The commercial side of social media

People publish content to the internet, and especially to social media, for a variety of reasons. From the point of view of the platform it is quite important to know why people use it.

This article focuses on commercial usage of social media: Commercial usage is done by people who create content with the intent of monetizing their effort. They also use social media to find, create and serve an audience. Today, we see various forms of how this monetization happens:

  • direct: Consumers outright buy the content or donate money. Sometimes this comes in a roundabout way. Think of fan merchandise related to the content, like t-shirts or prints.
  • indirect, via advertising: The content itself is free,but alongside, there is advertising. So we see ad banners or pre-roll video ads.
  • indirect, via paid ad content: This is the “influencer” model. The content creator produces content that in itself is a form of advertising. In turn, they either receive free products and services, or simply money.

This distinction is pretty important. The advertising-based models rely on being able to report more or less accurately on how many people actually consume the content. This requires the social media platform to collect and verify data. It also needs to provide this in a meaningful way to the content creator, or even directly to the advertiser.

This also makes it important to show off and highlight metrics like follower- and like-counts in the UI of the platform. Content creators use this to easily advertise their reach to their actual customers – the ad agencies.

For social media platforms, this is often enough a win-win scenario: If they build the platform in a way, that makes it easy for content creators to build up reach and monetize it, this will

  1. boost ad revenues for the platform too
  2. ensure that end users will have a supply of content, thus drawing in more end users to the platform

Which will in turn increase ad revenues, so it is a virtuous cycle – for the platform.

The downside is that the end users have to deal with UX choices that favor increasing followerships and “engaging” content. This often enough turns out to be ever-increasingly radical content. All this changes what could be a tool for empowerment and community engagement into another variant of broadcast media.

Granted, the barrier to entry is radically lowered as compared to TV, and there is nothing wrong in broadcasting content in itself. But it fails as a civic space where people can and should engage with each other on a human scale.

Darcy sets out to change this. By not including advertising at any level, by not focussing our UX on follower counts, by allowing direct monetization but not ad-based ones, we serve the human-centric approach.