Categories
Uncategorized

Facebook, Twitter, Youtube breed fake news and it can’t be stopped.

Twitter recently got a lot of attention for fact checking President Trump’s Tweet. This path is dangerous at worst, futile at best.

These mega-platforms operate on attention as a currency. More re-tweets, more likes, more subscribers all mean more eyeballs on your content and on your life. The most successful YouTuber is the one who has the most subscribers. The biggest Twitter celebrity is the one with most followers.

It’s always a race to the top. You have to keep attracting a new audience every single day. That is when you reap the rewards. On Youtube you make actual money through ads as a consequence of having viewers watching the ads, on Twitter you win dozes of dopamine for social validation.

Attracting

For attracting more eyeballs, you must say things that stand out from the rest of the information. Because, if you are saying the same thing everyone else is saying, it’s probably not interesting – not going to attract attention. A lot of people just don’t have original contrarian ideas. A lot of journalists don’t have access to on-ground news. How can you say interesting stuff? You cook it up. Same news, same idea but attractive polarized words. And it’s not only the creator’s fault. That is exactly what the audience wants too. They want something exciting everyday on Prime Time, they want to believe they live in a happening, ever changing society.

The truth is society changes not much at all for long periods of time. A lot of our lives are infact boring an mundane. An alien who visits earth after looking at our news channels, instagram profiles and reddit discussions will have a disappointing vacation. Nobody looks great all the time as their Instagram profile says, nobody is as fun and excited 24×7 as their vlogs might suggest, no one is as wise as they seem on Twitter.

You get the point. To win on social media, you have to show the world something different. For most people, that translates to sensational. Most sensational content is not a representation of truth. It leans on fake news, polarization, hate.

The system incentivizes fake news. You can duct-tape a few here and there, like what Twitter tried to do with Trump. But, you can’t fix the underlying problem.

Embrace

We have far too much stimulation. We always have friends eating at fancy restaurants, colleagues sky diving, relatives being politically knowledgeable. It’s all one large illusion.

But that’s what we seem to want. We want an escape from the mundane life that we all live. We all admit that we live a boring life. Our escape is on the internet. My street might have crickets, but my Instagram feed has a gala going on. It’s just so much more fun.

We must embrace these dynamics. This might be the last generation that believes what they see on the internet.

Stopping fake news from getting published is a futile exercise. What Twitter needs is not to stop fake news, but to mold the product into one that embraces fake news. Because, whatever you do, such content is going to get created. You could stop one kind today, another will come up tomorrow. It’s a losing battle. Always.

The tech world must embrace fake news, not fight it.

Change

Colloquial

WhatsApp forward” is now beginning to substitute the term “fake news”. This is a great sign. Ours will be the last generation that says “I read that on the internet, must be true”. Tech changed so fast, we’re still adapting to what it has thrown at us. We’ll learn. We’ll learn to filter, we’ll learn what and how we believe what we hear.

Product

Again, using WhatsApp’s example – the “Forwarded” label on forwarded message is genius. It doesn’t say whether it’s true or not. It just says “Look, this is forwarded, take it with a pinch of salt”. It leaves it to the people to learn what kind of forwards they get.

We need more such product optimizations on our social media. Not a bunch of people deciding on the truth. We need scalable solutions.

Platform

The combination of the above changes will evolve into a new platform that looks nothing like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. It will be a platform that fundamentally changes the incentives of the participants. Designing incentives defines user behavior.

One such mechanism is to incentivize thoughtful content. A creator shouldn’t have to seek a million subscribers. Having a deeper relationship with a smaller audience might help creators’ base line happiness and help weed off sensational content. It’ll make the internet a better place.

Categories
Uncategorized

TikTok ban – A mistake you didn’t know you were making

If you are left stranded by the recent TikTok ruling in India, you’ve been making a classic business mistake. Being an influencer is akin to being an entrepreneur. You have to sense the pulse of the industry before it becomes mainstream – and figure out a way to get the market to pay you.

