The 9 Must-Read Social Media Articles of 2014

By Matt Foulger

Social

Image by Florian Klauer via Unsplash
Image by Florian Klauer via Unsplash

We’ve all been there. Your co-workers are standing around the water cooler, engaged in an animated conversation. You approach, hoping to chat about the latest episode of the Serial podcast. Then somebody asks, “Hey Matt, what do you think about Facebook Zero?”

“Umm, it’s delicious?”

Blank stares.

“I can’t believe it doesn’t have any calories? What are we talking about, again?”

Next time, don’t leave yourself out of the loop. Use this handy cheat sheet to catch up on nine of the absolute best social media articles, reports, and essays from 2014. When you get back to the water cooler in 2015, you’ll have something to talk about other than your mother-in-law’s fruitcake.

Here are the 9 best articles about social media from 2014

Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach

Social@Ogilvy

The most important development for social media marketers in 2014 was undoubtedly the decline of organic reach on Facebook. In February, Social@Ogilvy reported that organic reach for Facebook pages with over 500,000 Likes had dropped to just 2%. The agency argued that businesses were rapidly approaching a watershed moment they called Facebook Zero, the point when organic reach becomes nonexistent.

Marketers have had to reconsider how Facebook fits into the mix of paid, owned, and earned media. When organic reach was high, brands could treat their Facebook pages as “owned” media, but those days are over. Look for 2015 to be the year of paid social media, as brands and publishers increasingly use promoted posts and social ads to reach audiences on Facebook and Twitter.

Why It Might Be Time to Completely Change Your Social Media Strategy

Jay Baer at Convince & Convert

Jay Baer offers a controversial solution to what he calls the “Reachpocalypse” on Facebook and social media in general. He argues that the decline of organic reach on social media requires marketers to adopt a “shotgun” strategy, which involves sending more messages in more places. His suggested approach emphasizes quantity over quality, which sounds like blasphemy to most social media professionals and content marketers.

But the key to Baer’s strategy is to connect with each fan in as many social channels as possible, rather than building up a massive audience in one place. According to Baer, the most important metric for social media marketers is now the average number of connections per fan. Whether you’re inclined to agree, Baer addresses issues that will be critical to social media strategy in 2015. Facebook might be the first social network to reduce organic reach, but it definitely won’t be the last.

Why Twitter and Facebook Suddenly Want to Handle Your Money

Ryan Holmes at The Wall Street Journal

In this piece for the Wall Street Journal, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes explains why the introduction of “buy” buttons in Twitter and Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg for payment technology in social media. For now, the social networks are still experimenting with ecommerce and finding out how to bring one-click payments into your streams. But what happens if Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks get tired of being the middlemen for the credit card companies and other payment processors? Credit card interchange fees represent a $40 billion industry in the U.S. alone, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the biggest social networking sites start looking for a slice of that pie.

The social payments ecosystem continues to evolve rapidly. Less than two months after Holmes’ article was published, Snapchat announced Snapcash, a partnership with Square that allows its users to send money directly to friends.

Fanboys: Have you ever loved something so much it hurt?

Lessley Anderson at The Verge

Why are fanboys so maniacally loyal to their favorite brands? And what compels them to write hateful, insulting Tweets about their rivals? To find out, Lessley Anderson interviews several fanboys who are on the front lines of the most vicious flamewar of them all: the three-way struggle for smartphone supremacy between Google, Apple, and Microsoft devotees. She discovers that every fanboy is unique, like a precious, angry snowflake. The path from casual fan to obsessive zealot turns out to be a highly personal experience.

However, the article also suggests that most of us have more in common with fanboys than we might readily admit. Whether it’s religion, politics, or a sports team, we use social media to rally around a common interest with like-minded people. It’s easy to get trapped inside an echo chamber, where all conflicting views are filtered out. Anderson’s revealing look at fanboys is a cautionary reminder that social media should broaden your perspective, not close it.

I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me

Matt Honan at Wired

Wired’s Mat Honan puts Facebook’s algorithm—and his sanity—to the test by liking literally everything he sees on Facebook for 48 hours. Every status update, every shared article, and every brand (including Hootsuite, which was nice of him). The results are hilarious, horrifying, and illuminating. “By liking everything,” he writes, “I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked.”

BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti Goes Long

Felix Salmon at Medium

When it comes to viral media, nobody does it better than Buzzfeed. The site has not only mastered the art of the “listicle”, the overwhelmingly popular article format you’re reading right now, but the powerful psychology of identity and relatedness that inspires people to click (and share) content. In an epic interview with Felix Salmon at Medium, Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti shares his thoughts on a broad range of topics, including network theory, experimentation in the media industry, and his experience at the Huffington Post before he moved on to Buzzfeed. It’s a dense, thoughtful, and very long read, which is ironic considering Peretti’s predilection for bite-sized content. However, it’s well worth your time if you’re in the business of sharing.

What Is Public?

Anil Dash at Medium

In this thought-provoking essay, Anil Dash takes issue with publishers and technologists who believe any social media message that is not explicitly private is fair game to share without consent. Dash regrets that “there is no apparent debate over whether it’s any different to embed a tweet from the President of the United States or from a vulnerable young activist who might not have anticipated her words being attached to her real identity, where she can be targeted by anonymous harassers.”

According to Dash, most human behaviour is “neither clearly public nor strictly private”, but something in between. He challenges us to create a more nuanced definition of “public” that better reflects the world we live in. In his view, journalists and bloggers have an ethical obligation to consider the consequences of broadcasting someone’s semi-public words to a massive audience. His essay is a must-read for anyone who has embedded a Tweet in a blog post or article.

Why Facebook is for ice buckets, Twitter is for Ferguson

John McDermott at Digiday

In early August, social media in the United States was taken over by two simultaneous sensations: the Ice Bucket Challenge, and the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Yet as John McDermott shows, each story played out very differently on Facebook and Twitter. You may recall that your Facebook feed was practically drowning in ice water at the height of the trend, while nearly everyone in your Twitter feed was embroiled in the Ferguson controversy.

In 2014, Facebook and Twitter became increasingly similar in form (just look at your feeds side by side), but this episode demonstrates that they remain far apart in function. For the time being, Facebook is primarily a place where people like to connect with friends and family, share photos and videos, and relax. Its algorithmically curated News Feed does a great job of surfacing highly engaging content, but can’t match Twitter for real time discussion around breaking news stories. In the year ahead, we may see the two networks converge further, as Facebook tweaks its service to become more of a news provider and Twitter considers using algorithms to curate your timeline. Stay tuned.

There’s a Social Network That Costs $9,000 to Join

Jules Suzdaltsev at VICE

Netropolitan, a social network for the 1%, is betting that wealthy individuals can’t wait to socialize online about a common interest: money. It operates like a country club, with an upfront lifetime membership cost of $9,000 plus a recurring annual fee of $3,000. Jules Suzdaltsev of VICE interviewed Netropolitan’s founder, James Touchi-Peters, to find out how the site works, why it exists, and if socialites really need to be any more social. The interview touches on several key issues that every new social network must deal with, including security, privacy, content guidelines, and yes, monetization.

Many specialized networks based on common interests have cropped up over the years, with varying degrees of success. Some are still going strong, such as SERMO, the social network for physicians. Many others haven’t fared so well. A recent example is ReaganBook, a social network for American political conservatives that was shut down shortly after launch. And who can forget HAMSTERster, the now-defunct social network for pet hamsters? It remains to be seen whether Netropolitan’s business model will help it succeed where others have been left spinning their wheels.

Do you have a favorite social media article from 2014? Let us know in the comments!

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