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The illusion of social media

Posted in the following categories: Decision Making

People are raving about Threads, the Twitter-like social media site that gained more than 100 million sign-ups within days.

It’s the hottest thing in the social-media world.

Meanwhile, other social-media platforms are losing steam. Twitter users have been leaving the platform in droves. Average engagement on Instagram has plummeted. Overall viewership on TikTok is down, and the company faces the possibility of an outright ban in the United States.

Some of today’s hottest services might feel like permanent fixtures, but they’re not. Remember Friendster, AOL Instant Messenger, and Myspace? All of these services were huge—until they weren’t. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Yet, lured by convenience and the promise of quick gains, so many brands continue to lean heavily on these digital giants as their sole avenue to connect with their audience.

Here’s the problem.

When you use a social-media platform to build your audience, you make a Faustian bargain. In exchange for a snazzy design and a convenient audience that frequents the platform at all hours of the day, you agree to give up ALL control to an intermediary. This intermediary dictates who sees your posts and how often, and it can unilaterally change policies, tweak algorithms, and generally do whatever it wants—even if it puts an end to your business or influence.

What’s more, engagement on social media is often superficial. Of the 95 million photos and videos posted every day on Instagram and the 500 million tweets shared every day, how many linger beyond a fraction of a second?

We look, like, and promptly forget. And yet, we keep chasing these fleeting ideas that have the shortest of lives.

For many of these reasons, when I started my own platform back in 2016, I decided to create my own blog and grow an email list. I host this blog on my own website—and not on a third-party platform like Medium or Substack. I send a weekly newsletter to my own email list—and don’t allow an intermediary to dictate the terms of my relationship with my audience (or worse, take it away altogether).

Yes, the web and email seem unexciting. They’ve been around forever—and that’s exactly the point. The services I use to host my platform aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. People are quitting social-media platforms, but no one is quitting email.

What’s more, engagement is far higher with well-written emails. My open rates—the percentage of people who open and read my weekly emails—range from 50-55%. (Compare that to Instagram, where many of your followers will never even see your posts). My conversion rates—the percentage of people who buy my books or sign up for my courses—are 10x higher than what you’d typically find on social media.

I’m not saying you should shun social media entirely. If it suits you, there’s nothing wrong with using social media as one tool among many—as long as you diversify your tools and invest primarily in services that have stood the test of time.

But relying entirely on Threads to access your followers is the social-media equivalent of investing all your money in the newest cryptocurrency. You’re courting catastrophe.

If your goal is to create things that last, don’t chase the latest fad. Instead, focus on things that age well.

In Awaken Your Genius, I call this idea “the George Clooney effect.”

For some things in life, aging is more of an asset than a liability.

P.S. Interested in sponsoring this newsletter that reaches 45,000 engaged readers every Thursday? If so, fill out this form here. I will only consider inquiries from brands and businesses that are making a positive impact in the world.

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