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If you’re a business that has any kind of presence on social media, you’ve noticed the various changes that have been taking place on those platforms. Algorithm changes to promote friends and family over advertisements, businesses, or media outlets has many people scrambling to adjust.

Every time a major social media platform makes a change, there is a massive outcry. Change is difficult, especially on places that are known and loved.

The hard part is when businesses and individuals who have placed their whole business model on these platforms become disoriented and affected negatively by the change. Algorithm changes can come out of nowhere, and they can hurt the bottom line significantly.

The truth is this: if you don’t own the code, you don’t get to complain.

In this episode, we’ll be talking about how to prepare for unforeseen changes to the way social platforms work and why you should never rely on someone else’s platform.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Algorithm changes in how feeds are displayed are a direct result of people being too lazy to curate their own social media feeds.
  • Whoever owns the code owns how the platform is used.
  • Create content that is intriguing and valuable, that people will want to share.
  • Share content on your own platform so people know that’s where they can go.
  • Don’t be concerned about these algorithm changes—be concerned about how to reach your audience in the best way.
  • Don’t complain about social media site changes when you’re not the one putting in the effort to make things.
  • Don’t get worried—get creative.
  • When you are dependent on anyone else’s platform to deliver your message, you are at the mercy of anything they want to do.
  • You have to be willing to evolve, change, and adjust.
  • Understand what you own, put time and effort into what you need to own, and realize that things could change for whatever you don’t own.
Show Notes
  • 02:39 Cory: There has been a lot of talk and controversy this week over Facebook changing the way that it’s newsfeed ranks different posts. There has been a lot of conversation and worry from people. Last month, Instagram did a similar change, interestingly. Instagram is owned by Facebook, so it’s interesting to see how that particular company is influencing everything else. We want to talk about that. They have changed the algorithm for the news feed to not be the most recent posts, but to be the stuff they think you’re more likely to care about.
  • 03:33 With Instagram, when they changed the algorithm, it tries to study how you like things, your relationship to other users, and the people that you follow. Let’s say there’s a musician that you really love and they had a show last night. It was seven hours ago, but when you wake up in the morning, they have made it so the picture from that show of that musician is the first thing that you see because that’s what you’re more interested in. There has been a lot of frustration over this, because that’s not how people have been using this for so long. It has always been in chronological order.
  • 04:10 Now, this week, Facebook has said that they’re “rebalancing the feed,” making it so your friends and family, the things you connect with, are the things you see primarily in your news feed. This will be instead of showing what’s more recent, posts from companies who post more often. It’s all getting changed. There’s this huge uproar, because now it’s not chronological. Kyle has a lot of good thoughts on this. Kyle, what are your thoughts on the change and on the reaction?
  • 05:06 Kyle: This is a little bit of a harsh moment for me.

Algorithm changes in how feeds are displayed are a direct result of people being too lazy to curate their own social media feeds.

  • 05:22 If you’re listening to this now, stop following more than 100 people—or 200 or 300 people, because there are people following thousands of people or companies. They see someone interesting or something they like and they follow it. A friend they haven’t talked to in 20 years says hey to them, and they follow them. It becomes this big wall of noise that, mostly, is not relevant to your life, doesn’t add anything to you, and you don’t know who half the people you’re following are. You don’t remember them. You just feel obligated to continue following them.
  • 06:05 Because of that, you start to get disinterested in the social media platform that you’re on. You just see this noise that you don’t care about, so you leave the app. Facebook and Instagram have been forced to start curating that for you and showing you the things you’ve shown interest in. If you just follow a few people and you’re doing the same thing, now that’s a limit for brands who want to share things with people. It’s become a big problem. These networks are now forced to curate people’s feeds for them so they remain interested in the platform, but it’s a direct harm to a lot of brands that need to get their message out there.

