What happens when social media no longer cares about us?

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The past few weeks has seen a flood of articles surrounding online journalism lay-offs, the future of digital media and the decline of journalism. And while I join the growing list of said, almost oversaturated articles, I write to pose the question; What happens when we can’t keep up with the demands of our social media platforms? Do we drown into the irrelevancy of brands who can’t afford to be heard?

In an expository piece exploring the fear of broken online journalism Jim Waterson, Media editor of The Guardian wrote:

in the modern world of mobile consumption, most sites are just another form of distraction. Their competition is not just rival scoops – but a vast online ecosystem of entertaining, shareable and social content.”

It can often feel that with not only online journalism, but also with social media management the worth of a post is determined by how shareable the content is, or reactions it receives, rather than the quality of its content or subsequently the depth of these reactions.


I do not believe that if Facebook were to fall and Instagram was to become grossly unpopular marketers would lose their jobs and companies would have to revert to ad columns in newspapers and then call it a day. But I do often wonder where our work lies beyond beating consistently changing algorithms and meeting ad spend price points. We work in an industry that demands us to adapt constantly, an industry where our success relies on the temperamental nature of our advertising hosts Google and Facebook.

When Buzzfeed first began flooding our feeds they attracted users by creating highly shareable and relatable content that ultimately enabled them to beat the algorithm and ride time and time again into viral status. As Facebook’s algorithm has consistently changed over the last years and presumably will continue to, it has become a more hostile and difficult home for online publications to manipulate and profit from without eventually spending more money.  

On a far more personal, superficial level I too have fallen victim and felt taken advantage of by forever changing algorithms. You would have to be verging robotic to have not felt the confidence hit caused by the difficult to master Instagram algorithm that limited the followers your unpaid content was shown to. Many influencers desperately posted story polls titled ‘did you see my latest post’ followed by self-promoting ‘turn on notifications’ captions in a bid to not lose their engagement and thus their paychecks.

With the notorious algorithm change of early 2018 came conversation amongst friends and influencers around boycotting Instagram. But where else could we go to post our travel photos and outfits the way we have enjoyed for many years? The solution was to either care far less or for to work in overdrive to try as hard as possible to keep up (even slightly) with the social media giants trajectory towards more money on sponsored content.


Social media marketing companies/ teams sit firmly in the tight grips of the ad spend bills that social media giant Facebook, and everything-internet boss Google demand. Depending on the depth of our pockets, these digital platforms provide social media agencies and marketers the potential audience of millions daily, and that is why we stick around as much as we can.

But where can we turn in a desperate attempt to reclaim our power on making ourselves heard?

Let’s take a moment to join the Buzzfeed conversation. Amidst all the controversial press, the doubt around their profitability and the questions around the future of digital media, Buzzfeed ‘printed out the internet’ and handed out a special edition Newspaper.

While printing would have definitely cost an arm and a leg, the distribution and publicity around the paper were on Buzzfeed’s terms. No one had to pay Google to speak to hundreds of real-time commuters. Those who held the paper more likely engaged with it more so than one would when scrolling past a sponsored ad. The quirky out of the ordinary stunt encouraged a lot of user-generated content and publicity resulting in a media stir and countless articles.

The PR stunt was dubbed by some as mocking print media and its growing quaint, novelty status. While print media definitely feels like a fading medium it is all too quickly dismissed by social media marketing companies. Despite printing costs, print media provides brands with the opportunity to control the content they put out with little limitations and guidelines, and give it to real-time people through interactions which if done properly is very engaging.

When it comes to creating meaningful interactions with content, print, in ways can surpass the digital world. Unlike someone mindlessly scrolling on social media, those who hold print media do so with the intention to read and properly interact with the content in front of them. The conversation between publisher and audience becomes tangible, and although it is not measurable by Google analytics down to the minutes spent per article, those who spend time with print are active audiences.

By including a page of tear-off promo codes and vouchers for multiple online brands Buzzfeed will be able to quantify the success of their ‘one-off’ paper and ultimately see if there is a worthwhile, engaged market in their print media audience. The act of moving consumers from print to digital demonstrates a hyperactive, involved audience that engaged with the medium beyond a click and a scroll.  

This stunt is not to say we should all run to our closest printing service and disrupt our digital marketing techniques with print. If anything, Buzzfeed’s dabble in print is a reminder to us all that to cause a proper stir online you need to think outside the box, and by box, I mean computer screen.


No brand will ever truly prosper without putting their product, values and services into a real-world environment and generating publicity around a humanised, tangible campaign. There is only so much that clever captions and cleverly navigating Facebook’s advertising rules can do.

To make the most of your social media management spend and to navigate your brand’s success through the confines of social media and into lucrative results contact us at Red Herring Digital for a social media agency that will get you more than just likes and clicks.

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