The openness of social platforms has been what’s lifted them up and made them so attractive for marketers. The ability to share content and to have that content shared by others, the possibility of getting earned exposure and the seamless ability to connect with people has brought brands and people to social sharing platforms. But this sharing ecosystem has been tested more than usual as of late.
Everyday we’re learning more about how Russia used social tools to spread misinformation and influence politics in the United States. Social sharing platforms become geopolitical forces. Memes containing outright lies have been passed from one person to another. Algorithms on YouTube elevated fake news following the shootings in Las Vegas over real, factual information.
The open system is showing its weaknesses, and closed systems are looking more attractive by the minute.
The Case for Closed
Services like Snapchat, Messenger and WhatsApp have been spared from the serious problems facing the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
Closed messaging services mean users communicate with one or a handful of close friends at a time, meaning content is more curated, but beyond that, content is more created than shared. Users are making content for each other, not sharing memes or news they found elsewhere. In addition, there’s a smaller likelihood of false, misleading or downright counterfactual content making its way to users. Close messaging services are what open social platforms used to be.
Snapchat, for example, reviews ads on the platform prior to syndication. This may change as Snapchat grows, but for now, ads are reviewed. The combination of platform review as well as content viewed coming from known sources (friends) creates an environment that’s safer for brands to spread their messages. This comes at the cost of audience size as well as virality potential, but the cost of openness is becoming all too real.
When Enough is Enough
Two-thirds of schoolchildren say they wouldn’t mind if social media had never been invented. That’s a pretty telling stat. Social media creates anxiety and many students have taken steps to detox from social media as they feel their need for a break. Social media’s created anxiety among a group of users who are supposed to be social-savvy consumers.
Something has gone wrong. Even teens are pushing back on social media’s role in their lives and seeing the benefits when they do so.
The Dark Side of Openness
Openness is a double-edged sword. Open means connecting with almost anyone and sharing thoughts, ideas and opinions, but open also means anyone or anything can insert itself into social feeds.
People are looking to take back control. Whether that takes the form of a digital detox or spending more time on closed platforms and less on open, there is a shift taking place. Marketers should pay attention. They’ve gotten used to the size and scale offered by open social platforms. While they are clearly the dominant social behavior, their weaknesses are growing more apparent. Marketers would be wise to consider how they approach their marketing when what was once open becomes more closed.