You Don’t Own the Code

  • 07:01 Cory: I’ve been reading a lot of articles about it, and a lot of publishers who post news stories or link to their own content are really frustrated. If you’re a publisher or a business, you’re more likely to have your thing seen if it’s shared by one of your followers than if you were to post it. If you post it, there also has to be an increased engagement with its sharing. Specifically with Facebook, that’s how that’s happening. It’s different with Instagram. That’s what feeds have become.
  • 07:44 It’s interesting that Kyle talks about the curation of the feed. A lot of these changes I haven’t noticed, because I don’t follow very many people. I have a lot of friends on Facebook, but I don’t subscribe to most of them. I unfollow them. There’s a lack of social awkwardness when you’re not friends with somebody. On Twitter, I follow 30 people or accounts. On Instagram, it’s not very much, but they’re all kind of the same thing. I follow a very thin line of different feeds. I’m not saying that everyone needs to have this kind of approach to it. This may be controversial, but whoever owns the code owns how the platform is used.
  • 08:38 Facebook owns the code that makes that whole platform happen. YouTube owns the code for YouTube. Vimeo owns the code for Vimeo. If any of them say, “We want to change the code,” they have the authority and the right to do that. Just because you’re a publisher, a media company, a business, doesn’t give you any right over that platform. You literally have zero rights over the platforms you use unless it’s your own platform. If YouTube came out and said, “You’re only allowed to upload in this format, at a minimum of 720p, and they have to be a a minimum of 50 seconds long and can’t be any longer than 60 minutes long,” a lot of people would get upset. Guess what? YouTube owns the code. They own the servers. They own the content. It’s all theirs.

When you are dependent on anyone else’s platform to deliver your message, you are at the mercy of anything they want to do.

  • 09:45 I read this really interesting article that said that Facebook isn’t just dictating what content is viewed, but what content is created. This whole push for captioned videos in the last five or six months on Facebook, the explosion of native video on Facebook, has been because of algorithm changes and preferential treatment on Facebook toward that kind of content.
  • 10:19 It’s not just about, “My content isn’t being viewed,” now it’s, “We better start doing video with captions if we want to be noticed. I don’t have the capability. We’ll have to hire more people…” There’s all of this stuff that has this massive ripple effect on the way people do business. It all comes down to the fact that if you don’t own the code, you don’t have a right to complain. You can stop using it. You can do something else. You can direct people to someplace else. Just use it as a side platform to promote your primary platform.
  • 11:02 It bugs me so much when I see Nobody is going to remember that. Nobody cares. They’re seeing Facebook. They’re not seeing you. You don’t have a right to complain when a social media platform changes it’s rules, because they own the code.

You Need Your Own Platform

  • 11:24 Kyle: Recently, I saw someone on YouTube, and there are several people like this, who made a whole video about being upset about YouTube’s algorithm for detecting copyrighted material. YouTube has implemented this because there were a lot of complaints about people using copyrighted material and not getting the proper licensing for it. From a business perspective, this is something YouTube had to implement. Maybe it doesn’t work great all the time, but that’s YouTube’s problem. That’s how their platform is. If you don’t enjoy their platform, there isn’t much room to complain—you’re using it for free.
  • 12:14 You’re putting your content on there. This video that I saw was ten minutes, and I didn’t go through the whole thing because it didn’t end by the time I was done with it, but it was just this complaint. The guy said, “My video was removed, because they thought it had copyrighted content. It didn’t have it…” They played through their video and showed where they said there was copyrighted content, and there wasn’t any. There were all these excuses for why the video shouldn’t have been removed, but the truth is that the whole platform could go away tomorrow. Google owns YouTube, and they could decide to sell YouTube off.
  • 13:01 “That’s not a big part of our company anymore and we’re not getting enough revenue from it, so we’re shutting YouTube down for the time being.” They could do that. Most people hearing this probably think that’s an absurd thought, but it could happen. Facebook, Twitter, Dribbble, or YouTube could be shut down tomorrow. Google+ will probably be shut down tomorrow. I’m fine, because I have my own platform. I don’t care if those things go away.

Social media platforms help with marketing, but if you have your own platform, your content doesn’t go away if those go away.

