Nowadays many find it hard to believe their lives without social media. Social media for blogs, unlike social media for personal use, is a channel of communication to spread their content. This however also means that more time and resources need to be allocated for such channels and each channel has its limitations. This article will go through the most common issues with all social platforms to help establish whether a certain platform may add value to your blog, or diminish it.
Social media for blogs
My ultimate goal isn’t social media, it’s my blog. Social media is a means to divert users to my blog. Quite honestly, I am not a fan of social media, because today, it is not a social platform, it is a straight-up virtual advertising platform. Social media platforms created an open space for users to sign up and share their content and connect. At some point, these platforms realized that there was a way of making money through the means of advertising. It further developed into not simply advertising for all, like traditional advertising agencies, but they now target specific people. Their systems were no longer in competition with traditional advertising methods, as they can receive better results by focusing a budget on the users who had a direct interest in the content, rather than pointing it at everyone and hoping to hit a target. The targeting system was built by collecting, without a fee, all the information that users shared throughout the lifetime of their account.
It is crucial for everyone to understand the nature of social media today. It is not the first time we have come across stories of people, especially teens and kids, who take social media so seriously that they think that these platforms almost rate their existence within society. There are several studies ongoing on the effects of this trend and “acceptance” within the society based on social media status. The full effects of this trend are yet to be discovered, however, early research has already begun showing the impact of virtual popularity on users’ brain activity as well as psychologically, mainly focused around the subject of self-esteem.
I have spent a lot of time figuring out how social media platforms work and what really makes them tick. I’ll go into a little detail on each one in a bit, but for now, let’s go through some of the common topics which concern the majority of platforms.
Exposure is not based on the quality of content.
There are a few things that play a role in who gets to see the content you put out, the first being how old your account is. Don’t think that just because you create an account you automatically begin at level 0. New accounts never start at level 0, but rather at level -10. This is because older accounts get favored by the platform. Regardless of how incredible your content may be, a new or young account, as compared to an account of 5 years, will never be given the opportunity for their content to be shown to as many people as those accounts that have been active for years. The exposure your content receives depends on your following and engagement levels. The more people engage with your content, the more of a chance your content has to be seen by others who are not in your circle.
The two points mentioned above may raise the exposure level of your content by a fraction, the major point that plays a role in the exposure your content receives, is the amount of money you are willing to pay for it to reach users. Think of social media as a traditional advertising agency, what agency would advertise your content for free? Therefore, the larger the budget, the bigger the chance it will get more exposure.
It’s nothing personal, this is business
Social media platforms have evolved in the past years and have taken a turn towards becoming a business-focused platform.
It is no longer a platform that allows you to follow the rules on using hashtags and tagging accounts and giving your content a chance to be seen by order of upload. Social media platforms are the 21st-century advertising tool and just like the traditional advertising companies, no one will create an advert for free. Platforms are sorting out which content gets shown and they are no longer pretending not to be doing so. Many openly express the fact that if you want your content to be shown to those that are not following your account, you need to spend money on advertising. Even within paid ads, there is a lot of grey area that many don’t speak of.
The advertising methods have also changed recently. Before you would target your content to a specific group of people following certain parameters, set a duration, set a goal; for instance, engagement and budget. If your ad was set for engagement, therefore the system only charges you per engagement made by users, by the end of your ad duration, if your budget was not used up, you were charged only the amount that covers the users’ engagement. Nowadays, you can notice that suddenly, it is very rare that you are ever not charged your entire amount. Looking through the users that engaged with your content, you will also notice that towards the end of your duration period there may be a strikingly high volume of engagement. This happened not once, but several times to me, and after taking the time to look over the accounts, I noticed that my content would be pushed towards users I did not choose as my audience.
The system does this so that the user will see that the budget was used up, however, not everyone goes through the trouble of analyzing the detailed statistics or checking who the engagement users were, that they were charged for. Therefore, from the front end, the system shows that they did as they were asked and utilized the entire budget in the given timeframe, however from the backend, it shows that they simply pushed your content to whoever just to get engagement and get paid. This is wrong because when you set the parameters, you set them with the hope that those who are truly interested in your type of content will become long-term followers and not one-time engagement users. Having the system push your content to whoever, may result in the increase of engagement for that specific piece of content, but will not give you a chance to address users who can become dedicated followers. Why would the system do this? Two reasons; one is to make sure to utilize your entire budget and the second, to make sure you pay for your next content. If you gain dedicated users from a piece of content, you will be less likely to push for an ad for your next piece of content. This way they will keep on their payroll.
A verified badge is used by social media platforms to visually indicate that an account genuinely belongs to the person it represents.
By that explanation, it should be a pretty straightforward process for business accounts to apply and receive verification. Moreover, it should be in the interest of social media platforms to verify accounts and make sure that they have as many verified users as possible, that is if their aim was to fight against bots and fake accounts. Today, verification seems to be based on 3 things. First seems to be triggered by users who have a certain amount of online coverage such as articles that show up on google. The second option is through a publicist who knows someone who works on the social media platform and can vouch for you. This may possibly come at a fee; however, it is not spoken of. The third option is paying a ridiculous amount of money and buying the badge, which once the platform gets alerted to, will remove the badge and you are back to square one.
If you are wondering why the platforms are making verification badges seem so out of reach, then we should probably look at the hype the badges cause amongst users. Social media platforms are free-riding the wave that is the popular trend, where users themselves, including brands, give so much importance to these badges. By creating an empty bubble of importance towards these badges, platforms see no reason to give them out easily, especially if you were to consider the lengths to which users go in an attempt to get their hands on these verification badges. As a result, this hype is only adding popularity to the platform, without them even lifting a finger.
Officially social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram tell everyone that they are no longer verifying accounts. This is a straight-out lie because I know of a few accounts that have been verified in the past few months. It seems like option number 2, having a publicist vouch for you and possibly pays for the badge, seems to be the most viable option. One thing to note is that several users do say that the Request Verification option does come out on their accounts. I am not sure whether this happens for only business accounts, or whether it is based on your location, or if you hit some sort of trigger which has allowed your account to become considered for verification. It could be something that gets activated due to option number 1, or maybe a combination of all the items listed.
It’s all about the numbers.
The main social media platforms are overrun by bots, fake and empty accounts. Everyone gets their fair share of these accounts following and liking their content. From time to time I do a cleanup and go on a blocking spree when I come across them. I personally think I should be getting paid for doing the work that should be done by these platforms. Facebook and Instagram (especially) seem to tell the public how they are trying very hard to battle this issue, however, if you were to look at the issue from the platform’s point of view, it is not in their interest to do so. Instagram has access to all the user accounts that are currently registered, so they could technically write a code to filter accounts that are inactive and lack certain information, and with a hit of a button filter and close those accounts. But that will also cause their number of registered users to fall drastically.
Let’s for a moment pretend Instagram has gotten over its head and does not have the capabilities of creating a line of code to close and eliminate all fake and shell accounts (which it can), why doesn’t it implement additional filters? If an account has been reported several times as a fake or spam, the count will begin to appear with a notice that it may be fake, why doesn’t Instagram implement harsher terms for reports? Why does it take 3 to 6 months for Instagram to review a report, or an account needs to be reported a certain amount of time before it is reviewed? Instagram wants people to spend hours a day on their platform, stating that the more active you are the better chance your engagement will be and more people will see your content, however, when it comes to users reporting fake accounts, Instagram takes its time to review the reports.
Let’s imagine for a second that they are powerless (which they aren’t), why not turn to the public and even make a payment scheme for users to help clean their own mess? Pay users to go through accounts and report fake accounts. You would think it would be a win-win situation, Instagram has constant user activity and their platform gets cleared of shell and fake accounts and as for the users, they get paid. Users can probably live off the money they get for this service, considering the number of fake accounts the system has. But then Instagram’s numbers of registered users will most definitely drastically fall and they don’t want that.
It’s a very interesting situation; the platform is filled with fake accounts, doesn’t clean their system, expects people to constantly be on the platform by telling them that that is how their account will grow, further, users are meant to trust this system and pay them in return of growing their engagement and having their content be seen by other users, all the while the system does not provide a clean, bot and fake account clean environment and doesn’t even have a proper help center or care to review reports earlier than 3 to 6 months. I don’t know about you, but to me, it sounds like a one-way street money maker for the platform, where they are always at a win and users are always at a loss.
