A Dirty Secret That Social Media Platforms Don’t Want You To Know

In Business & Entrepreneurship
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Social media platforms, or at least their algorithms, love people like me: I keep the feed, fed. It’s more content to be delivered to the consumers, which keeps consumers on XYZ platform, which is all the better… for them, not for us. 

I remember being accepted in the YouTube Partner program in 2009. This was back when you had to actually ask YouTube to run ads on your content; nowadays you’d have to ask them to stop. When I was accepted, I printed out and read the entire contract hidden behind the “terms and conditions” checkbox before joining. 

I saw that YouTube proposed to keep 45% of all advertising revenue my content produced. This was not a negotiation; that was YouTube/Google’s offer, take it or leave it. YouTube didn’t have (and still doesn’t have) competition; what could I do? I accepted. But I knew right then that I couldn’t base my business on YouTube long-term: if they are dictating to me at this point, what might they dictate later? 

YouTube made a big change in its algorithm 4-5 years later, and it focused on “time on site.” The more time a user spent on YouTube after watching your video, the more YouTube would reward the creator for getting consumers to stick around. Having outbound links that consistently took users off of YouTube (which is basically how I started my business a decade ago— the links were to my products) would now work against you, even if you had viewers. 

YouTube wanted creators to keep users on YouTube more, while the revenue split wasn’t changing. 

Hmm… 

I had a Facebook Fan Page (now called a Business Page) back then, too that had thousands of Fans (Likes). I’d randomly post something and get 300 likes in 20 minutes. Facebook eventually announced that organic reach was slowly being phased out; Fan Page owners would have the option, however, to “Boost” their posts to reach more of their followers. 

Translation: I would have to pay Facebook to show my content to the exact people who’d already given me permission to talk to them. 

Hmm… 

***

We have five ways to invest, and only five: Time. Money. Attention. Energy. Focus. 

Social media requires all of these except money, but every popular social media platform is worth a lot of money. Facebook paid $1B for Instagram. Google paid $1.65B for YouTube. Facebook paid $21.8B for WhatsApp. Facebook offered $3B for Snapchat (and was turned down). 

You have all the above apps on your phone and use them essentially for free. How the f*%# are they worth that much money, then? 

Look at those five investments again. 

Your use of any app requires four of them — and since you’re giving time (most valuable), energy, attention and focus to the apps, you can’t use your investments to acquire money (unless your job is using social media). 

Social media is worth so much because they have a priceless product: human life. YOU are Instagram’s product. And Facebook’s. And WhatsApp’s. And YouTube’s. And Twitter’s. 

Apps make their money by leveraging your personal investments (time, attention, focus) to buy and sell YOU all day. Facebook’s ad platform, for example, can predict exactly what results you’ll get from your ad campaign because they know everything about how people behave with their resources, more than the people themselves even know about how they’ll behave. 

Only thing is, users do not participate in the upside of profits. 

YouTube rewards creators who get viewers to spend more time on YouTube— which means more ad revenue for YouTube— but your cut hasn’t changed. Facebook charges you to reach your own fans. All you get is use of the “free” apps for as much of your most valuable investment (time) that you’re willing to give. 

Hey, maybe your Facebook Group makes you money. Perhaps your popularity on TikTok has garnered brand deals. Maybe you met your boyfriend when he jumped in your Instagram DMs. You can draw a line from your use of social media to a definite benefit in your life. I believe you. 

A NCAA D1 college athlete can draw a line from his performance on the field to his scholarship. But he can also see that his coach makes $5 Million per season while he, the player, is barred from accepting money based on his performance. 

Social media is not necessarily evil, just as the NCAA isn’t. The Facebook user, YouTube watcher and the scholarship athlete all have a choice whether or not to accept the deal offered to them. Hell, I’ve accepted the deal and am writing about it right now. 

Thing is, if you’re the product in someone else’s transaction, you should know about it. So yes, you get something. But how much are you willingly giving up to get it? 

That’s a question that should make you think. 

Check out “#1690: A Dirty Secret That Social Media Platforms Don’t Want You To Know” here: http://DreAllDay.com/1690-