  • 13:55 Cory: There’s all this dependence, all this trust. A lot of people listening to this will say, “YouTube is not going to go away. It’s the second largest search engine on the internet. There’s no way it’s going away.” Guess what? You do not know that. That’s what everyone said about MySpace. It was huge. Everyone used it, but now they’re done. Even if it’s not going away, what if they start saying, “We’re not making enough in ad revenue because more and more people have ad blockers, so now it’s only YouTube Red,” which is their subscription service so you can help support the creators, not have any ads, and get a subscription to Google Play.
  • 14:41 What if YouTube switched to an all membership platform? You have no room to complain, because they own it. If you do not own the platform, changes are going to happen—the market changes, so their business model needs to change. They’re in it for the business. Facebook is about keeping Facebook alive. They need to be the bottom line. They need to be profitable. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons there has been this shift toward keeping you in the news feed, because that’s where the advertisements are, and advertisements are the biggest way Facebook makes it’s money.
  • 15:35 There’s going to be all this push from creators, from publishers, for advertised content that is paid, so it gets in front of the eyes of the users. It’s all about their own business. They have to stay in business. In order to stay in business, they have to make changes that benefit them before it benefits the user. As terrible as that sounds, they’re going to talk about how they want to make this a good experience for the user, and I believe that they do, but if they don’t have money, they can’t have a business and they can’t support the user. They have to make money.
  • 16:16 Garrett just said this in the chat. It’s awesome. He said, “I like Facebook’s algorithm change from brand pages to family and friends. I think it will make the experience better for the user. As content creators, we need to create content that people will want to share.” That’s absolutely true. If you create something and post it into someone’s feed, that’s going away. People want stuff that’s relevant to them.

You need to create content that is intriguing and valuable, and that people will want to share.

  • 16:45 That’s how it’s going to get into those feeds. As Kyle was saying, you need to share content on your own platform so people know that’s where they can go. Are you a YouTuber or are you a video creator? Evaluate that. What if YouTube makes this giant change? You think, “Oh, man. Now I have to move platforms because this doesn’t fit anymore. I don’t want to pay $600 a year to create content because I have more than a million followers.” I’m not saying that’s what they’re going to do, but they could.
  • 17:19 Or, if you had, and everyone knows to go there, and you had imbedded videos there that forward to your YouTube page, if people go to that page and it forwards to YouTube, guess what? You’re still training people to go through your platform. They still know where to go to find you. Don’t be concerned about these algorithm changes, be concerned about how to reach your audience in the best way. There is going to be change. There will be changes. Algorithms are going to change. Platforms are going to change. Facebook is going to go away someday, Snapchat is going to go away someday, Instagram is going to go away someday, and there are going to be new things.
  • 18:00 You have to be willing to evolve, change, and accept how people are going to consume your content and how they’re going to access it. You have to be creative. You’ve got to be on the ball. You can’t be passive in a world that is constantly changing because of the market, the kind of attention, and the platforms that people are on.

Stop Complaining & Get Creative

  • 18:26 Kyle: Think about the platforms you’re on. Let’s say you are a self-proclaimed YouTuber, and you built your entire success on YouTube. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but to complain about any change that might happen is very short-sighted. From the outside, it’s perceived as free. You join this place for free, share videos for free, upload for free, and you can have a channel for free. Imagine building your own platform from scratch for those things. You’re going to pay a very high cost for servers to stream video content from your site. You’re going to pay a high cost to store all of those videos, to back them up, to make sure people don’t steal them… so many things.
  • 19:25 I could keep going and going. You pay for all of those things, and YouTube is taking the burden of that cost for anybody that has a channel or uploads a video, even if it’s a ten second video. They take on the cost behind that. I don’t like ads either, but that’s how YouTube makes money. They also have YouTube Red now. Those are the things that make money for YouTube, so don’t complain about those things. Facebook has ads. There’s no room to complain about those things. These algorithm changes are the same thing.

Don’t complain about social media site changes when you’re not the one putting in the effort to make things.

