time; the more people who join, you’re more likely to have more bad actors, and mob mentality can take over and stir up other issues, and it gets to a level where they have to start curating, censoring, or whatever you want to call it – not allowing certain content to be shared. There may be better ways it could be handled, but like we have talked about evolving, at roughly 15 years, it’s the adolescent teenage years and trying to figure out, much like teens, the full freedom you get at 18, and the full guidance you have when you’re a child, and what’s the right balance in between those for a platform like a social media platform.
That evolution process is going to be important for the rest of our discussion.
Why is Facebook still around?
Facebook is the platform I see people complain about the most often because it’s very personal. We share photos, videos, stories, we connect with family and friends, so it really has a homey and personal feel. I don’t feel the same way of Facebook as Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube and you likely don’t either. Why you’re using a platform and how you interact changes based upon the platform.
People have been complaining about Facebook for a long time; lately it’s been about censorship issues. So why is it still around?
Because that’s where your people are.
Those people are why people keep coming back to the platform. They may go join another newer platform; but often they come back to Facebook because of the connections. Aunt Betsy now has a Facebook, and your second cousin once removed you’ve connected with. And the person you half knew in high school, the only place you interact with them is on Facebook, and you want to maintain some of that, so you keep returning to Facebook. The other platforms don’t have the same use level yet (not that they won’t), so you go where your connections are.
Right now, the newer platforms, which are only a few years old, say they don’t have censorship; they have free speech. Yet, they do also censor (we’ll talk about that in a bit).
One of the things to keep in mind, if the platform is free, YOU are the product. Money that needs to come in the door somehow, how do they make money? Advertisers. Somehow selling our data. Someone has to be paying for the platform in order for it to keep growing, and if they offer it for free, you’re the product.
If you followed the Edward Snowden info, he basically said social media is nothing but surveillance by government in disquise; that the “acronym” agencies are watching social media. It’s probably true; I don’t have a way of knowing that, but if I’m an FBI agent chansing a bad guy, then yeah I’m going on social media for the bad guy and connections, whatever platform he’s on, to find out information. So even the new platforms will be getting surveillance if it’s happening. So even this is similar across all platforms.
There are a few platforms out there that don’t censor at all. You probably don’t want to be visiting those. Something like 8chan, which is now defunct (other than as 8kun now). They literally let anyone do and say anything they want. They were shut down due to child pornography and people posting mass killing manifestos. This is what free speech and no censorship looks like. The servers hosting 8chan weren’t okay with that type of content being hosted on their server, so they shut the site down even though the platform itself wasn’t censoring.
By the way, the creator of 8chan/8kun is Q, from QAnon … so hopefully you aren’t following those conspiracy theories now that you know where they come from. Just saying.
I know a lot of people will argue that child pornography and violent manifestos should be removed. But that is also a form of censorship. So while we think people should understand what is okay to share and what is not … it’s proven that they don’t.
This is the one that has been having the most recent growth, and one of the reasons why is that they say they have no censorship, that they have freedom of speech.
It’s like an alternate version of Twitter.
They rely on advertising, but it’s a bit different format that you’re used to seeing on Twitter o Facebook. But remember, like all of them, if you’re not paying then you’re the product.
Updated after I first wrote this information, I saw an article that one of the primary owners of Cambridge Analytica (one of the companies that sold your Facebook data without your approval and without Facebook’s approval) bought a large stake in Parler. Something to keep in mind.
They don’t use the same types of annoying algorithms that the others have developed (that they’ve had to as they’ve grown larger). At some point, if Parler grows to a certain larger size as well, there’s going to have to be some type of algorithm simply because the amount of data flowing will require a slightly different function than they have now.
Parler’s freedom of speech doesn’t mean they don’t censor. They’ve already had to censor. Why? The whole mob mentality thing we spoke about. People feel free to post whatever they want and some we reposting pornography and making verbal attacks against other users and cyberbullying; so even Parler has already had to crack down and start censoring posts. That began in summer 2020 when they officially started posting rules about posting and commenting. Because us humans in large groups don’t know how to behave.
People also assume they are censoring. I did an informal test after noticing a LOT LOT of pornographic posts. I asked how people are personally dealing with seeing so many of those (it was about a 50/50 ratio the last time I scrolled, half porn and half everything else). Every one of the people who responded to my question said to “report the profile.” Report them for what? Pornography is allowed. They aren’t violating any rules. And am I supposed to expect a platform that says they don’t censor to censor someone that I choose for them to censor?
I’ve seen someone on pose the question about Facebook and Twitter’s censorship as “who do they think they are to censor?” They think they’re the owner of the platform. I’m not the owner, so should I have more expectation that my desire for them to censor pornography should carry more weight than the people who actually own the platform? Remember, I’m a user, and I’m a free user, which means I’m the product.
So let’s talk a bit about why Facebook and Twitter may have a larger need to censor.
An item in Parler’s terms of service gave me pause. Everyone’s is full of legaleze, andif you’re not a lawyer who knows what you’re really signing, right? In their case, one thing I questioned was that they can update the terms of service at any time without notifying you (they may have updated their terms since I last reviewed … lol …). Like all platforms, by continuing to use the platform, you’re agreeing to abide by the new terms; but in Parler’s case the language says they don’t have to inform you (most platforms say they will notify you and outline the methods they will use). I’m not saying they won’t notify you … but if they don’t, it’s on you.
