OK, so it might be the case that social media platforms weren’t the best foundation to build a digital news brand or a baby care company. But people still love them, right? We’re all still spending time pulling refresh on our mobile phones for hours a day, aren’t we? Well, this might be true, but a more fundamental shift in social media is changing our relationship with it. In the last few years, we’ve seen social platforms shift the focus of their content feeds from the social graph – networks we build ourselves by making choices about who we follow – to discovery engines – algorithmically driven feeds that choose what we see based on our previous engagement.
At the birth of Web 2.0, the argument of books like Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody was that the new social networks gave us agency – they let us define the social and media networks we wanted to give our time and attention to. Before this, our media networks were organised by powerful gatekeepers like TV schedulers. The shift to discovery engines is almost like a shift back to schedulers, just this time with heavily personalised, algorithmic schedulers serving up billions of unique streams of content.