In the past 6 months, the social media landscape has gone through a lot and I’m bored of people complaining about it.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not in response to one person, rather an observation of lots of people over a prolonged period of time.
I love free things. It’s great getting something for nothing. But the fact of the matter is not everything is free. I’m a digital marketer and I’m constantly faced with the conflict of using software to make my job easier and saving my business money. That being said, each of those software companies that I use need to make their own money too.
On 1st March, Buffer announced that it was renaming its Individual plan to Free plan. With the name change, Buffer were removing some of the features that were available to non-paying customers. Some of these features included the number of accounts you could manage from Buffer, the shuffle feature and ‘finish later’ on iOS and Android apps. The biggest feature that vanished and caused outrage particularly amongst bloggers, was the Re-Buffer feature. This feature allowed you to automatically re-schedule posts that had already been sent out. As a result of these changes, many people have been criticising Buffer and claiming that the changes have “forced customers away”.
Can’t believe that @buffer have got rid of the rebuffer feature?! It was their best feature by far 😐
— Sally (@sallyokelly) March 2, 2018
— chloe alice lily 🌷 (@chloealr) March 5, 2018
In January this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, announced in a Facebook post that they will be showing “less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media” in favour of “meaningful interactions between people”. Basically, if you’re using a Facebook Page, you’re probably going to see your organic reach drop significantly.
Since the announcement, people and brands that it’s unfair that they built an audience on the platform, but Facebook have stopped them from reaching that audience. It’s not fair that brands, influencers, bloggers or publishers should have to pay Facebook for the privilege of sharing content with their audience. In fact, in some cases, as highlighted in the tweet below, a business has blamed its fate on Facebook’s new algorithm.
Facebook publisher with 100 staff and 12 million followers shuts down, saying the algorithm change obliterated 75% of its traffic, destroyed its business model, as staff say “Facebook is the destroyer of worlds”. https://t.co/HTFVeBv0ml
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) February 28, 2018
It’s hard to think that it was way back in March 2016 when Instagram changed from a chronological feed to an algorithmic feed. That means that it went from showing posts in the order they were posted to showing them to you based on which ones it thinks you want to see. Almost exactly two years on and Instagram is seeing a lot of complaints about this change.
The two main complaints are a) my engagement has dropped and b) we’re seeing more sponsored posts (ads). One answer for less engagement is that Instagram has also been working on removing bots and accounts that automatically like. I know I’ve seen a drop in engagement from these types of accounts and I for one am pleased about that. Another feature it’s added since this update is Instagram stories. Stories now has over 300million daily users. That’s people who are viewing content in a different way and may not be scrolling through their feed as often or as far. These are only speculations for the reason engagement has dropped, but they’re as good as guess as any.
So what about getting stuff for free?
Writing this, I kinda got a bit distracted by the fact that each of these examples have a good excuse for doing what they’re doing. Usually, it’s to improve the user experience. But ultimately, it’s one thing. To make money.
That’s what Buffer, Facebook and Instagram have in common. Heck, even Snapchat is making changes now to accommodate more businesses. But the fact of the matter is, they all have to do what they can to make money.
Buffer is removing features for non-paying customers. It sucks if you’re one of them, but guess what? Tough. They’ve got to make money. If you’re a business or a blogger who relies on social media scheduling, these are your choice: 1) Go find another tool that does it for free, 2) keep using the more limited free plan or 3) sign up for the damn $10 Awesome plan. But if you’re using their Free plan and you like it? Just pay a little bit.
If you’re seeing your reach or engagement drop on Facebook and Instagram, that really sucks. I feel for you. I see it doing the same thing for brands I work with and on my own content. But here’s the thing. We have been lucky to have had Facebook and Instagram and Twitter for free all this time. So lucky, that we’ve actually forgotten how fortunate we are. We’ve been given platforms to share our content. Have a voice. Sell products. All of this, for free.
But these platforms can’t stay free forever. You wouldn’t walk up to a TV network and ask them to put an advert out for free, would you? Or a newspaper? If you’re a blogger, you’d probably be offended if I came to you and asked to put an advert on your website for free.
The hard truth
The hard truth is this: You’re going to have to start paying to get reach on social media and you’re probably going to have to start paying for the tools to put your content out there. If that’s a problem for you, then be prepared to put in the time to push your stuff out for free or be prepared to lose out on the benefits.