Social Media: Understanding the Pros and Cons of the most popular social media platforms
Social Media – The virtual space that has become part of our lives. One may wonder how one earth did we ever function without it? I have decided to create a post focusing on my experience with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. I will be mentioning some pros and cons with every platform, as well as some of the difficulties and updates I have come across.
The following information is based on my personal experience ever since I began blogging and looking into how each platform works. Some of this information may be obvious and known but I thought it would be a good idea to give you a complete run down. The points I will be covering may be of help to bloggers, social influencers, small and large businesses, as well as individuals whose profession is either heavily dependent on social growth or people who simply would like to understand how each platform works for personal use.
Social media platforms – Pros and Cons
Worldwide number of active users (in millions) as of September 2017
Over 2 061 million active users
Over 700 million active users
Over 328 million active users
Over 200 million active users
- No support system.
- Changes to platform are not publicly announced.
- Categories for business pages are useless for many users. I refer mainly to freelancers who may offer a range of services in different fields. If for instance you specialise in web development and marketing, although the two are in the same sphere, they are both very different. Category ‘Professional Services’ would fit perfectly for both, yet Facebook has removed that category and now makes you choose specific categories. Those who specialise in 1 field this may not effect them, but those that may branch out in their services, the platform forces you to choose 1 primary field and you can then choose 2 additional fields as secondary.
- Business pages constantly pushing users to pay for ads. Whether you want to place an ad or not, Facebook constantly pushes their business account users towards paying ads, you can’t even control the inflow of notifications they keep sending you in attempts to push you to pay.
- Settings for business pages are messy. I have recently noticed that the set up of the settings for the business page seems to be a tad all over the place. You literally have to run a google search to try to find out where things are.
- Business page layouts are very basic and leave users with no room for personalization.
- Hashtags with posts are useless.
- Your best chance at getting your content noticed by the public is to either pay for ads or to tag accounts with a large following, in hopes that your content will interest them.
- Messages sent to a Business page do not come up on phone instantly, so unless you notice that you have a message your statistics on the reply rate begins to fall.
- Advertising does not work exactly as predicted. Regardless how specific I was with the audience, I ended up having responses from users which do not fit my targeted audience in any way. Although this may increase my engagement rate right now, in the long term is useless for me. You want the right type of people to connect to your work, not just users who may like or follow your page once and you never hear from them again.
- Facebook began allowing small businesses to use stories, although not too clear on the settings of the stories. You cannot view the list of viewers of your story, which is a complete flop for your understanding of who gets to view your material.
- If using ads, you can advertise on Facebook and Instagram at the same time. You can also preview the ad on how it will come out on different devices, on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook in my opinion has become a virtual directory. If your business is not registered on it, it is like it does not exist. So being on Facebook, places you on the map, but when it comes to growing in engagement, then you enter a virtual battle against the current, in which, unless you pay you won’t get exposure. And even if you get exposure, you may not get the exposure you aim for. Keep in mind that Facebook is there to make money out of the ads you place, so the platform does not really care about your long term engagement level, as a matter of fact, it is in their interest to keep you paying for exposure as opposed to you gaining exposure organically.
- No support system.
- Shadow ban. A term few have heard, some have experienced, whilst many more have no idea what it is because Instagram makes a great job at not providing precise information on the subject. A shadow ban is basically a ban Instagram places on your account, without notifying you. From my experience, I got shadow banned because I had used a broken hashtag with some of my posts. Information on Shadow ban and Broken Hashtags further below.
- The use of only the heart, NEW emoji, sending direct links to posted content in DMs can also make your conversation face the risk of having Instagram ban that conversation.
- Instagram, like Facebook is pushing towards business accounts and paid ads.
- Engagement levels are higher on a personal profile which lacks business functions such as statistics.
- Instagram has no guidelines on raising engagement levels and when changes are made, does not inform the public. And changes are constantly made.
- Regardless how good your content may be, if you don’t have a high following, it may not get enough exposure to build engagement and following.
