social media

The future of social media is… Decentralised?

People are pissed off with social media, and decentralisation - where communities are in control of their online experiences - is the answer, says AMV BBDO's innovation lead

By Matt Henry

People are pissed off with social media. Well not everyone, but a good number; and they have every right to be. If you’re a parent you’re probably worried about... well, everything. Rife misinformation and fake news, worries around the addictive properties that the algorithm propagates and safety.

There are frustrations for marketers too. Fragmentation of the social media landscape makes it difficult to truly know where to put your brands' hard-fought pounds. Likewise, brand safety concerns make it difficult to utilise the platform's features to the best of their ability.

On the other hand, many people argue that social media has never been stronger as a platform for advertising. I would be one of them.

The way the algorithm works across both Instagram and TikTok means that we’re no longer screaming into an echo chamber when it comes to “organic” social. The potential to genuinely add value to consumers' lives sees huge spikes in reach because now, if you truly make something that an audience wants to watch, then they will find it.

The same is true of more personal experiences with the social algorithm. It would be fair to say that some (you know who you are) obsess over their own algorithm as if it were a sourdough starter they fed during lockdown; but that’s only valuable if you have the self-control not to get lost in a hole.

So, whether you’re completely fed up with social media or still believe in the value that it can offer to people’s lives, there’s one thing we can all agree on. Taking into account all the mistakes made over the last twenty-seven years of social media (feel old yet?), there fundamentally has to be a brighter future, and I believe that in part has something to do with decentralisation.

What is decentralised social media?

A few months ago, our creative partner Tim Riley, who almost always seems to have his finger on the pulse, gave me an early access code to Bluesky. If you haven't yet heard of Bluesky, it’s a social networking platform, spun out of what used to be twitter. I dipped in and out of it over time and it seemed, at least initially, like people were having more fun. It felt safer, more in control, fairer and more open. Whilst I'm sceptical that BlueSky, now hard launched to the general public, is ever going to overtake X in its popularity, I do think there’s something in decentralisation as a concept here.

Now if you’re reading this thinking “Matt, you’ve really lost it this time” then bear with me, because this is really cool.

With decentralisation, rather than the power and decision-making sitting with one central entity like it does with many of the platforms we’re used to, communities and users are empowered to have control over their experiences. This is social media built for the people, by the people. If you have an idea for a different way to view content, then the open ecosystem allows you to customise your experience as much as you want. In theory it could be like having an app where each function is built by a different company. For example, TikTok could be responsible for the ‘for your page’, stories could be run by Instagram, Snapchat could run the chat function and there could even be a community space built by Facebook where people post long and rambling stories about their dogs. If you wanted to ride the algorithm you could, but if you just wanted to see pictures of your mate’s giant hipster cat, that’s also ok (and encouraged).

Why could it be a brighter world?

Other than control and community empowerment there are some other massive benefits that decentralisation could bring to social media. The first is safety and security. Decentralised platforms are much, much, much less prone to data leaks, breaches, and violations because they spread their data across multiple nodes. These platforms also promote open-nes and community which in turn will give brands interesting new ways to target, interact and co-create with communities that form around shared interests.

Rebuilding trust

In theory, Open-source code and community governance can increase transparency in algorithms and content moderation, potentially rebuilding trust with users wary of traditional platforms. Likewise, that trust could extend to brands providing value to consumers in these communities.

Building better experiences for consumers

Decentralised platforms will give us innovative ways in which we can build experiences for consumers. No longer will we have to build an experience that clicks out to another experience that clicks out to another experience… we would be able to offer a value exchange within the app without removing our customer from the journey they were already on.

It’s not all good

With power distributed across platforms, reaching large audiences could become more challenging. We will likely need to adapt to more community driven strategy and tailor even more to the audience whilst we might be able to earn trust easier. It’s likely to be more expensive. There's also an innate complexity with decentralisation which might be hard for consumers to navigate, but if these platforms get the experiences right, little of the complexity will be passed on to the end user.

So “what does it all mean, Basil?”

Centralised social media as we know will continue to be an increasingly powerful tool for brands. The development of the algorithm allows brands to generate reach purely through creating good, relevant content that people want to watch, rather than shouting into the void. If used well, co-creation can provide reach, authenticity and advocacy for brands who provide real value to consumers. However, there is a lot of promise in the model of decentralisation, providing consumers with more power, safety, and community. Likewise for brands wanting to connect more with communities, investing in this space could be really interesting. I’m looking forward to testing and learning as the proposition continues to evolve throughout 2024 and beyond.

Matt Henry is Innovation Lead at AMV BBDO


LinkedIn iconx

Your Privacy

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies.