After last week’s events in America, Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter, his largest platform.
Not only that, he was also banned from Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and even Reddit (which is one of the most vocal protectors of free speech rights online).
He has spent years growing up a following of more than 100 million “fans” across social media for years, to whom he could launch whatever (usually idiotic) messages he wanted.
But in a few hours, after a decision by the technology companies which owned these various platforms, he lost them all.
While in this case the move was undoubtedly for the benefit of humanity, it also shows how you and your company need to carefully consider which platforms you use to do business. Not only in social media, but what your business is based on.
The more dependent you are on a single platform, the more dangerous it is if something were to happen to it.
This is another reason why innovation is so important. It helps to diversify your business, making it more resilient against changes in any one area.
Let us take a few examples to consider, including those which I outlined in the video podcast above, that showcase the risks of being too dependant on a single platform:
- Facebook Organic Reach: When Facebook first started “pages” for companies and organisations, everyone was trying as quickly as possible to get as many followers as possible, as these companies could then engage with their “fans” for free and have their content shared much more easily than any other online platform. Many companies even paid to grow their fan based into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans, and some smaller companies even used their Facebook page as their main online presence. Yet then accelerating from about 2014, Facebook changed its algorithms to limit the organic reach of their posts (how many of a page’s fans would even be shown content posted on that page). This forced companies to pay to “promote” their content if they wanted to get it in front of their fans again. In essence, Facebook controlled who saw what, and could make decisions which were the most profitable for Facebook, not the companies using the platform.
- Website backend platforms: I use the open source WordPress as the backend for my platform, precisely so that I am in control over what happens on my website. This means I can choose from thousands of “plugins” which add new features, often for free. I used to use a plugin called Disqus, one of the most advanced plugins to allow people to leave comments on my site. Yet one day when I looked at my comments, I saw that in the latest software update, Disqus has enabled their “display advertsing” feature on my comments, even though I had previously told them not to. For a short while, my website was showing adverts for companies I did not support or benefit from, because another software vendor had the power to choose what happens on their platform, for their own benefit instead of that of their users. Fortunately, I was not dependent on the plugin, so I was able to make the choice to uninstall it immediately and I have not used it since.
- Service providers: It is not just software that can limit your company by controlling the platform. Many companies struggle when they become dependent on a single provider of a service or product in their supply chain. Many companies who outsource key business functions would struggle if the provider were to decide to change the conditions of business, such as when a contract is up for renewal (as happened to us recently when our landlord wanted to double the rent). Other companies which outsource software development, accounting or customer service would also be at risk if those platform holders use their leverage and change their mind.
- Publishers and Record Labels: It is not just companies which need to think about controlling their own platform. Many creative professionals struggle with this as well. In the music industry, there are countless stories of artists who sign away the rights to their songs to record labels, or writers where the publisher is the one who profits from ongoing sales. Even Taylor Swift, one of the largest music stars on the planet, has been fighting (and losing) lawsuits against her former Record Label, who own her songs. Similarly, Youtube “Creators” who make a living off of the split of advertising content on the video platform were hit hard when Youtube changed its algorithms, known as the Adpocalypse. In today’s world, there are more options than even for artists to get their content directly to paying fans without the need for publishers. Yet there is then the danger than they become dependent on the technology platforms they use as a distribution network.
- Reliance on a single product: Many companies are almost completely reliant on their most profitable product. This is their entire business platform. When external market forces then change the demand for that product, the company can suffer tremendously. Look at the impact that falling oil prices have on companies like Shell and British Petroleum, or even the entire economy of Venezuela.
As you can see, there are many reasons it is dangerous to become too dependant on any single platform.
Especially when that platform is owned by a seperate company.
Those companies will always, always act in their own self interests. Sometimes there self interest is to grow by keeping customers happy and adding new value. But at some points, they may begin making more selfish choices.
This is why you need to continue innovating, and building resilience into your company through reducing reliance and dependency on a single platform. And if you are a creative, also ask yourself how you can reduce your dependency.
Otherwise, there might come a moment when you just lose it all, all at once.
100+ million followers, gone at the click of a button.