The High Cost Of Social Media

Now that popular trends are starting to backlash against the big social media platforms, one begins to wonder where it all will end. I mean, it seems that social media, as we know it, is living on borrowed time. There is something to be said for the almost-outmoded concept of “consumer trust.” When your users start distrusting you, it’s time for an effort to bring them back to the fold. But will that happen?

Of course, the big guns of the social networking world know that retention is the key goal. And that means that they must keep their services free. Back in 2008-2009, when the has-been “Ning” platform took off, there was a huge wave of interest, and tens of thousands flocked over and began joining and launching “Ning social networks.” Facebook was just beginning to tap the market. Had Ning played it smart, one can only imagine where they would have been now. Instead, they got greedy, began charging for their services, and the platform quickly fizzled out.

Facebook and Twitter have kept it smart because they’ve kept it free. But think of what that has cost the consumer. With more and more invasive advertising, and constantly evolving “changes of terms” to the already-Draconian privacy policy, users are in for a very bumpy ride as social networking adjusts itself to shifts in public perception and increasing legislative review of their policies and practices. Besides the need to better sugarcoat what they are offering their users, there is a financial drain which must be counter-weighed. The cost of all this hoopla is skyrocketing.

Meanwhile, the social media giants are doing their very best to make the user experience as unfriendly as possible, with ugly and confusing changes of layout, constantly juggling algorithms which hide content, and ads that seem to know exactly what you’ve been up when you’re not on their platform. But because of the innate vanity of us all, people refuse to close their accounts and move on. Well, I did. But I am an exception, and not the rule.

Judging by what is happening within the social networking jungle, one longs for an inhalation of clean mountain air; and one may well look wistfully back on the days of an ad-free, drama free internet, when users didn’t feel like they were being herded into an e-slaughterhouse for eventual disembowelment. True, the internet was slower back then. But was it really that much slower? There was less adware, less junkware, and less spyware, and social media was a mere dot on the horizon. But as it loomed larger, things changed for the worse.

Now there is a burgeoning cost that must be paid by you the consumer. How that cost will be levied is uncertain. But it won’t take long before you find out. We think that more aggressive advertising, and possibly subscription or “premium membership” services, will play a part. But the end result will be bad for the consumer. And it’s already bad enough.

Even Bozos Can Advertise

In the early days of Internet, before Norton and McAfee took over your systems, customers could enjoy a relatively ad-free browsing experience. Back then, the internet seemed like a new frontier that was laden with hope and promise. True, the connections were slower. But systems and software developers made things work.

Now that those days are long behind us, we can sit back on our virtual porch-swings and reminisce about the good old days. The days that are gone forever.

Today’s media landscape is shockingly different from how it was then. For instance, it is harder now to create and run your own website. The tools are less accessible and harder to use. The need for “middle men” has increased. Then, too, you have to reckon on search engines which are profit-driven and could make your site harder to find. The “relevant” results are usually more generic and less search-specific than you’d like, and getting yourself to the top of the charts can be an uphill battle.

Did I mention profit? When people actually read newspapers, the advertising could be ignored by simply skimming or flipping past them. Now, however, ads must be as obtrusive as possible to get the browser’s attention. Most webmasters are savvy to the fact that ads equal revenue. And so part of your browsing experience must now include being bombarded with advertising.

Remember that site you used to enjoy browsing a few years back? You’ll know that the administrator got greedy when you start seeing cluster ads. Popups are more annoying, but generate more money. So they become increasingly common. And ad-designers know how to hide the ‘close’ function, so that time spent trying to clear the page equates to time spent viewing (and potentially considering the merits or demerits of) the aforesaid ad.

What is even more galling is when site owners refuse to sufficiently screen ads before they are allowed to appear on their website. The news outlets are most at fault in this department. In attempting to read an article, you may not only have to close out one or two annoying popups. You will likely have to view a poorly-taken image of a booger on someone’s finger, with the caption “Clean Your Nose In 60 Seconds With This Amazing Trick.”

Whatever this tells us, one thing is clear. It doesn’t matter how bad you are at designing an ad, provided you meet the threshold requirements and cough up the green. I mean, even if your ad merely shows a glass of water on a table with the caption “Reduced Interest Mortgages Start Now,” you can make it in today’s media world without even faking it. That’s saying something.

This means that even bozos can advertise and make money with minimal talent and (what is more amazing) minimal effort. And if they can do it, you and I can do it too. What it really takes is advertising that grabs people’s attention. What it takes is an idea that may or may not work, but which is sufficiently backed by advertising on any high-traffic website. You will make it work. All you need is enough money to launch your project. And ad money well spent will soon beget profit money, as anyone with market-sense already knows.