Instagram has all the power and keys of its platform and it is in their interest for people to buy likes and followers, as well as allowing fake accounts and bots to be created. Instagram has told the public that they have monitoring systems at play that will notify them of any account that will purchase likes or followers. The purchase of followers and likes is the purchase of bots, fake and shell accounts. They are inactive. The only possible way of Instagram being triggered by the purchase of such accounts is if they already have a sorted list of real and inactive bot accounts. Imagine if you create a code that, when a certain amount of accounts from a specific list, get directed (whether to like or follow), one specific user, that user’s account automatically gets flagged. This is pretty much what Instagram does. Any user that buys follows or likes, their account and content get pushed aside from the outside world that does not follow them, very similar to a light version of a shadowban.
An influx of likes and followers does not cause a shadowban. We have heard of users who gained millions of followers overnight, due to some performance on a show which gave them online popularity. Those accounts don’t get shadowbanned because the users that follow or like their content are authentic. However, accounts that purchase follows and likes, trigger a code that alerts the platform that their popularity is not authentic, but was purchased. Please note that even users who have an authentic following, also attract these fake and bot accounts, however not through purchase but because the platform has such a large amount of unauthentic accounts, that even authentic users have a degree of fake accounts liking and following them. This also plays into the hand of Instagram, as it is in their interest to continue growing an already popular user, as their authentic following will see exponential growth in their following and will also like that for themselves. This acts as a marketing candy for those users, to resort to the purchase of followers and likes.
Long story short, these platforms, especially Instagram, are not actually fighting bots and shell accounts. With certain systems at play, Instagram is only winning from the presence of bots, fake and shell accounts, as they increase the number of registered accounts in their system, as well as inflate the trend of online popularity amongst the mass, which fuels the platform and keeps the cycle going.
So how do you gain authentic and engaging followers in the 21st century?
The trick is easy, go back to traditional methods. Social media platforms may have turned into Advertising Platforms, however, they still function on the basic social media concepts, which allow you to view other users’ content and connect with them. So far, this concept has not been banned or somewhat disabled for users. Find other users who have interests like you do, which post content which interests and inspires you. Don’t only follow and like their content. Send them Direct Messages and create ShoutOuts in your stories tagging the users whose content you enjoy or send them personal remarks about their recent content that triggered you. If you want an authentic following who engages with your content, you need to first become that authentic user that engages with other people’s content.
has makes time to truly engage.
Followers are not what they used to be. A few years back, followers would engage more and be invested in the content that is put out there. Today followers are becoming less motivated and the engagement levels are dropping. The irony is that social media platforms would not exist without their users, and yet users are allowing them to dictate what percent of engagement we are ought to have to deserve our content to be viewed by others, all the while they are making money from our work and even taking credit. It is possible that the nature of social media has become so overrun by the mania of the need to be popular online, thanks to social media platforms themselves, that people are getting sick of the entire structure, however, there is not much of an alternative today. To me, social media platforms are a necessary evil that any business, especially bloggers need to make use of.
When I began blogging and looking into the workings of social media platforms, I have distanced myself from them in my personal life. I try avoiding going on them unless they are for work as every time I see those icons, I am reminded of this money-driven structure which makes me want to unplug from it and spend my time doing something else.
Even for someone like me, who sees the system for was it is and who avoids these platforms unless it’s for work, I too still sometimes get caught up in the feeling that maybe I am simply not good enough. But I have learned not to fall down that abyss. I have taught myself to go to my point 1 of this post, Why do you want to be a blogger?, and remind myself that I am doing this for myself and I am not there to sell an illusion to masses but to discover myself and maybe help out a few people along the way that may be searching for a few hints or simply are looking for a kindred, like-minded person.
Social media platform
Pinterest, unlike the rest of the platforms, has a structure of a portfolio and is the most useful platform for bloggers, especially if your content is highly visual. Pinterest works on images, however, it recently has updated its platform allowing users to also post videos. Its content is well optimized with a google search and works fantastically smoothly when it comes to posting your content on Pinterest directly from your blog post. Pinterest also diverts users who view an image, to that particular blog post it was posted from, making it so easy and fast for readers to get to your article. As with other social media platforms, make sure to use specific hashtags that will give your image the chance to show up on Google search (in images), which will once again bring users to your blog post using the image on Pinterest.
