Social media used to be social. Now, online venues are flooded with sales, business and advertising. Have we gone too far?
It makes perfect sense that companies of all sizes would eventually spot the opportunities afforded by social media and would begin to take advantage of them. If there's a location where people are gathering naturally—and especially in cases those groups are similar in some way and identifiable—then that place is idea for promotions and ads. As with any form of media, paid advertising from larger enterprises helped social media pioneers fund their platforms, and probably no one had an entirely clear picture of the way in which the sales side of these venues would eventually evolve.
As it became clear that smaller businesses, and even individual entrepreneurs, could benefit from the natural filtering process provided by social media, new options were developed specifically for them. This expansion of promotional opportunities for all has grown pretty much to the maximum today. Even the smallest local community groups sometimes consider ad placements, boosted posts, and other promotional options. In addition, new forms of communication are constantly being developed that can be sold to advertisers as a way to reach and engage with today's consumers, who crave the latest technologies and experiences.
So where did all the social go? Only a few years ago, Pinterest was almost solely a curating platform, where folks could create personal collections, enjoy others' galleries and interact with each other based on mutual interests. Personal feeds were filled with images that each individual actually liked. As the platform grew, users started to see ads in their feeds, but these were subtly placed, tended to relate to a person's interests, and you could remove them. Today, not only are feeds overrun with ads of all kinds, but more and more images are being optimized for sales, making both feeds and search results almost useless for anyone not using Pinterest as as shopping mall.
The same sorts of trends are occurring on Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. More ads, more often, and more people generating promotional posts that have very little to do with personal collaboration and social interaction. In some cases, even humanitarian groups, religious organizations, community service providers and other similar organizations are starting to sound like salespeople online.
For a small businesses, individual entrepreneurs, struggling artists, and other typically unseen folks attempting to make a living, new social media opportunities can provide many benefits. New ways to gain visibility, greater opportunities to meet up with like-minded people, easier ways to learn about selling outlets and methodologies. But if things keep going in this direction, will advertising take over entirely? Will the Internet become one large marketplace lacking any sort of authenticity, reliability, or genuine human interaction?
What's your view? Are things out of control? Or do you have a different prediction for how social media will look in the near future? Feel free to comment. You might also be interested in our discussion on Artist or Entrepreneur? And check the blog for more on marketing, social media, copywriting and SEO.
Need immediate help for your website or Etsy shop? Consider a professional consult or hourly coaching from The Copywriting Coach on Etsy. For larger sites and projects, visit Services here for a free consultation.
Barbara Clavan provides copywriting, coaching and consulting services to high-growth businesses, high-profile individuals and creative entrepreneurs.
Visit Services to learn more.