5 Things We Wish Social Media Companies Would Do

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on March 5, 2024.

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Yes, we get it, social media is pretty terrible right now.

From jumping through all the hoops to low quality content always seeming to thrive, there is a lot to hate about social networks as a creator.

For bloggers and creators reading this, odds are good that this will feel like we are preaching to the choir here. As much as we want you to chime in and agree with us, we have to admit, this post is not just for you.

Ideally, this one is for anyone who works for a social media company who may stumble upon us because we have some things you need to read. We would send this one privately, but you also don't make it easy to submit feedback. So a public lashing it is.

Predictive Algorithms Stink – Show Us Who We Follow

Crystal Ball

I'm writing this one in February 2024, during the month of Facebook's 20th anniversary- a network I've been on since the day my university got access to it.

The birth of social media was a great revolution to stay connected with friends, family, and brands we wanted to follow online in one central location and literally changed the world as we know it. On Facebook, it was for our personal connections. On Twitter, it was for talking to everyone (friend or otherwise). On Instagram, it was for photos. On YouTube, it was for videos. On Google, it was for the best website for any given query. And so on.

Cut to 20 years later, and these networks are all TikToknot what they were originally about. 

Between all the advances in algorithms, AI, data collection, predictive analysis, and the like, my feeds on virtually every social network have stopped being what I want to see and replaced with what an algorithm thinks I want to see.

These are not the same thing.

At some point, my feeds have stopped being filled with the people and pages I spent years following and are now almost exclusively posts from 3rd party pages that an algorithm thinks I would like instead. Unfortunately, me slowing down on a friend's meme does not mean I want to see more memes from random pages I've never heard of. It means I want to see more from that friend and, perhaps secondary, memes shared by that friend in particular (everyone should have a meme friend, by the way).

In the algorithmic world, you've set up a system of data collection where every move you make on social media influences what you see to provide more of it. I'm okay with this to a degree, but the minute you cut out my friends, family, and pages that I have quite literally asked to see, we have a problem.

So, cool it with the suggested content. I really just want to see the content I asked for the vast majority of the time. And, as a creator, I also would like the people who opted in to see my content, too- it really is two sides of the same coin.

Giving users what they told you they want seems like a win-win here.

Ads Are Fine, if Relevant

Make Advertising Great Again

If there is one element of search and social media that I truly do not find offputting, it is the abundance of ads you litter your sites with. Really!

Look, everyone gets it, you have to make money. I make money via ads on my sites, and you, 100%, should make money from them too. I get that prime placement at the top of feeds or SERPs will be sacrificed to paying customers. I really, really do.

But, much like the recommended content issues above, ads only work if you're targeting me with content I want to see. (Hmm, this sounds familiar.)

My favorite example of bad advertising often comes with travel-related content. I'll head to a major booking engine, book a stay, or, worse, go on a trip, and then days or weeks later, I'll get an ad for the place I already booked or a trip I had already taken. I'll admit that's a novel use of 3rd party data, but it is completely irrelevant for when my trip is over. You track my every move, yet don't realize this already? Okay.

Or, worse, when I am having a conversation with friends and then an ad appears based on something spoken out loud. I recall getting an ad for something along the lines of diapers once because I was with a friend talking about their kid. Cool idea, but I don't have a kid. But every time I shout “show me wine ads” into my phone, it doesn't seem to actually work despite my efforts.

I hope this kind of advertising dies with 3rd party cookies- it is horrible. 

I suppose this may be a repeat of the previous point of not wanting to see garbage in my feed, even if someone is paying for it. But, as a user, these ads are a lot like the bad “Suggested for You” content I see day in, day out. I've been telling you my interests for years, so why is it so hard to show me appropriate content that you already know I want to see?

Is the money too good? Perhaps. But the advertiser is likely throwing it away if they think I will be useful to them as a customer. I just won't be buying diapers.

This completes the circle of bad content in my feed that makes using social media practically unbearable- organic content and ads are no longer relevant!

Give Us More Feed Controls

Control Board

Now, I know what some may be thinking here, “if your feed is bad, that is on you.” Or, perhaps, “You can adjust your feed controls to manage this.” I've heard these excuses many times before, and I also don't buy the argument.

First off, feed controls are terrible. Did you know that Facebook has a control option surrounding low-quality content where the only three options are essentially show, reduce, or reduce more (with no show none option present)? Reduce is set to the default, and if my feed is considered reduced, well, ouch. Other basic control tools, like ones to Hide Content (and those similar), often seem to do little to nothing for the makeup of my feed- the next refresh still shows very similar content anyway.

Instagram does let you turn off the Suggested Feed, but only for 30 days, and it is buried within the settings button that is next to a Suggested Post only (at least, for me on an Android phone). My feed looks so much better with this toggled on, but having it expire after 30 days is not far enough.

Threads also has split streams of suggested vs following content, but it almost always seems to default on suggested, and you have to double tap the home icon (it looks like a little house) when on that tab to get the option for seeing the following filter at all. Not that intuitive, and I literally work in social media.

