Social media continues to grow in popularity yet over the years countless big time social networks have disappeared from the Internet. Some sites just never gained enough user traction to sustain, while others were epic flops of catastrophic proportions.
Here are eight reasons you should never put all your social networking eggs in one basket:
1. Content Ownership
Most social network users think that they own the content they post on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but that isn’t really the case. Sites like Facebook and Tumblr reserve the right to ban any content posted they deem offensive and against community sharing guidelines. A lot of tears have been shed recently over Instagram (or their overlords from Facebook) changing the terms of service for users. So stay up on the fine-print of each network policy and try learn its limitations and best practices.
2. Banned Accounts
Social networks also reserve the right to ban your account under different circumstances usually involving repeat violations of their terms of service. While this is totally within each network’s rights (spam and malicious behavior is a huge effort that needs policed online) this could leave your business out to dry if something were to mistakenly go wrong. Some social networks like Twitter, Reddit and StumbleUpon have been known to ghost ban users without warning for smaller infractions like aggressive following, bad language and hashtag stuffing. The ghost ban can even go undetected where it appears these users are still allowed to post material, but no one actually sees their content. Now you might be thinking that you don’t break any rules, never offend anyone and are pretty good Internet citizen, but let me you present you with a challenge…
If you were to go through each one of your last posts on Facebook and Twitter can you account for being the copyright owner of every image you posted, or verified you have the right to share that work and have properly attributed the source? Do you even know half the source of all the pictures you’ve posted this week?
3. Copyright Violations
If copyright issues are a concern for you, you’re not alone, as most people are in violation of some social network policy they could get theoretically banned for. Even extreme copyright advocates, like Rep. Lamar Smith, famous for coining the failed SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act have been caught red-handed using images without permission. Does copyright law need revisited in the age of viral social media? Absolutely as what is considered “fair use” of intellectual property for editorial or commentary purposes is a very grey area. Yet there are some nuclear penalty options available for copyright trolls to exercise for alleged infractions.
4. Constantly Changing Algorithms
Social networks like Facebook use algorithms to help determine what content users see. The evolution of Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm is a great example of fundamental changes to a social network that can upset and confuse a user base. Even Facebook superstar’s like George Takei and Mark Cuban have been up in arms over changes made to Edgerank and it’s impact on their audience reach. Most social media experts agree that after Facebook introduced its paid advertising platform for promoted posts is about the same time fanpage interactions took a major dive (likely to increase your need to advertise on Facebook’s platform). But despite some high profile gripping, Facebook continues on as the most used social network in the world. But some algorithm changes have been much more devastating on the outlook of a site like when the infamous version 4 of Digg that began it’s downfall and mass exodus of users to Reddit. Basically Digg’s changes greatly favored larger corporations and media outlets decreasing the likelihood of your average user post hitting the front page and getting any significant traction. Recently Digg went to the chop shop and sold most of it’s parts (including team of engineers to the Washington Post) and website property to another group of investors who relaunched the site as a simpler bookmarking tool. The problem being that all prior user’s history of posts, diggs, comments were gone as if the site just launched for the first time losing any faith left with the previous user base in hopes of a fresh start.
5. Failure is Inevitable
Sometimes social networks just weren’t meant to be. We’ve all heard of the epic fall of Myspace, at one time the king of social media, but there are thousands of other sites that didn’t make it like Diaspora, Favo.rs and even iTunes Ping which launched with 1 million members in 23 countries. Before Google+, Google launched many failed endeavors into the social networking world including winners like Google Buzz, Wave and Orkut. Many digital media experts and corporations have been burned wasting significant resources on now meaningless networks. When the music stops everybody people look for the door and nobody wants to be left hanging out by themselves.
The rivalry between Facebook, Twitter and Google has basically went from competitive to an all out fist fight, but who will be the last man standing? Right now it pretty much inconceivable to think that any of these billion dollar networks could disappear, but the same could of been said of MySpace during its reign. The competition has gotten so fierce that Facebook had Instagram turn off Twitter functionality, and Twitter vice versa. Facebook just blocked Twitter’s new Vine app from using Facebook to find friends. Facebook is also known to give less visibility to automated posts from third party apps like Hootsuite and Bufferapp, in an attempt to encourage more on site interaction. What used to be a seamless web where you could cross post to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has been shattered by the evolving ego’s and ambitions of tech giants.
Acquisitions are another great reason to be wary of spending too much time and effort on any social network, especially smaller ones. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are known to make auqui-hires which are acquisitions of smaller startups for their products and team. Sometimes these can be smooth transitions like SlideShare being bought by LinkedIn, where the site experience remains intact or even enhanced. But more often than not, big fish eat little fish for the parts leaving the previous networks in limbo. Did you build up your Posterous account only to now see them get acquired by Twitter and probably shut down their service eventually (users can no longer register for new accounts)? Yes you can download your posts and submitted content, but that’s not what you’ve really lost, it’s the time you’ve spent building and engaging a community that is about to cease to exist. Are you familiar with the bookmarking site Snip.it, just bought by Yahoo and now shut down?
8. Extending Your Outreach
We tend to overspend our time on the the few major social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It’s human nature to start forming social cliques in the areas we constantly frequent, naturally we are most comfortable among our friends. By placing yourself in unfamiliar environments like a new social network, you inherently force yourself to become more creative and make new friends while extending your online reach.
Each social network can take a considerable amount of your time and there are no guarantees your account will be waiting there for you tomorrow. This shouldn’t deter you from using social media, an unbelievable marketing resource for your business, but rather these lessons should serve as a warning to try and balance your risk/reward across multiple sites. Take care of your business on the major social sites but leave time to explore new networks, tools and different opportunities available, you never know what’s going to be the next big thing. Those that get in on the ground floor of new social networks are the ones likely to be rewarded with more exposure and take less of a hit on the next major network collapse.
What steps have you taken to diversify your social media portfolio? Have you recently discovered any awesome new social networks on the rise?