Social influence or real world relevance?

Last Tuesday was just a normal day for me. Getting back to emails, taking a few calls and plotting out the next couple of weeks until the end of the year. So far, so good. Or so I thought.  

Now, if you follow us on social media, you’ll know that we are pretty consistent with how much we post on there,  not only with things that we’re promoting , but things we think are great as well as supporting our fellow creatives, when and where we can. 

As last Tuesday was Guy Fawkes night, imagine my surprise when both Facebook and Instagram coupled together to drop a relatively big bombshell…so much so that I’m still feeling the aftershocks now (no more bomb related references for the rest of this, I swear).

I wanted to take some pictures of the fireworks because I am part of that generation of people who would rather document a public event, firm in the knowledge that I’ll never watch it ever again. I went further, still. I decided to post some of the live fireworks to Instagram stories. That is until, the app decided to notify me that I had “timed out” and I had to log back in. In the moment I didn’t think much of it, and went back to enjoying the fireworks.

It didn’t really cross my mind again until I got home and tried to log into Instagram and found that I couldn’t. I tried again, as I often get my passwords mixed up, still thinking nothing was wrong. Again, I was told it was the incorrect password. After 10 or so variations of what the password could be, I started to think that something wasn’t right. I tried to log on to Facebook- a couple of times, in fact. The exact same thing happened. What was going on? 

After checking my (thankfully accessible) inbox, I was hit with a couple of messages from Facebook. My account had been disabled for not following community standards. As far as I knew I had done nothing to breach any guidelines. No supporting of far right groups, no posting of any graphic content, and my nipples stayed out of sight and  definitely under my clothing (god forbid). So I emailed them back demanding an answer, only to be met with that in fact, my account was now permanently disabled and it would not be reinstated at any point. Wow. 

So just like that, 13 years of being on Facebook and 7 years on boasting, sorry, posting, on Instagram had disappeared. In the space of a few hours. For a little while I thought we’d lost our We Are Parable crew but thankfully that was fake news.

Because Facebook owns Instagram, both of my accounts were wiped. They also own Whatsapp, but that was fine, so I still get passively agressively added into group chats. Yay.

My first reaction was one of anger. How could this happen? I’ve spent actual years (and, in the case of Facebook, DECADES) on these platforms, sharing some of the happiest times of my life with people, some who are on the other side of the world.

And of course, when I thought we’d lost over a thousand followers on our business I was very upset as that had taken a hell of a lot of work to get there. 

But then my mind went to something social media influencer and activist The Slumflower said: “Instagram might shut down one day and suddenly nobody will care about your 80,000 followers. Relevance in the offline world is key.”

Now, there’s a lot that she says that I don’t agree with, but this kept coming back to me time after time. If you lost your social media business profile, would you be able to function? Could you? 

Rather than rush back into the world of selfies, hashtags and FOMO, I’ve used my exile from Mark Zuckerberg et al to really think about how I want to use these platforms going forward. I was 25 when I joined Facebook and the way I interact with it and other apps has completely changed. Does it even make sense to be on there? Do I rely on it too much as the marketing equivalent of a silver bullet? 

The answer to the first question is yes, of course it does. But my intention is different. I’m sure my first post on Facebook was something like “Anthony is really in the mood for a fish finger sandwich.” Rather than mindlessly post my inner most random thoughts, I need to be mindful about what I say, no how much fish finger sandwiches bang. 

The answer to the second question is also yes, but that needs to change. 

Having my accounts deleted has made me think just how arbitrary it is to worry about followers, likes or any other currency that this system has made us all believe are important. 

For example, we’ve produced events that have got ridiculous engagement, but have not translated into sales. In contrast, there have been other projects which don’t get any traction but are packed on event day. There is no rhyme or reason to this thing.

This measurements of social currency are merely a tool in which to communicate what you’re up to. One tool in an entire arsenal of tools we have to get our word out there. Yeah, it’s the quickest way to communicate, but it’s oversubscribed and algorithms mean that no matter how dope what you do is, only a handful of people may ever see it. 

So getting my socials deleted has been annoying, but it’s opened me up to the fact that we need to focus on real world influence. I’m quick to bemoan how we haven’t grown our social media as fast as some companies, but then I’ll forget the ten people who come up to us in the street and tell us how much of a great time they had at our event. Now that’s real world relevance that Instagram, Facebook and the others could only hope to emulate. 

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