There is no other social media platform that performs so well with Google than Pinterest. The platform does not have the number of users as Facebook and Instagram, however, the users are real, and they are your type of users. The majority of users on Pinterest are those who are interested in visual content, creatives, designers, artists, and many others who use this platform to search for something specific or simply get inspiration from. Pinterest also gives users more flexibility in terms of how their profile looks, as well as linking it directly to your website, gives you access to good statistics showing how many users viewed your content.
It also gives you the chance to create boards which is a great way to organize your visual content by categories allowing users to choose whether they want to follow your entire account or one specific board.
Twitter is pretty much a platform of what remains from the old-school social media platforms. The layout is very old school and extremely limiting, the methods of content posting are limiting, and truth be told, if it wasn’t for the Kardashians and Trump, it probably wouldn’t even be on the top social media platforms. Twitter is also a platform that is not popular or used by users in all countries. It is popular in some regions, so the users on the platform are not as diverse as on other platforms.
As for bloggers, this platform doesn’t give you much space, however, the good thing is that it can be linked to other social platforms and you can cross-post content from your main social media platform onto Twitter without actually having to post on it directly.
Facebook has today become more of virtual yellow pages + advertising company. Since the beginning of this year, they publicly announced that which many of us knew for a while now, that content will be pushed only when it is paid for. Because of Facebook’s popularity, it is important to have a digital print on the platform as a lot of the time people use Facebook as a search engine for content. It is also a good tool for advertising as the Facebook Business Manager allows you to be very specific with whom you would like to target your content. Another upside to the advertising is that you can advertise on Facebook and Instagram at the same time, which saves you time in having to set up two ads.
As a layout for business pages, Facebook is pretty plain and looks outdated. It is missing some fundamental functions and regardless of how much time you spend trying to personalize your business page, it will pretty much look like any other business page.
Instagram is another platform that is purely an advertising business. The only way your content has the chance to reach a fresh pair of eyes is if you pay for it to be seen. Unlike Facebook, the platform is a little more visually pleasing, however, the system itself has many faults.
One of the major faults is the amount of empty, fake, and bot accounts the platform has. The second major fault is that they blocked accounts and content from accounts without even notifying users. This is called a shadowban. They don’t notify users of a shadow ban because users will see a decrease in engagement and are that more prone to hit to boost button and pay for ads. This sort of action only comes to show that the platform has no interest in your content but all the interest in the money you invest in their business. Instagram does not even provide users with detailed statistics and has recently blocked any other applications, except for Iconosquare and Sprout (both you need to pay for), which gave in-depth statistics on user’s content. It is simply not a social media platform, but a virtual advertising business.
There has been talk earlier this year that the new algorithm allows content to be shown to other users outside your circle of followers if your content receives likes from 10% of your audience. That is false because I’m sorry to say that even Kim Kardashian with a current following of 118,000,000+, does not receive 11,800,000 likes from just her following, and yet we see her content constantly even without following her.
Later, updates claimed that your content is not being seen by even 10% of your followers, let alone those outside your following. Okay, this sounds more real. People also post information by saying that you need to reply to comments instantly, constantly post stories, and basically revolve your life around Instagram because the quicker you react and the more you post, the greater the chance for your content to reach beyond your following. From personal experience, that is false. I have had groups of users comment and like my content hours and days after posting, and I honestly can’t say that the first minutes have more importance than the following hours.
Automation apps are another popular practice. They range from cheap to high quality. They do the legwork of liking, following, and even commenting on content and profiles that match the interests you select for the tool. As a tool, I personally think it is technically harmless, however, Instagram bans automation for the reason that they want users to be doing that leg work themselves, meaning to constantly be online and active. A lot of influencers and bloggers have been called out to using these apps, however, I am yet to see Instagram closing their accounts.
