What the Numerous User Bans Can Teach Us about Social Media (Companies)

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cc: All artworks by M Domondon.

Do you remember Digg? The site formerly known as “user driven social news” has shown its true nature in 2008: Banning some of their most valuable and active users. They did not solely ban the spammers or those who harmed the service.

They banned some of the best social media users along with hundreds of others who contributed diligently.

When zaibatsu, top user #3 was banned for a reason that “barely” made sense I ridiculed the steps undertaken by the management. This time I’m here to analyze. I still think they’re ridiculous and rather make sense in a sabotage kind of way where the worth of a service is artificially lowered for the acquisition price to drop.

I’m not here to analyze the bizarre “Microsoft, Yahoo or Google please buy me” business model.

My focus is on the users, those real people who spent hours daily, some for years, working for free for a self proclaimed democratic platform.

 

Democratic vs social media

As a former media activist involved in antiwar campaigns both off and online I was wary of the pseudo-democratic “social media! late comers from day one. There had been attempts to establish truly democratic and participatory media on the Web at least 6 years before and social news was a step back as it just recycled other news sources instead of giving people a voice.

The only way of gaining a voice on social news sites was publishing elsewhere and getting it submitted by others to them.

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OK, so let’s return to people like zaibatsu or my virtual idol tamar who were both very successful users in a very positive manner and now lost all of their work there.

These two luckily only have lost their profiles and their power to push something directly. They did not lose their authority though. Both zaibatsu and tamar managed to survive this unfortunate turn. They can’t be particularly happy but they’re still alive and kicking on social media.

Social media being many media not just one social medium is exactly the point.

Socializing throughout several platforms and being interconnected is key. Also a virtual real estate and branding are key. Like I wrote last week tamar is well known from several publications. Zaibatsu is a contributor to a social media podcast at least (only recently or already before? I rarely listen to podcasts) and a niche community.

Problogger recently described the concept of the home base and the outposts.

You need a homebase and several outposts.

Like in military strategy, losing an outpost is not that bad if you have enough of them. Losing the homebase is more of an disaster. Some of the users banned are only known to be active on one site, supernova17, one of the legendary users and #5 in the top users list has been banned too. I have never seen him using this name elsewhere. So he probably lost his homebase!

 

Just move to the next big thing?

Also some of the less known but still quite active users have lost more than just an outpost of many. Some of them probably were mainly active on one site, some of them used it as the sole source of social media reputation, traffic and just plainly community.

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What do these people do? Just switch over to a new site and start from scratch again? I’m not sure if this is the best way to go on. Don’t get me wrong, new services are usually growing ever since old ones are deteriorating. Yet it might be just repeating the same mistake again by betting on a third party.

I’m mainly active on

but I have secondary social media “real estate” at

That’s not all though. I’m known throughout social media, not just via these sites.

 

People know me

I’m connected to “my people” on several platforms and services so the demise of one social service can’t faze me. This is not a post solely about “not putting all eggs in one basket” though. This is a reality check:

No platform run by a conventional company aiming at profits will ever be democratic.

Corporations are top down organizations where the unorganized workers have no direct power. Consumers can at least stop consuming and boycott. Social media users are both producers and consumers but they lack the powers of both.

There is no real social media users lobby, pressure group or union, people won’t just boycott a site due to some people being banned.

You are in no way able to protect your rights against a company like Facebook. You can’t even sue them for real as you probably agreed to something like “termination of service at any time”.

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So don’t mix up the ends with the means, social media tools are not the message. You don’t get angry at your hammer or screwdriver either for letting you down.

What’s the outcome of this article? A simple advice: Don’t become your own grave digger, build a stable homebase instead.

Last updated: September 4th, 2015.