ARE PLATFORMS SHADOWBANNING SUPPLEMENT COMPANIES?

by Christian Duque

Social media is a great resource for fitness enthusiasts, competitors, & businesses catering to the industry. Interactive platforms bring people together from all over the world, spanning all age ranges, with unparalleled retention. Most people don’t buy magazines anymore, they don’t spend hours on message boards, and they don’t even watch much tv or listen to the radio. If you were to poll most young people, young adults, and even people up to middle-age, you’ll find that they spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. News apps are also springing up, competing for hits and traffic. These include Tiktok, Likee, and of course, Snapchat.

People don’t even really use their phones to make calls anymore. A growing number of smartphone users opt to use WhatsApp as opposed to their own cell phone carriers to make calls and send/receive texts. This is why Facebook jumped at the opportunity to purchase it, as well as Instagram. On the flipside, Google wasted no time in buying video-sharing giant, Youtube. Although television may have become a relic of the past, millions of people are glued to YouTube, subscribing to their favorite channels, leaving comments, and sharing the content they enjoy watching, to their own social media platforms. The internet has come a very long way from Yahoo Chatrooms and AOL Instant Messenger to becoming a way of life. Desktops are rarely purchased for leisure and laptops are also losing favor as younger generations prefer the convenience and portability of smaller and smaller devices like tablets and large cell phones. With consumers constantly engaged on social interactive platforms, businesses want to get as much reach as possible.

We’ve often heard how the fitness industry is inundated with products of varying degrees of quality. Some companies go bust even before the ink on their articles of incorporation dries. This is because it’s very easy to design a label, buy tubs, and fill containers with bulk powders. Sometimes, the ingredients used may even be top notch, but without the ability to get products into the hands of consumers, even the most streamlined business model will fail. Advertising has totally changed.

Passive ads do little to nothing. For example, buying banner ads on websites, whether they blink, are animated, or turn in circles, will be ignored by many consumers. They don’t care what’s in the banner ads, they could care less about discount codes, and the last thing they’re going to do is click on an anchored link that’s going to take them away from the page they want to stay on. Remember, businesses that get consumers to their websites, are able to do so because of featured articles, interviews, or possibly training or posing videos. With so much going on throughout the worldwide web, it takes a lot more than a great deal to get someone to click on a link. Therefore, whatever has sparked the viewer’s interest, brings them there, but there’s no guarantee they’ll stay for long. Internet users today don’t like to stay put for long – there’s just too much going on. This is why website traffic – across the boards – is down, but people will spend hours on end on social media. It’s a totally different animal.

Ideally, social media would be neutral. Of course, they’d combat illegal content, threats of violence, and/or violating others’ privacy, but these platforms have their own agenda. We’ve seen what Twitter has done with Tweets about the 2020 election. They actively censor what they deem to be inaccurate and there’s really no way to appeal their decision. If the President of the United States can get silenced, what do you think will happen to businesses? On the flipside, no one is forced to be on Instagram or Youtube, but if you want to develop a following or successfully take your products to market, then being on these sites is absolutely imperative. Unfortunately, advertising isn’t simply about digging into your pockets and putting cash on the table. There’s also no real science for moving up the results on searches and/or paying to appear in suggested sales. Maybe once upon a time, but certainly not today.

What’s nerve wracking for marketing executives is the fact that some computer geek or pothead surfer might be making major decisions that could impact high dollar ad campaigns. Let’s say a company wants to invest $50,000 – $100,000 on an ad campaign for Facebook and Instagram. Let’s say they’ve already spent $10,000 on athletes, photographers, and professionally designed graphics. With all that on the line, a company is ready to push the hell out of a new product line, but the whole thing is deemed to go against a platform’s corporate culture. And just like that, the whole campaign, which might be perfectly fine (even by the platform’s own Terms of Service), goes nowhere. If companies insist and try to find ways to tweak the campaign and/or bypass the decision, they can find themselves shadowbanned.

This also happens if a platform finds a perfectly acceptable campaign to be excessive. Imagine that; a company could get in trouble for posting content that’s totally in line with the social media platform’s guidelines. Once a company is shadowbanned, their ad money is accepted and it seems like their ads are running, but in reality, only a fraction of consumers might see them. The company won’t appear in suggested sale boxes and not only won’t they appear at the top of search results – they may not appear at all. Imagine if a consumer typed in a specific company and product in a search bar, but the search not only didn’t find it, but populated the results field with other companies and products than what was looked for. If shoppers can’t find you, they can’t make purchases. Truthfully, this kind of ban shouldn’t even be legal, but these platforms are totally unregulated. They can do whatever they want and they’re so critical to doing business that companies have little recourse against them.

Not only are companies SOL when it comes to shadowbans, but they don’t get any notice when they’re coming, why they’re being applied, and/or even for how long they last. Companies are largely in the dark, but I wouldn’t say consumers are in a much better position, either. Social media sites are much like casinos – the house always wins. It’s not about the companies that advertise or the consumers who join to share their content; ultimately, it’s all about the sites that run the show. They control what political messages get through, which companies sell the most, and they get to dictate trends that are consistent with their agenda. They can have a direct hand in everything from what people like to wear, what they like to eat, and when/where they spend their money. There have been studies where platforms reward content about veganism, but punish content related to firearms or tax cuts. Some businesses literally spam internet users, bombarding them with unsolicited DM’s, tracking them with cookies, and failing to remove them from mailing lists; however, no matter how many times these companies get reported, they continuously get a pass from the platforms they’re on. Why? Who the hell knows.

I love writing informative articles. It’s great to read a story where you learn something; where you know more about a topic than when you started reading. Sadly, there’s no rhyme or reason to why social media platforms shadowban businesses. It’s a whole new day and age to take products to market. The more you try to study the logic of social media monitors and/or try to understand the various logarithms, the more confused you’ll get. Advertising, today, seems to be all about trial and error. You win some, you lose many.

I hope you enjoyed reading my article, here, at Iron Magazine. Do you think social media platforms are out of control? What measures, if any, do you think should be taken? Should the government step in or is there already too much government control?

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