- URL link in stories seem to only be available to business accounts with a following over 10K.
- Some accounts are given the option to share an Instagram story on their Facebook, I have checked all my settings and I do not have that option and Instagram does not seem to be very clear on who gets this option and who doesn’t.
- Instagram stories camera switch from front to back camera, I use an Android and I still don’t have the option to switch from front to back camera while recording a story.
- Not openly said but mentioned by users, if you post too much or too little, your content will be pushed aside and users will not see it. It is suggested to post once a day and to stick to your calendar to get the most of your post.
- Instagram prioritizes accounts which use stories.
- Great new function to save your stories on your profile.
- Recently, they have improved their statistical breakdown on every post (View Insights on individual posts), which also shows that the least amount of engagement actually comes from hashtags.
Reasons for a shadow ban:
- Use of broken hashtags
- Over usage of the same hashtags. Instagram considers that as spam.
- Usage of the maximum amount of hashtags allowed per post (30 hashtags in caption) Instagram considers that as spam.
- Following and/ or unfollowing large number of users in a short amount of time. Instagram considers that as spam.
- Usage of just emojis, commenting with less than 3 words or copy and pasting the same comment in many different posts in a short amount of time. Instagram considers that as spam.
What are Broken hashtags?
These are hashtags which for whatever reason have been black listed and banned by Instagram… Another piece of information they are not too open about announcing to the public. So, unless you do regular checks on banned hashtags, or run tests on the hashtags you use, you will basically never know. The following are hashtags that have been banned by Instagram:
- #beaty (no this is not misspelt)
(I have checked each one and confirm that to this date they are still black listed).
How to check broken or black listed hashtags:
- Search for hashtag in the TAGS section on Instagram search (make sure your account is not following the hashtag).
- You will notice that the search shows you Top Posts followed by Most Recent. A broken hashtag will only have Top Posts followed by the following message:
“Recent posts from #_______ are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines.”
Test it yourself: Search #beautyblogger (a banned hashtag) VS. #beautybloggers (a good hashtag).
Why are some hashtags banned by Instagram?
According to certain sources, Instagram is trying to filter certain material from users, such as child pornography and other explicit material. Users have been uploading such material and using innocent or well known hashtags in order for Instagram not to ban their material and accounts, hence why Instagram has banned certain innocent yet very popular hashtags.
What does a Shadow ban do?
It does not allow your content to be shown to the public. Basically if your account is shadow banned, the only people who can see and engage to your content are your followers. If you have 1 broken hashtag amongst others, your material will not turn up in the search of any of the other hashtags either.
How to check if your account has been shadow banned:
- Ask a friend or use your private account and make sure that this account DOES NOT follow the account you want to check the shadow ban on. So if you want to run a shadow ban test on your business account, make sure your private account is not a follower.
- Search one of the hashtags that were used with the last posted content by the account you are checking. It is best to check as soon as the content is published, as there are countless photos being posted every moment on Instagram, so run the test as soon as something has been posted.
- During the search from the account that does not follow the account you are checking, check if that image showed up in the Most Recent images of the hashtag. If it doesn’t, then the account has a shadowban.
Just in case, I would suggest to check 2 or 3 of the hashtags that were used with the image posted.
What to do if you are Shadow banned?
Once again, no guidelines what so ever. It is more of a trial and error. I lifted my shadow ban by firstly finding out which hashtag was broken, secondly deleting the hashtag from captions or entire comments which contained the hashtag, from ALL my content and finally completely logging out of Instagram from all devices, disconnecting all my programmes which study my analytics, and going dark for 3 entire days. No posting, no liking, not even being logged into my account. That seemed to work for me.
3 days being logged out of my account caused my engagement level to fall. When I logged back in, I pretty much had to start from scratch. 2 months in and only now has my engagement almost gotten back to what it used to be.
Instagram as well as Facebook, pushes towards business accounts and paid ads. From personal experience I can say that there is a huge difference between having a personal account and business account for your business. The engagement in a personal account is richer, however you completely lose the statistics which business accounts have. You also lose the option to URL links in stories with a personal account.