Just to be clear, automation is not allowed by Instagram. Automation is surprisingly easy to track, which the platform does. Once detected it will lead to the user’s account being blocked and even banned. Although from a technical aspect I don’t see these apps as fully harmful as they do the exact job which the platform wants, minus the users spending their life on that platform, from a business point of view it’s a big problem. The cheap automation apps use bot accounts to follow and like your content, meaning that your engagement and followers aren’t real. The high-quality automation apps do a little more by following, liking, and commenting on real content made by real users with the hope that they will also follow and engage with your content. Brands haven’t quite realized this practice, but those who have are against the apps, especially the cheap ones, because unless they do their research into the influencer’s or blogger’s engagement and following, they may be paying a fee that is based on fakeness. In this situation, I would say that brands and companies are also to blame, as they have placed too much trust into the platform itself, without looking at other avenues.
Long story short, users who run a business using Instagram are constantly being judged that their following isn’t large enough, so they search for means of rising that following, sometimes at any cost. Along the way, they face the true reality that the platform is far from fair and the only way to raise your engagement fast is to pay, either for ads or buying help in ways that go against the platform’s rules. Otherwise, if you decide to do things in a clean manner, you will have a very long way, however also clean, before you begin reaching great numbers of followers and engagement.
Regardless of how many likes or engagement your content gets, I think it is safe to say that Instagram, even though it may not announce it (like they don’t announce anything), have taken the route of Facebook, where if you want your content to be shown, then pay for it and wish for the best. Why would Instagram do this and not tell the public about how their system really works? Because they want people to build their lives around their system. They want people to spend hours on the platform with the hope of virtual fame. Telling the public that all their efforts are useless, and money is the solution, may make a lot of users spend less time on Instagram and more time on a different platform, or simply living life. Of course, there are those who will be willing to pay, but the platform can’t take that risk as it’s no guarantee that the majority will.
There are also engagement groups that bloggers can become a part of. Mainly these are chat groups with bloggers from a specific field of interest, such as beauty, and each member posts their latest posts, whilst others show their support by liking and commenting and the system continues in such a manner. It can be very hard to keep up with updates and the specific rules of every group, as well as the more people there are in the group, the less personal it becomes. It turns into a technical and business group of “I scratch your back if you scratch mine”.
However, I have been in small engagement groups with not more than 20 members and it was very useful. All members got to know one another, we asked each other questions, advice, and covered topics that concerned all of us. I still follow many of the members and since we are from all parts of the world, it is always interesting to see how members from different countries work in the same field. I was lucky to come across open and friendly bloggers which support me and have become friends over time.
Social media platforms for bloggers
These platforms want you to be hooked and to spend your life on their platforms. It is your choice of course, but keep in mind that the virtual world is just a cropped, edited, and filtered version of a fraction of the actual reality which is found outside of our screens. Plan your time, your feed, and your schedule. Put reminders on your phone to make sure you upload content at the best times according to your following and engagement rates, but also learn to unplug. There are enough photos and videos portraying the perfect framed images of the users’ lives. Learn to live and experience the life that goes by while you are looking at your screen. Especially if you want to create interesting content. The inspiration and material for that content are found in the world outside of your screen. Take time to experience it.
The new micro-influencers are solely dependent on social media platforms. They so to say ‘place all their eggs in one basket’ and are dependent on users being active on that platform as well as face the risk of all their work disappearing if that platform glitches or simply runs out of trend, which may seem unreal today however we have seen numerous platforms simply going out of trend and no longer being part of peoples’ daily routine. Traditional influencers don’t face that problem, as their million + followers know them as their fame comes from other spheres rather than the virtual social media platforms, such as singers, actors, athletes, and so on.
Bloggers also don’t face that problem because their content is safely saved on their website and unless they have a server issue or the internet collapses, their audience knows where to find their work. For those bloggers who give social media as much or more attention rather than their blog, they too limit themselves by signing off and giving the platform the right to measure their influence and the value of their content. For bloggers, rather than social media platforms, their concern should be more on the rules and regulations set by Google, keywords, and issues like GDPR. Those types of issues should be of concern for bloggers, rather than social media platforms.
Social media is a time-consuming tool that for some bloggers and blogs can work and for others can waste precious time. The most important thing is to realize that social media platforms do not reflect reality. They are built with the sole purpose to make you either be hooked or pay for clicks and likes. Once you understand this, you will be able to clear-mindedly weigh out whether or not your blog needs to hook into social media platforms, and if so, which platform will serve you best.