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Why the recent changes to Twitter API changed this social media manager

January 5, 2016

twitter and social media freelancers and community managers You’d think with a title like that, this blog would be some nerdy undertaking about open source and why it’s essential to the internet. That social media freelancers and community managers everywhere should rail against the removal of API.

I could advocate for that. But I do also think that API and open source help the web, but it’s OK for a company to pull back on occasion.

What I actually want to talk about is how the changes to Twitter API changed the way I view my business, not just as a community manager but also as someone who talks to (and helps) social media freelancers of all kinds on a regular basis.

And it’s probably going to be closer to something on the psychology spectrum than the geek side.

ANWAY, here goes.

Twitter, I think I can speak for social media freelancers when I felt something close to hurt

Twitter has been copping flack for being a rubbish social media, overrun with too much broadcast and not enough conversation. I think I too am guilty of this.

But Twitter and I have been friends since 2010. I genuinely enjoy Twitter. I like the fact you can find interesting information mingled in with people’s strange musings.

The low barrier nature of Twitter means you can talk to anyone you need to. I do still get annoyed at people who don’t play the game properly and respond back if you aren’t cool enough. But that’s by the by.

I do well on Twitter because I live in a world of one liners scrawled in journals and littering the walls. I’m a rusty old poet who loves playing with words. I am essentially looking for the one watertight quip that sums up all there is. So working alongside people who are restricted to mere characters to make a point is exciting.

Twitter gets me business because I spend time sharing articles. I can spend time lifting up other people’s lids. And joining in everything from political debates to geeky community chatter.

And Twitter’s counter of how popular my blogs are has always been a badge of honour.

At the risk of sounding like a bad community manager, I haven’t ever gotten excited by Facebook likes. The general “this is for everyone and everyone is here” approach doesn’t satiate the rebel in me. I also have a love hate relationship with my own Facebook page.

I do better at my client’s Facebook pages because I love playing in those playgrounds.

When it’s me, I like to think I am at the back of the bus with the rebel kids again. It’s too straighty 180. Too many parents are around.

No, you don’t get it with Twitter either. But there is a closer approximation to that there. It’s not an every person platform. And the fact some people think its dead or boring or rubbish or whatever gives me a secret joy.

So yes, I was concerned by the wiping of my website credibility with the changes to the Twitter API. I have some hell popular items on my website that now barely look like something from amateur hour.

You got rid of my street cred, Twitter. And I was frankly, annoyed.

That light bulb moment reporting level

Clearly, I took the news hard because I wondered if other social media would betray me like this in future.

I mean, GooglePlus’ new refresh has killed a lot of people off. If GooglePlus was in an episode of House, I doubt you’d hear Hugh Laurie say GooglePlus is dead. But he’d definitely allude to it circling the drain.

“Social media,” I thought, “Are you betraying me?”

I’ve seen IRC come and go. BBS’s and MUDS and MOOs. It didn’t mean that social media was dead. It just changed what it was doing. I was cranky that a social media I enjoyed was changing what wanted from it.

Son of a gun, I’d suckered myself with vanity metrics!

I know from dealing with community management for clients – and for myself- that the vanity metrics don’t make the sales. The connections do. And that while I was losing a vanity metric, I was actually gaining something important.

A move away from the vanity level and the superficial into having to dig into data again.

Twitter is about distribution. And this won’t change. Twitter is about conversation. And you get rewarded for the effort you put in. The more people who are jack of it disappear, the more the audience that remains is into what is happening.

I can get my reporting from Google Analytics and measure the real change.

The ultimate social media manager light bulb

Problems are the mother of invention. Sand that makes the pearl. The rubbing bit in new sneakers.

Little social media freelancers, gather around. There are a few things to remember from any kind of social media change:

  • You never own the platform. I am sure people weren’t expecting MySpace or Bebo or Posterous were going to leave. But they did. Or they became weird zombie versions of themselves. You have to do what you can to encourage those fans and followers to your website, email list and properties you own
  • You’re on rented space and its lease is subject to change. Social media platforms are businesses. So they will legacy features, introduce payments and stomp on organic reach any time they choose.
  • Migration should be the aim of the game. Not just because you lose features or access. What you want is to build a connection and encourage customers to follow you. Social media is about having a social conversation. It isn’t about casually keeping that relationship going. Let’s get serious about our customers. Invite them into other places. Move it from the meet-market and go steady with the people who pay your way.

Finally, social media has changed. It’s matured and so should we.

The techniques I applied 5 years ago to get along with the major social medias wouldn’t make a lick of difference now. The cost of ads and so forth across the platforms are not showing brilliant returns. A lot of the plug and play magic is gone.

We need to work harder. We need to work harder because the platforms are trying to monetise while the audience is changing. The early adopters are off playing with raw social media. While the middle tier adopters are so fatigued by social media, it’s going to take a fairly big push to get them to cross over to yet another platform.

There’s something to celebrate in this because it means the people who do care will care enough to follow along. “Oooh shiny” is no longer enough.

And in between are the businesses and the community managers. Followed by the social media freelancers. The hackers and slashers using social media to get stories out there. The people who are determined to keep working in the community space.

I had forgotten that social media is exactly like real life. That the real estate stops being appealing as life changes or the boredom sets in. And that having large numbers in popularity counts doesn’t account for actual usefulness in the scheme of things.

But most of all, I forgot that the best part about social media and online communities is that you can play and invent. You don’t have to always suck up the rule book and spit it back out.

Popular is boring. But connected is not. Community is not.

So thank you, Twitter. Thank you for taking away your metrics. Because now I can start enjoying social media and what it can bring without beating my head into the ROI pillow.

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