If (Not) This Then (What?)
The end of 2012 saw the start of something that is likely to take up a lot of time and column inches in 2013: the true start of the social platform wars. It’s what I dubbed “Anti-Social Media” in my 2012 wrap-up post, and it’s likely to get just as messy as the mobile platform wars that have achieved so little, other than making lots of lawyers even richer over the last few years.
But, whilst the minutiae of this isn’t likely to really interest many people outside of the tech-blog bubble, it is throwing up some interesting choices for consumers and brands alike, choices that are particularly apt as we all look ahead to the new year, full of (yet to be broken) resolutions.
Social Media Platform Wars
One such choice suddenly became urgent when, in a sign that the wars were kicking off in earnest, Instagram withdrew support for Twitter’s Cards product, which displays media, such as pictures, within tweets. Suddenly, people were being asked to choose: Instagram or Twitter, a choice that many found hard to make, and disliked being asked to make.
But, pretty quickly someone had found a solution: using If This Then That (IFTTT), it was, and is, possible to bypass the spat and push Instagram images into tweets.
Who Owns The Data?
What’s interesting about this is that IFTTT is an attempt to allow consumers to take control of their digital lives by connecting the various services and platforms that so many of us use now. Yet, even IFTTT, despite being used as a solution in the Twitter/Instagram spat, has become a victim of the increased desire of the various platforms to take control of what they view as ‘their’ data when it had to turn off the ability for people to use the service to push tweets to other channels.
Whilst it is understandable that platforms such as Twitter, or Instagram, should wish to maximise the amount of traffic they receive, and the money they can make around that traffic, it could well start to backfire.
Whilst I have argued in the past that there are simply too many social platforms and apps for people to use them all effectively, particularly as they all ask more of us, it is also unlikely that any one service will be able to be all things to all men (and women), or that people will, going forward, trust one service to hold all that data.
You can see this when the editor of an ad-funded blog blames the fact that so many social platforms are ad-funded for the fact that they often seem to treat users as an annoying necessity. Or, when a renowned tech blogger announces that, having turned off Facebook, he now plans to leave Instagram, too, not just because of the (badly handled) changes to the terms of service, but also because:
“In my search for technology products and services that somehow enrich or add value to my life, Facebook and Instagram have been a net negative not only in their usefulness, but also in other, subtle ways most people don’t often consider… As technology companies work overtime to make it easier to sign up and maintain accounts, little regard is given to the long-term ownership and use of our data… There are other costs to letting accounts go dormant, too. The final time I loaded Facebook to click the delete button, I noticed weeks-old friend requests from my grandmother and one of my cousins… Perhaps worst of all, in an era where we meticulously prune our online personae, services like Facebook require constant diligence and maintenance.“
What’s ironic here is that the first thing I did after reading this article was to post it to RebelMouse, a service that aims to create a mosaic of all your social outpourings.
Align Business Objectives With Digital Footprints
It’s yet another attempt to make sense of the cluttered, disjointed mess that qualifies as a digital footprint for so many of us these days. I’ve chosen to trust them with access to my Twitter and Instagram feeds, and I’m even contemplating using it as the homepage of my often unloved blog.
I may well come to regret that decision. It’s even more likely I’ll forget that I ever made it. But the big question for me, as it should be for everyone and every brand involved in the social space, is not just whether I should trust them with this access and data, but whether I have what it takes to keep it up-to-date and make sure that it stays relevant.
Whilst Ryan Block’s reasons for quitting Instagram and Facebook won’t convince everyone, and don’t even entirely add up (I’m not really sure that LinkedIn and Twitter give users that much more control), they do provide a compelling reminder that we should all make a resolution for 2013 and stick to it: to ensure that we’re making the best use of the platforms we use the content we create, and the data that we ultimately own, to meet whatever personal or business objectives we all might have. Because although IFTTT may just have secured several million dollars of investment, I can pretty much guarantee that we will all increasingly have to sacrifice this for that, rather than being able to have both.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.