Will money alter the importance of social media?
About six years ago I received an email from a friend which contained a link to a site that appeared to be another one of those Myspace clones. Little did I know at the time that this link would lead me to what would go on to become the world’s most used social media platform; Facebook.
A couple years later I found myself writing a weekly column for a local Montreal magazine site. I figured the best way to promote my articles beyond my circle of friends was to start my own fan page on the new social juggernaut.
My first instinct was to invite all my friends to my page, fresh with a cool logo and updated constantly with news stories I thought were important to progressives. That was my first mistake. I invited about 100 friends to my new page not knowing at the time that sending an invite to more than 50 people at once would cause the invite to reach no one and it could not be re-sent.
Feeling a little frustrated I decided to invest a little money into my page to build up my following. I invested a modest $6.00 a week and over the past 2 ½ years I’ve built up a following of about 4000 people.
Around the same time I started my own website, Facebook did something that not only filled me with rage, but also made me fear for the future of social media in general. Now when I share an article or make a simple comment, the exposure of the post is a fraction of my total audience.
Facebook started to charge page owners to promote their own work to an audience they had already paid to build up. This double dipping is sure to make Facebook a pretty penny from corporations and well-funded groups, but to the little guys like me, it’s killing us. One post I shared only got exposed to 6 people (out of 4000).
It now cost’s me another $6.00 per post just to reach 800 people or 1/5 of my followers, a price I can’t afford to pay (and wouldn’t anyway). Facebook has managed to put a price on free speech, not unlike the American Supreme Court with Citizens United.
The more money a person or corporation has, the more their voice can be heard. This is the way of things in the 21st century and it’s spreading to social media. Just imagine what would happen if Facebook’s money grubbing methods spread to other social media like Twitter.
These sites were instrumental in toppling autocratic dictators in the Middle East, organizing the occupy movement and Quebec student strike. What would have happened if the word only got out to a fraction of the people that were actually involved?
Look at it this way; People organize a public protest to demonstrate against the actions of a politician or corporation, the politician or corporation in turn decides to rally their own supporters for a counter protest, who will have more supporters show up? I’d bet a thousand Facebook credits it turns out to be the corporation or the man they help to fund.
Call me a pessimist, but I can see social media sites going in the opposite direction of what they were initially used for. When money can control speech, a huge portion of our populace will be left with their mouths quieted or duct-taped. Social media was supposed to bring us all together, but now I feel money might push us apart.
I recognize a company like Facebook has the right to make money. I also understand why Facebook charges us to build up our following; it’s no different than the advertising you see on television. However, to charge us for speaking to our audience we have already paid to build up is just plain greedy.
I hope Twitter and their kin realize their importance to bloggers, activists and others who wish to have a voice. Most of these people rely on their dedication, passion and talent to improve the world; they don’t have the money to burn.
I understand the irony that some of you are reading this article through a link you saw on Facebook, it’s bound to trickle through to some people. Still, in my eyes Facebook’s stock value no longer reflects its usefulness.