The only way I could get my feeds to a state I could appreciate? By manually going in and looking at a specific kind of content over and over and over again until an algorithm was apparently trained to think that I am now suddenly crazy for puppies. Look, I love puppies (who doesn't?), but that is still replacing one problem with another. At best, I still only really want to see my friend's puppies the vast majority of the time.

But even here, it is only a matter of time before my activity reverts my feed back to the same garbage I saw before.

Many of the problems here could be rectified if we, as users, had better control over how our feeds are set up. If those who like clickbait nonsense want to watch your bad Suggested for You content all day, I am in no place to judge. They should have that. If someone else only wants to see posts from their friends and pages they follow (plus ads, of course- you'll never get rid of those anyway), why not give them that option and the ability to have it be the default?

At the end of the day, social networks benefit from users being on the platform more, and forcing bad content on people who do not want it will not work for everyone.

But if you're cool with only being a service for some users, could you at least be honest about it?

Define What You Mean By High-Quality Content

Quality Paper

For the creators reading up to this point, you're probably nodding your head in agreement, if only from the angle of how our personal content is never seen while whatever nonsense we see somehow gets priority.

Complaints like these come up repeatedly, where defenders of the networks reply with “your content isn't good enough, create high quality content your readers want to see and you'll be fine!”

This brings up a very important question- are networks actually rewarding high-quality content, or do we as creators have a very different definition of what “high-quality content” means?

I believe that social networks do not believe that well-made captions, photos, and videos are quality content in a vacuum. In fact, whatever is inside your post is completely irrelevant to how you are judged as “quality.” Instead, it is how much they are clicked on or engaged with that defines them as quality to the algorithm.

Yes, you can easily get recommended in an algorithm with the 13 billionth edition of the Social Media vs Reality schtick. The first person who came up with this one absolutely should've been rewarded for a novel idea, but the 450 trillionth person to post the tired content, not so much. But, because people engage with it since it is trending, they, too, are rewarded for literally copying someone else's idea.

So it is time for you to actually admit it- do you want people to create actually good content (a la Google E-E-A-T standards), or do you simply want us to produce whatever could get the most clicks? Those are two very different things no matter how much you want to believe that they're different.

  • This algorithmic race-to-the-bottom is one of the things that legitimately worries me about Google's upcoming switch to Search Generative Experience. On one hand, they could use my actual interests and browsing history to create a pretty cool feed explicitly curated for me. On the other hand, it could swing to clickbait just like every other algorithmic-based experience out there.
  • To beat a dead horse one more time, the quality content issue could be avoided if we had better feed controls and could all just see the content we actually want to see.

Don't Punish Creators for Using Your Own Products


We should preface our final point with the fact that this one may need a tinfoil hat to appreciate, but bear with me here.

We've seen enough commentary from creators with some outlandish viewpoints of “don't use link tags in Instagram stories,” “don't post more than one Story per 24 hours,” or “publish content with no more than 3 hashtags for best performance.” Repeat ad nauseam for every small detail of every product that exists anywhere, ever.

While we'll be the first to admit that a lot of these theories are probably woefully inaccurate and likely do warrant that tinfoil hat that we warned you about at the start, the simple truth of the matter here is that most creators have some beliefs that using [insert official product in some capacity here] can directly influence reach- often negatively.

We can't say if hashtag use can influence reach or if the frequency of Story posts influences it too. But what we can say is that if it does that is incredibly shady of the social network to unveil a product, repeatedly encourage its use, and then algorithmically punish people for actually using it. Even if 99% of these theories are wrong, the 1% that could be right is still way, way too much.

Shadowbanned hashtags are a great example here of something that is generally regarded as true. Will you be warned that you're using a banned hashtag? Never. Your content just won't show up, possibly in all hashtags, simply because you used one that was banned. How are we supposed to know what ones work and what don't? You just have to wait and see, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

If you're going to keep creating products, encouraging people to use said products, but also tank their performance because you don't like the products after all, it'd be nice if you told us about that or, better, depreciated them outright. We can't read your mind here.

So are we supposed to be creating high-quality content, or clickbait? Use a ton of hashtags, or not? Are web stories in, out, or in again? Is E-E-A-T significant anymore, or is UGC via community-driven responses the flavor of the day? Do you want us to be unique and original or copy the masses because it is clickable? Can we ever actually reach our friends, followers, and subscribers, or is having a community no longer what social media is about?

Most of us are tired of jumping through the hoops- mostly because we can't even tell what hoops are real anymore.

Look, I am not asking you to tell us your algorithm's secrets here. I'm simply asking you to not keep products live that will hurt creators simply by using them. If you don't like them, kill them publicly and loudly. While I hate that Google has so many products in the Google graveyard, at least they have the courage to tell you when something is no longer useful- well, most of the time at least.

Overall, social media does not have to be such a terrible place. But it has gotten away from its roots, much to its detriment. These are just a few (of, more than likely, many things) that could really help turn social media around and make it an enjoyable place to be again.

Do you have anything you wish social companies would roll out or bring back? Comment below to share!

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