Do you remember Facebook when they first launched?
You had to have a .edu address to join.
So only cool hip college (or at least alumni) were allowed to join.
I used it a lot because I could see what people I was interested in were doing.
As with anything social, people compete… compete to get more likes, compete to get more fans, compete to get more friends, etc etc. On top of that Facebook became a business, which means they had to grow or die.
So it went viral and now everyone is on it. Along with that comes a firehose of information for users.. some of which you might not care for.
If you log on, you’ll notice it’s now full of memes, re-spun articles, babies, food, and of course, cats.
(My favorite: pictures of people taking pictures.)
Yes, it now looks like TV. Mind numbing content… a scrollable format on smaller screens.
Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr.. they’re not immune to it either (if you happen to follow the “wrong” people).
Why is it that every popular medium that was once cherished by the social elite (in their own niche) turns into another “TV” after a while?
Quite simply put: business financials.
1. Lowest Common Denominator
All these popular sites are funded by the advertisers that want to get in front of them (myself included).
What do the advertisers want? Maximum eyeballs at the lowest possible cost (i.e cost per mill advertising)
These online media channels have two ways to media
professionally created (like WSJ or NY Times), which command a higher cost since they are curated, edited, and proofchecked by media experts
user generated (like social networks), which is larger in volume because it’s low cost but commands a fraction in rates
Since social networks don’t create media, they must rely on you and me to create them.
Now, because the advertisers can’t possibly be “relevant” to everyone, they attach their ads to the medium that has the most wide appeal to expand their reach at the lowest possible cost.
So how do these social networks help them achieve their goal?
By showing you whatever is most appealing to the widest demographic possible: shocking, sexy, curiosity peaking, saddening, funny, etc etc.
In other words, same stuff TV tries to do.
2. “Forced” Engagement
A lot of these media channels make money WHILE you are there.
Where as search engines make money when you leave them (and to their referred advertiser’s site), if you leave them, they stop making money because now they can’t show you more ads.
So how do they get you to stay?
Show you things you (and everyone else a see… that you WANT to click (internally to their site)… in other words: kittens, puppies, shocking/scary/funny videos, etc etc.
i.e., same stuff TV tries to do.
In fact, here’s a very good video that explains all this.
3. Old Media Domination
Ever see Twitter handle next to the news anchor’s name? Ever see billboard ads with some hashtag?
Literally.. they are converting these online channels into TV. (at least blending them)
They will come and dominate them by leveraging their online media channels with their TV/print/radio media.
If you own one media, it’s easy to cross promote your new media with the old media. (And that’s why most of the media is owned by a few handful of companies out there.)
(Why do you think Google shows YouTube on their search results page?)
So how do you take advantage of this as the entrepreneur?
You now have the ability to place yourself in front of people in fraction of the cost.
If you wanted to advertise on TV, it would cost you up to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to get a 30 second clip viewed during primetime.
Now, how many can you say that you’ve reached? Who knows. It’s a guessing game unless you do some kind of direct response (ask people to buy, tweet, call, email, whatever). But it’s a horrible way to advertise.
For literally pennies (with, for example, Facebook pay per click ads), you can get someone to view your message and get them to even take action.
How awesome is that?
Case Study – Pet Rescue Donation Project
Take a look at this video I helped to get viral to help a pet rescue fundraising campaign.
2 MILLION views for under the cost of $100.
This would’ve costed 6 figure in traditional TV advertising.
Sure, we might be entering the era where TV is basically on every device we hold, but to us entrepreneurs & opportunists, this is the GREATEST time to be alive.
As entrepreneurs, you might find it a bit disheartening to see such great power & technology being used for such trivial and even mindless things.
Remember, it’s not your job to judge. But to take advantage of whatever opportunity you come across to get more customers & increase your business.
TaeWoo Kim is an entrepreneur, online marketer, speaker, and blogger. With over 10 years of experience, he’s helped achieve multi million revenues for various companies. You can follow him on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+