  • 20:17 I guess I’m getting a little off on the building your own platform aspect of this, but I want people to realize that these things can change anywhere. You may think you have your own platform because you built a site on Squarespace, for example. Squarespace is providing the back end of your website. They let you design and create it easily, so they’re taking on all of that burden. Tomorrow, they could say, “We’re not doing this anymore. We’re going to shut down all of our tools for helping people develop their websites. We’re not going to host anymore.” Where are you at that point? You don’t know how to make a website. You don’t have enough income to make a website. You’re stuck. You still don’t completely own your platform.
  • 21:09 Cory: It’s figuring out at what level you use other tools to accomplish your goals and acknowledge the responsibility you have if something goes wrong. Have a plan. Have an understanding of that. I have websites on Squarespace. If they closed down, there’s income that’s going to be lost from that. I have domains hosted with certain domain hosts. If they went away, what am I going to do? There’s a certain level where you can’t get away from it. I can’t generate my own power right now, unless I have a solar panel. Power is coming to me from the power company.
  • 21:51 Our gas is coming from the gas company. Our water is coming from the water company. Unless I live on a self-sustaining farm, I can’t do that. On a certain level, using other people’s platforms and using those services helps you accomplish your goals. It doesn’t make sense to complain about something you can’t change, because you don’t own it. If you don’t own it, you don’t have room to complain. All you can do is move forward and say, “What can I do to continue accomplishing my goals and building my brand outside of these things?” Or with it! With the new Facebook algorithm change, make that a positive thing. Say, “How do I better create things that take advantage of this change?” Stop complaining about it. They don’t care. If this is better for their business, that’s what they’re going to do. Don’t get worried—get creative.

Understand what services or platforms you’re using, what could happen, and what would happen if those things went away.

  • 23:05 Kyle: There’s nothing inherently wrong with using other services. We inevitably have to at some level. Do you have backups of things? Do you have your own fallback for that? Take responsibility for it, because when these changes happen, they shouldn’t be unexpected. I wasn’t surprised at all to see that Facebook did an algorithm change. I’ve been expecting the Instagram algorithm change for a long time, because Facebook was different from Instagram, and I knew Instagram would probably follow suit because now they’re owned by Facebook.
  • 23:51 Facebook is just continuing their philosophy of how they organize feeds, and that’s going to happen. That’s their brand, their mission, and it’s what they think is best for their platform. You’re on it and you’re using it, so it’s going to be that way. Realize that you need to have a fallback for all of these changes that happen. The people that make it work for them are the ones that win—the ones that get creative and don’t complain. They just say, “Alright, there’s a change. This is something new. It’s a challenge. Let me figure out how to get around this challenge.” Those are the people that win. The people sitting around complaining, writing blog posts about it, and trying to figure out how to make it go back to the old way are going to lose and fall into obscurity.

Be Ready to Change

  • 24:46 Cory: You have to be willing to roll with the punches. You have to be willing to evolve, change, and adjust. As a business, you have to. The market isn’t going to care.
  • 25:05 Kyle: We want people to understand what they’re getting into, that they don’t have rights to these things they assume they have rights to. It’s kind of like renting a house. Cory told me this. When you’re renting, you don’t own the house. Someone else owns it. You have certain rights there as a human being. Your apartment manager can’t come tie you to a chair and tell you that you can’t leave your house for five days—there are certain limits. At the end of the day, they own the house you’re renting, the apartment you’re renting, the car you’re renting, the bus or train you get on every day to go to work, or the plane you get on to fly to another city.
  • 26:16 Those things are owned by someone else. It doesn’t mean that you have to own all of those things, but when things change with those, that’s just something you have to live with. If the bus company decides they have a more efficient route that makes it 30 minutes longer for you to get to work but makes it easier for the bus to pick up people, you have to deal with that. They’re not going to change their entire model of how they run their busses based on your setback. You have to work around that. You won’t win or get ahead if you’re 30 minutes late to work every day and you keep making the excuse that the bus route changed. You have to find another way to get there 30 minutes earlier.
  • 27:14 Cory: If I paint my office and the landlord comes in and says, “You can’t paint it that way. Change it back,” the dude owns it. In the same way, you could have a mortgage and the bank could say, “We’re going to foreclose on you.” You say, “I thought I owned it!” Unless you have every single cent into that house, you don’t own it. That’s just the truth. What do you own? How do you deal with the things you don’t own? How can you change and evolve and adjust for when things change around you? You have to.
  • 27:56 Kyle: The direction many people could take this episode is that you have to own everything, and that’s not what we’re saying.

Understand what you own,put time and effort into the things you need to own, and realize that things could change for the things you don’t own.

  • 28:15 Cory: And that you need to get creative to still accomplish your goals using the things you don’t own.