If you want a platform to say something, you’ve got it. With the click of a button, your content is out there. The potential reach is tantalising, and we all religiously know how many friends and followers we have. Publishing is certainly cathartic and feels productive.
But there’s a problem we’re overlooking: Social media is ineffective for finding and consuming content.
Even when it reaches our devices and screens, there is simply too much to consume or it is unstructured, often interwoven with irrelevant and sponsored content. It is well known that a tweet has a very short lifespan, after which it is almost entirely unlikely to be read, hence a plethora of tools to help us schedule tweets to increase their audience. Due to the way they are presented to us, Facebook posts last longer, but our news feeds have grown exponentially and we seem less willing to scroll through it all.
Worse still, we no-longer even see everything that’s published with us in mind as the audience, because algorithmic filtering is now common, particularly on Facebook.
What does this mean? No-one’s really listening. Well, certainly not the size of audience we expected. The tantalising reach of social media — which basically means your content reached a device or screen — is misleading at best. We aren’t focussing on genuine reach; meaningful consumption of that content.
Even when content reaches its intended audience… their attention span is often scattered, knackered, insufficient by that point to absorb it, because they are drowning in other content. A page view means nothing if it lasted 2 seconds, or they scrolled on by the summary and didn’t even click. A “like” or a “favourite” may not mean they actually read the content, which is surely what we really wanted?
Attempting to sip from a firehose probably isn’t the best way to consume content, and surely publishing on social media is intended as a two-sided affair? We’ve focussed so-far almost exclusively on publishing itself, because it’s by far the easiest angle to tackle. We’ve constructed the firehose.
Isn’t it about time we did something for the consumers of all that content? After all, we spent time crafting it, so we want it to find the right audience and have an impact on them when it reaches them?
Is making social media consumable again its next great challenge?