What happened to our social media?

Larry Brangwyn

You may have noticed some recent changes to how we use social media, specifically the removal of Twitter as our primary social media tool. It’s hardly surprising that in the wake of Twitter’s recent acquisition that individuals and organisations reconsider how they use different platforms, and what they want to support or be associated with.

As it is, we now maintain a woefully unmanned presence on LinkedIn (as professionals, we want to be present on a professional network) and have moved our main social ‘update’ mechanism to Mastodon – a free, open-source and federated microblogging platform that you can even self-host, if you desire.

Follow us at: https://mastodon.world/web/@nobledigital

You might also find this quick introduction to Mastodon useful.

If you want to know more about why we made this change, and are interested in the social landscape in general, read on!

Performance

The thing is (as terribly backwards as it seems for a digital-specialist, online firm to admit) we just don’t actually find social media very useful. Not to say it doesn’t have its place for different people and brands, but the primary reason we (and we suspect a lot of companies) have a social media presence is to be found. Or rather, to assuage the fear of not being found. The fear of missing out.

It’s a key part of the social media paradigm – if you’re not there, you can’t be part of the conversation. But what conversation exactly?

Over our almost 4 years of operation, we have:

  • Not received any new business enquiries via social media
  • Had a chance meeting with 1 future client via social media
  • Not found the time to participate weekly, or had anything of sufficiently broad appeal to post regularly
  • Primarily posted news updates or significant updates affecting us or our clients

You might hold the position that if you don’t put the effort in and participate actively, what do you expect? This can be true, but for our type of highly consultative work, we find that a social post advertising our services just doesn’t convince anyone. Also, when we only have so much content we thought was worthy of genuine social interest, creating more that would fall below that threshold felt disingenuous.

On the other hand, we do get almost all of our business through word-of-mouth. By doing a great job and setting ourselves apart from the competition with one client, we often receive kind introductions to other clients from within their networks, social or otherwise.

Philosophy

In fact, we’ve always taken a pretty reserved approach to social media in general, and this is because we started Noble Digital with a clear Philosophy. It’s one of the things that earned us the title of Best UK-Wide Ethical Web Design Agency. We always suggest people have a read, but if you’re in a hurry, the key points from it would be:

We believe technology is a wonderful tool that can change the world for the better – it should give people a voice and help creators find their audience, not help sell your data to the highest bidder.

and

We believe that, unfortunately, some corners of the web are at odds with our philosophy and vision, so we don’t use them ourselves. We can still advise our clients who do, without judgement, but won’t be adopting them or working on them.

These include services that have a detrimental effect on society, that divide people, spread disinformation or erode the ability to communicate and function efficiently.

We also take issue with WhatsApp’s inference that End to End Encryption means definitive privacy, their campaign to dissuade people from using alternative services like Signal or Telegram, and find the claim that they can’t read people’s messages dubious at best (opting instead to use Signal or Matrix):

Twitter has been a hub of political polarisation for years, but also a potentially valuable way to post updates with brevity. We understand the moral and legal difficulties of content moderation but always felt the company’s heart was in the right place – even if the implementation was sometimes lacking. The acquisition and subsequent attitude towards decision-making, future direction and approach to layoffs have left us at least with very low confidence. The issues that have plagued misinformation and the formulation of echo chambers on the service are only likely to compound when verification becomes a subscription service.

So what does it mean?

Well, we’re an admittedly small company. We could ignore all this. We could use any service we wanted and people wouldn’t necessarily judge. Having said that, we’re passionate about our industry and believe that our motivations and why we do things are just as important as what we do. It says something about the people we are, how we approach the work we do for our clients, and the kinds of organisations that will have the most productive partnerships with us. So we feel obligated to respond to major changes in the tech industry with clear decisions and policies.

Social media is truly out of the bag. Short of the internet going down completely, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, by using tools like Mastodon rather than Twitter, or Signal rather than WhatsApp, we can put value into tools and protocols that no individual or business can own, manipulate or narcissistically use to further their own agenda – whatever that might be.

MySpace came and went, so (ultimately) will Facebook and Twitter. The bigger you are…

All a service needs is a critical mass of people using it to become valuable and ubiquitous. And if you want to see change, you can’t remain idle and wait for everyone else to sort it out for you.

Most of all (and admittedly relevant to our business) social networks are taking steps to get people to spend more time on their platform, rather than off. A place where they can control what people see, and charge you if you want more people to see it. LinkedIn’s latest algorithm down-ranks posts that contain links that will send people to other websites, for example.

Rather than putting your marketing time and advertising money into a social media giant who likely doesn’t know or care whether you exist or not, why not take back control by building a great website and optimising it for your customers?

  • You will have control over the content.
  • You will have control over the appearance.
  • You will have control over the user journey and information flow.

We think social media should be the start of the funnel, not a private domain where people are forced to forge all their connections or have all their interactions.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, do get in touch for a chat.

Tags: MastodonPrivcaySignalSocial Media

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