Digital-only businesses

If you are an influencer, you are running a digital only business. Unfortunately, this is a new kind of business. The playbook for such an endeavor isn’t yet well defined. This is a new concept, that’s been around for barely 5 years or so. To make things worse, it’s a fast evolving space. Every year you have a new product. Facebook – Instagram – Snapchat – Tiktok. Every few months you have a different kind of videos that become relevant.

You must keep changing. Your audience must not.

Ownership

Whether you are on Youtube, Instagram or TikTok, the changes that are outside your control should not affect your fanbase. You are in a business of eyeballs. If you don’t own the eyeballs, you are on thin ice.

TikTokers learnt it the hard way. In one swing of the sword, they’re out of business. Some of them have started building their audience on Instagram or other clones. But they have fundamentally lost the audience and are having to rebuild almost from scratch.

Loyalty

TikTok, Instagram and the like give you great visibility. There are millions of users who are always getting bored of content they’re consuming. When they’re looking new content, new entertainment, they might find you.

But the reverse is also true. They’ll one day get bored of what you provide in the midst of the other millions of creators’ content and easily switch.

Jumping ships is far too easy on social media. That’s been the breakthrough of this generation of internet companies. Reversing that will be the next.

Building a customer base that sticks with you no-matter-what is important. It is hard to get them to jump on to your ship. You need to be really valuable for people to want to jump in. But once they are in, they’d not want to leave either. You have a loyal fan base. Smaller, but more loyal.

Asking a user to join you in your journey and stick with you is a tough job.

But, if you’re not creating enough value for them to consider you worthy of their time and effort in joining you – are you really creating a long lasting business?

Diversity

Any business has two distinct steps. First, establish a strong foundation by providing value in a specific niche. Second, diversify to future proof yourself.

A restaurant adds items to its menu, opens franchisees, goes online.

A lot of influencers identify themselves in unison with the platform itself. “I’m an Instagramer” – that statement itself shows lack of diversification. If Instagram were to not promote their content, if Instagram bans them, Instagram gets replaced by a new app, Instagram gets banned – they’re stranded. Not only did they lose their cash cow, they also lost all the hard earned followers.

Most influencers are generating their livelihoods with brand collaborations and ads. They are at the mercy of other companies. If TikTok goes off they have no pricing power to claim high amounts from brands any more. If the brand that does business with them has a bad quarter and cuts off marketing spends, the influencer is now left with a revenue source cut off with no fault of theirs.

You’re getting diversification wrong

A lot of TikTokers say they’re on Instagram too. Lot of Instagramers say they’re also on YouTube. That’s barely any diversification. It’s better than nothing at all. But it’s still futile.

It’s hard to build an audience. Building it on two platforms is very hard. Three, almost impossible. You might as well build one audience really well and diversify the ways you make money off of that audience. If you have a loyal audience, you have the luxury to build multiple sources of revenues. Think brand collaborations, launching your own brand, premium content, fundraisers. The possibilities are endless and new opportunities will keep getting created. Are you positioned to capture that?

But if you are building an audience and a business(es) on top of it. You must be absolutely sure that no one can take the audience you’ve created from you.

Things go wrong all the time. Not putting all the eggs in the same basket keeps you alive in a drought.

Leave Instagram?

No. Instagram is great. It’s fun. People love it. So should you.

But you should know what you are signing up to. Instagram might become irrelevant any day. But you can still build an audience there. You can get discovered there. These are all the merits. Exploit them.

But always build loyalty. From day 1. Followers may come and go. But fans stick. Make sure you’re getting more fans, not just followers. Always give a way for your fans to upgrade. How can a follower become a pro-follower? What’s the next step in the journey?

These are the people you don’t want to lose. These are the people you want to find through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok. Then promote them to your own exclusive club. Your own email list, your own whatsapp group, your own app. Very few people need to be given this opportunity. But these people are going to be so loyal, if the rest of the system starts crumbling, they’ll be there to keep you going.

Give these people great value that they don’t mind paying you in return.

These people exist on all social media. Social media is great for scouting them.

Your job is to give them a way to graduate out of just being a follower.


We write a lot about how you can build your digital business in this new decade and future proof yourself. If you’re in it to win it, you should subscribe.