By Edward Balassanian, CEO & Founder, Strings
Photo by freestocks.org / Unsplash
“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will:” it’s the frequently cited yet unattributed quote that summarizes the world of social media today. As users of social media, we have the ability to instantly tell our unique story through the lens of our cell phone camera with the thoughts, phrases and events we choose to share with our followers. And while the ability to share what is happening in our world with the rest of the world has done a great amount of good, such as recent widespread rescue efforts during natural catastrophes like Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, other important stories have fallen flat.
This is due to the current social media landscape we find ourselves in, which leans heavily toward a profile-centric experience rather than a content-centric one. For example, in the current state of social media -- which I refer to as social media 1.0 -- users have no control over the content in their feeds, the ads they view or their overall interactions. As such, our feeds have become a firehose of disconnected moments, musings, media and self-promotion in which the feed’s curation is handled by the social media provider, not the user.
What’s the outcome of this? The users that post the most not only gain the most visible position on our feed, but we are also subject to the ads and additional content and interactions that come along with it, whether we like it or not. As such, our social media experience becomes a passive one, one where we just scroll through various posts and view different digital personalities, but never truly connect with the stories available to us. In terms of storytelling, the social media 1.0 model creates an obstacle for story-makers to truly tell their story the way it’s meant to be told; through their own unique lens, without additional superficial distractions or interruptions.
The Current Cycle of Disillusionment
Given user frustration with how current platforms have evolved, many users have started to turn away from the traditional 1.0 model in search a content-centric environment where they have full control over the content and audiences they curate, the conversations they are a part of, the ads they are associated with, and most importantly, the stories they are telling. In fact, according to recent research by Origin, 34% of Gen Z social media users (ages 18-34) who were surveyed this past December said “they’re permanently quitting social media and 64% are taking a break.”
Becoming a Social Media Story-Maker
Think of the last time somebody told you a great story. Chances are, the story not only had a beginning, middle and end, but also interweaved moments of humor, love or maybe even sadness. The story left you with a great memory and an overall takeaway, and perhaps even prompted you to share the story with someone else. Now think of the last time you looked at social media posts from the 1.0 model discussed above. Chances are, you only talked about one of maybe 20 posts viewed within a span of five minutes, and your conversation about that select content lasted a few seconds and went something like, “hey, look, that’s a cool photo.”
As a story-maker, you can consider this type of interaction the death of your storytelling days. To truly tell a story, you have to be able to own it and be at the forefront of how you are telling it. This means that story-makers need the ability, independent of algorithms or advertising clutter, to curate content and conversations based on different topics they are sharing. What’s more, they ought to curate audiences based on common interests to bring people together in meaningful and relevant ways, fully maximizing the impact of their story.
This is where a shift – social media 2.0 – is beginning to rise in popularity among users. Social media users are no longer standing by, allowing different platforms to control the way stories are told. They want to own their stories and are looking for new ways of communication to achieve this, even turning to new social media platforms.
As the cycle of disillusionment spreads through social media 1.0, story-makers are increasingly looking to take ownership of their own stories, connecting with the audiences and conversations of their choice. It’s a positive development, and one that can help create a more authentic, content-focused social media landscape.