The bigger questionable item – that ties directly back to how they can get away with censoring fewer users – I think the it’s #14 (do a Google search and you’ll find people questioning this same item). It basically says that you (the user) agree to defend Parler and their officers against any claims. In layman’s terms, a claim would be a lawsuit, so you’re agreeing to defend them against a lawsuit. I don’t know how this would actually work … remember that I’m not a lawyer (and if you have a question about the terms of service that you signed, please ask one). The bigger issue, is that they have a section that says if you cause them to have a loss (financial), then you have to reimburse them. So for example, if a post you share causes someone to sue them, and that person wins and Parler has to pay, then you’re responsible for all of those damages (costs).
Twitter and Facebook censor posts because they know someone will sue them (people love to sue, and they love to go after the companies that they perceive to have deep pockets versus some individual user who may not have a penny to their name), so they have more of a need to take down questionable posts. Especially if they are related to things that could somehow harm someone. Parler, however, tells you that you can post whatever you want, but you’re the one financially liable if someone sues them and wins.
I don’t think they do a good enough job with sharing that or having people understand that nuance.
I also do think that’s the way it should be.
Freedoms come with responsibility (which I think too many people forget and too often). Free speech comes with responsibility. If you don’t want to be responsible, then you need to censor yourself. If you don’t censor yourself … then you’re responsible. I do think that most people, if they knew they were legally liable for potentially a lot of money, I think they’d be censoring themselves. A lot of them anyway.
On to some other platforms that you may not have heard as much about lately.
UPDATE – did you hear about the November 2020 “hack” on Parler? While that wasn’t true (it had to do with WordPress, and Parler doesn’t use WP), the Twitter user @kirtaner found an actual data breach around the same time.
This wasn’t a “hack” but looks like unsecured cloud storage containing data such as “Zip code, email address, IP address, and additional metadata associating (users) with specific political interests.” You can view more info on Twitter. As always, you should pay attention to what data you share with any site, and whether your email address has been contained in a data breach – such as by using HaveIBeenPwnd.
More like a chat app. They promote themselves as having no ads, no spyware, and no political bias.
Keep in mind at some point, they need to be making money – and that can mean paid membership, paid additional features, or advertising.
This is a bit more like Pinterest. It’s really great for creatives – such as with my artwork, that’s why I first jumped on Ello. They say they don’t sell your data and there’s no ads.
Remember at some point they will also need a way to monetize.
Because I connected there because of my artwork, out of my this this is probably the one I’ve used most, other than:
Is like an alternative to What’s App. It’s one of the ones I actively use – mostly for work (you can find me there by my business number). It’s a bit like SMS messaging. On Telegram, if you know how to write code, you can also make automations that can help you carry out work.
They say it’s encrypted, but there’s no end to end encryption. This makes a difference. Because of the way the encryption works, remember that things are stored forever, so even if you and the recipient both delete, it’s on the Telegram servers forever.
A few others you may be hearing about:
This has pods, sort of like mini servers. You’d want to check it out to understand more fully.
Subscription-based (remember we’ve talked about how platforms need to make money … you pay for using it.
This is a video hosting site sort of like YouTube. They keep their costs down by using your bandwidth. I haven’t explored exactly how that works on my end, but I know that our bandwidth in our house, we don’t need anything else using our bandwidth – everyone working from home, and ours gets plenty of traffic already. I don’t need to add another platform using more lol.
On this site, you sort of get paid to blog using blockchain. The payment is through a bitcoin type of system (their own). So that’s where the monetization piece comes from – when you’re paid, they’re keeping a percentage.
Similar to Steemit, they pay you in cryptocurrency. You post content, you can earn crypto based on that content, and use that crypto to get more views on your content.
I’ve used this one a few times. It’s 1:1 and group messaging, sort of like SMS. It’s a bit different because it’s a nonprofit. This doesn’t mean they can’t sell ads, or charge you to use, it just means instead of profit going into a CEO’s pocket, they use money to reinvest in the platform.
Where do I expect these newer platforms to end up?
In some shape or form, the same place existing ones are, because of all of the reasons we’ve discussed.
Yes, it may look a bit different for each platform. Frankly, in a few years technology will look a lot different anyway, which means all of them will look different than we expect today. Consider that; a few years ago we would not have expected 2020 to look the way it did!
But their evolution will mean that they will have to change and pivot due to user growth.
It will actually be interesting to see where all the platforms end up down the road.
Which platform do I recommend your business use?
There’s no question to use any platform you desire for your personal use. Whichever ones make you the most comfortable.
But your business needs to use a different set of criteria – even if you’re a personal service business and you’re the face of the business, it’s still a business. You’ll still need to separate your personal life from your business persona. You need to brand your business separately from your personal life. This is just a best practice, even when the two overlap quite frequently.
While you can be on any platform personally, for your business you need to be where your customers are. That likely isn’t – yet – on the newer platforms, just from a quantity perspective. Yes, the new ones are growing, but the existing ones still have a greater quantity of your clients on them.
Big businesses are still on the big social media sites because that’s where the most people are.
Keep in mind that on social media, of course, your businss needs to keep being social. The smaller platforms aren’t quite overtaken yet by businesses that do social media marketing poorly and spammy (thank goodness) except for people selling their porn on Parler lol. It’s probably going to happen unfortunately, just remember that you need to keep your presence social and where your customers are. That’s the low-hanging fruit that you need to be able to tap into.
My best advice on which platform you need to be on is the one your customers and prospects are on.
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