Social media networks are now commercial beasts chasing old revenue models

One traditional ad executive described me and others like me (early adopter digital natives) as the bunch of misfits who gave the internet popularity. I can really understand why the rise of the internet has really upset a heap of people, from print journalists to big format advertising executives.

The evidence of revenues drying up in TV, print and radio is as bleak as it can get. However the revenue model they operate is not dead.

The investors in the social networks, like Twitter and Facebook demand revenue, so Twitter and Facebook chase big audience numbers. The bigger the audience the more the advertiser will pay. The model hasn’t changed.

So the social networks chase big ad dollars from relatively traditional models, such as Twitter’s TV ad targeting and Facebook’s Trendrr product-grabbing TV ad. But what about the users – the misfits like me, who liked no ads, no hollering and no marketing messages?

The equation has changed, and in social media money is talking. Revenue from promoted tweets, news feed ads, priority over paid content as opposed to the users content is commercialising what was a free open forum of people not brands.

The misfits become disappointed. Anything we post as individuals becomes a competition to be heard above the monetised content, or the baby pictures from an increasingly distant Facebook ‘friend’, or another ‘me me me’ post from a narcissistic social media blogger superstar and it is all becoming more than disappointing. A recent commentator likened social media to a bad reality TV show. The opinion has some merit the way it is going!

The main issue is that social media is chasing old media’s audience figures and noisy ad formats. Revenue at all cost.

In the end it may well cost it its audience, just like those old friends from traditional media land. So settle in and let’s see what the next season of social media brings!

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.


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