- Word limit with every post 140 characters.
- Using short and interesting tweets as well as intriguing quotes which may attract users.
- Using hashtags allows you to aim at users with similar interests.
- Retweeting is simple and retweeting someone’s post or having your tweet retweeted, helps get traffic to your profile.
- Finding and connecting to people in your industry is very easy.
- For bloggers, there are many profiles which connect bloggers.
- Mentioning blogger groups helps you get recognized by brands and other bloggers.
- Using great images helps attract users to your profile.
- Asking simply questions to users may help you attract users to your tweet, as well as build a connection with users.
- Allows a little more personalization than other platforms.
- Hard to build an ongoing communication channel with users.
Photo Credit: photo by Richard Goodwin
- Acts more of a portfolio, and not a platform in which users may interact with one another freely.
- With the use of boards, you can easily section off your work. I mainly use 1 board for every separate blog post and I have other boards which cover general topics.
- Whenever you pin a post to one of your boards, it automatically gets shared to your followers.
- Users are mainly females.
- Your material has a chance at appearing on Google image search which can drive traffic towards your account, unlike another other social media platform.
- Photo does not always upload when you attempt to tag an account when sharing through mobile.
- Unable to tag another account when editing the image description on desktop. Tagging other accounts only works when you add the tag as a comment and when using the @ and start typing the account name, the account does not appear in the drop down menu, so you have to type in the full name of the account and only when you publish the comment, does it actually create a proper tag to that account.
- Allows you to direct traffic to your chosen URL (whether it is another social media account or your personal blog). When adding an image, you can add a URL to divert traffic. However, this can only be when you are using a PC. It does not give you that option when you upload images on mobile.
- When you Share images from a site, or your blog, it does automatically add the URL of the post or site from where you shared the image.
There are certain applications which give you the option for cross posting, Buffer being one of the well known ones. I personally don’t use any of these applications, as it has been mentioned that certain social media platforms do not like it when users link third party applications to their platform. The only third party applications I use are analytical apps and influencer platforms which for now, the social media platforms give access to.
Otherwise, I upload content manually as each platform requires it’s individual approach.
- Facebook: Mainly tags.
- Instagram: Tags and hashtags.
- Pinterest: Hashtags and tags when needed, only in the comment section and through a PC.
- Twitter: Carefully chosen hashtags and tags, due to the limitation of character limit.
Overall, in my opinion, it is a very big risk to depend on social media platforms, especially if you are only focusing one just 1 or 2. I would highly suggest to focus mainly on your website and use social media as an extension to your website.
From my experience, you can spend countless hours trying to understand the platforms, and in just a simple click, that platform can change its algorithm and the rules will all change and you have to start understanding what’s going on from scratch.
It is best to focus on your own website which you have control over, and adjust to the platforms gradually. I have also decided to go into different social media platforms, as each has it’s own audience on a global level. I have worked with Facebook and Instagram from day one, and have only began to work with Twitter and Pinterest just over a month ago. Although I am still in the beginning stages of understanding Twitter and Pinterest, I can tell you from now that I am very happy to have began working with them, as I have been introduced to a different audience.
Keep in mind that for Social Media platforms every account is not treated the same. The bigger your following and engagement, the more preference your content is given. The quality of your content does not determine whether or not it will appear in the audiences’ homepage. So unless you have a huge following of around 1 million and over, you are not playing on equal ground, in fact, you are constantly fighting against the current.
Whether we like it or not, social media is a huge part of our lives, however that does not mean that we are stuck. You are still free to create your own space and decide how things are presented and attract the right kind of people. It may take time, surely, but as a well known saying goes “Anything worth having, is worth waiting for”.
Till then, keep updated with the latest changes and enjoy these platforms 😉
Thank you for reading & if any of you would like to share any further insight or experiences with any of the mentioned social media platforms, or others, feel free to comment below 🙂
Bonus article is for those who want to find out 10 things to look into when considering becoming a blogger.
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