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Social Media: The War For Authenticity, Part 1
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Social Media: The War For Authenticity, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: The War For Authenticity, Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: The War For Authenticity, Part 1

It’s sort of a funny story

Several years ago, an up-and-coming stand-up comic working in California discovered the power of social networking in growing his fan base. He spent daylight hours telling his Myspace friends about each evening’s performances, interacting directly with people who were already interested in his work. At night, before his sets, he’d meet these online friends lined up outside the clubs, or mingle with them in the audience. His reputation as a storytelling comedian grew, and as his fans shared clips with their friends, his friends list also grew, and he continued to interact personally with these new followers.

Soon he was headlining national tours and starring in movies. His appeal was mostly to teens and twenty-somethings, but while older demographics scratched their heads at his popularity, the comedian had found his audience, practically one person at a time.

A place for spam spam spam friends and spam

His story isn’t unique, and it has been told of independent musicians and other content-producers as well. Myspace started out as “a place for friends,” and hard-working audience-seekers used the platform’s features to find their fans. At its best, Myspace was a new channel for content discovery. For fans, it was an eye-opening revelation: the traditional channels may have seemed fine all this time, but they were clearly flawed (or, less generously, they were small-minded) because they had failed to connect all these great artists with all these eager consumers.

As always happens, when these success stories were told, others jumped on. Some followed the newly established model, taking advantage of Myspace’s capacity for authentic engagement. Others, of course, found shortcuts, turning features into increasingly annoying tools for spam. The problem grew until the Myspace experience was similar to the email experience before there were spam filters. We had to wade through too much unsolicited solicitation to find real engagement, so most of us gave up.

Bot-toming out

In the end, it wasn’t Facebook who killed Myspace. It was Myspace who killed Myspace. What had been a joyful way to interact with people around the world, regular people like us and brilliant creators looking for regular people like us, became an awkward stumble into a multi-level marketers convention, or the Thanksgiving dinner where all the guests have special opportunities to make us healthy and let us buy new cars.

It’s happened with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as well, but these platforms, after a bit of highly publicized stumbling involving American elections, are trying to correct the trend. Each has recently announced a crackdown on fake accounts, fake comments, fake likes, and monetary exploitation of social capital. The language in their press releases underlines the bigger, real-world motivations: social responsibility and meaningful avenues for advertisers. Far less discussed are the user experience and the very basic reasons social media as a concept became the virtual gathering places they could and should be.

The stand-up comedian’s story can still be told today, but we’ve become cynical and wary, so the climb is steeper for both the discoverer and the discoverable. How might the social media platforms tap back into feelings of community, authenticity, and engagement while still making money? Instagram’s recently announced revamping of its profile pages is a start. The redesign hasn’t rolled out yet, but we’ll take a look in part 2 of this series at what it might mean for how we think of ourselves and each other in these places for friends and whoever.


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Social Media: The War For Authenticity, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

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