May 4, 2023
The Evolution of Social Media: Shifting from Follower Count to Shares
Social media platforms have undergone significant changes in the way they operate over the past decade. As platforms have grown and matured, they have increasingly emphasized engagement metrics such as likes, comments, and shares to determine the relevance and popularity of a user’s content. Let’s explore the evolution of social media platforms, focusing on the shifts from follower count to likes and comments, and finally to shares.
The Rise of Follower Count
In the early days of social media, follower count was a key metric used by platforms to determine the reach and visibility of a user’s content. This was particularly true on platforms like Twitter, where the number of followers a user had was seen as an important indicator of their popularity and influence. Twitter is going through its own myriad of changes right now, but this was also quite true of Instagram in its early days as well. Thus grew the popularity of influencers and influencer marketing. Let’s keep that in mind as we move forward and look at the changes to what metrics platforms deem “important.”
Social media platforms kept growing and becoming more sophisticated. With that, they began to place less emphasis on follower count and more emphasis on engagement metrics like likes and comments. This shift was driven by a desire to create a more engaging and interactive platform that prioritized high-quality content and user engagement (Ghose, 2018). The platforms wanted to measure success in a way that accurately measured influence and a creator’s ability to cultivate community.
Likes and Comments: The New Metrics of Success
As social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram began to mature, they placed increasing emphasis on engagement metrics like likes and comments. These metrics were seen as a more accurate measure of a user’s popularity and influence, as they reflected the level of engagement and interaction between users. Bot accounts began to infiltrate platforms also, helping lead to this shift in algorithms. Bots typically do not interact with posts, especially in the way real humans do. Platforms wanted to reward creators for taking the time and making the effort to grow real communities with real people.
Likes and comments also had significant psychological and emotional impacts on users, serving as a form of validation and self-esteem. As a result, platforms began to prioritize these metrics in their algorithms, using them to determine the relevance and visibility of a user’s content (DeVito, 2020). This is most certainly the era of social media that most people are used to living in and derive many beliefs of how social works for them still. However, a shift has been occurring.
The Shift to Shares
In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the way social media platforms prioritize metrics. Instead of prioritizing likes and comments, platforms are increasingly focusing on shares as a measure of a user’s popularity and influence.
Shares are seen as a more valuable metric than likes and comments, as they reflect a user’s willingness to vouch for the quality and relevance of the content. When a user shares content, they are essentially endorsing it, and this endorsement can help the content reach a wider audience. A share from one post on an Instagram story, for instance, immediately puts that post in front of hundreds or thousands of more viewers. In a world where organic content is difficult to reliably make an impact, creating sharable and savable content must take precedence on the organic side of things.
This shift towards shares is being driven by a desire to create a more engaging and interactive platform that prioritizes high-quality content and user engagement. By prioritizing shares, platforms are encouraging users to create content that is more shareable and relevant to their audience, ultimately creating a more engaging and satisfying user experience (Chaffey, 2021). Creators and brands have mastered the art of interaction and growing community—but is the content adding something? Is it valuable? This is what platforms want to measure and reward as they move forward in this “third wave” of social media.
The Impact on Brands
These shifts in social media metrics have significant implications for brands that prioritize social. As platforms have shifted away from follower count and towards likes, comments, and shares, brands have had to adapt their strategies to remain relevant and visible.
Brands that continue to solely rely on follower count as a measure of success may find it increasingly challenging to reach their audience as platforms continue to prioritize engagement metrics like shares. To remain relevant, brands must choose to focus on creating high-quality, shareable content that resonates with their audience and encourages that type of engagement (Hudson, 2021).
This move towards shares also presents new opportunities for brands to experiment with new tactics and strategies on social media. By creating highly shareable content that resonates with their audience, brands, and agencies can potentially reach new audiences and increase their overall visibility on social media (Chaffey, 2021). The type of content that has worked in the past may not be as effective in today’s algorithms. This frees up brands to try new things, be experimental, and show off some personality on the internet.
As social media platforms continue to shift their algorithms towards engagement metrics like shares, it is more important than ever for brands to stay up-to-date with these changes. Luckily for you, we here at Creative Energy are doing just that—for you. By staying ahead of these shifts, we’re able to help our clients create those highly shareable content pieces that resonate with audiences and increase overall visibility on social media. We help you build that cult-like following that can change your business.
As social media continues to evolve, it is essential for brands and agencies to remain adaptable and responsive to these changes. We get the nuances of social media algorithms and can’t wait to help brands like yours stay ahead of the curve and maintain a competitive edge in today’s digital landscape.