Imagine you’re a Youtuber with a pretty decent following.
Now imagine you lost that following.
Influencers on any social media platform have to rely on that platform for support. Whether it’s followers on Twitter, fans on Instagram, or loyal Tiktok audiences, the way that platform works is intrinsic to any kind of success you might have as a social media influencer. The same platform that will keep you online will keep your content visible, your fans updated whenever you post new content, and your wallet happy, if you’ve reached the point where you can monetize your platform – and that point can come sooner than you think.
So imagine you’re a Youtuber with a pretty decent following.
Now imagine that you lost that following.
That is a significant problem with being a social media influencer. We’ve gone into this a little in our previous case study for Psych2Go, but there’s more to explain.
Here’s the problem: as a social media influencer, your success is tied to the platform.
If you lose that platform, you lose your audience.
Does de-platforming really happen that often?
It happens often enough - and it happens to accounts of any size. Think of it in terms of cybercrime: how frequently do you hear about people getting hacked even if they’re not big corporate accounts with millions stored away in funds?
This is the same principle.
It happened to LinusTechTips, a YouTube account with a massive following and - crucially - connections at YouTube itself. A hacker managed to breach Linus Tech Tips’ YouTube account in March of this year, posting videos for Cryptoscams and broadcasting live. As a result, YouTube had to suspend the account to try and restore it - and that was with Linus Tech Tips’ connections.
If you’re a smaller account, or one that’s just recently hit your first milestone, that option might not be available to you. Linus Tech Tips was eventually restored - and they got it back relatively quickly, without too much damage - but others haven’t been as lucky.
Wait, but I own my own work—
Every content creator will own their work: that’s just a fact. From videos to skits to images to any other material that can go online and be traced back to you, you won’t lose the rights to your content.
But think about it in these terms: your content has to go somewhere.
When you build a following on social media, usually your audience lives on that platform itself. It might be the platform that you started out on, or a platform that has the kind of people you want to reach, or something that’s grown alongside you. For whatever reason you’re on the platform you’re on, the platform is where you communicate. It’s where you post your content. It’s where you get paid.
If you lost access to that platform, what would that look like?
Most social media creators will have audiences scattered across the entire spectrum of platforms: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. As these places become increasingly more competitive, creators have a tendency to keep a platform as their main channel, but then repost or reblog the same content on others to improve reach.
Getting banned on your main platform is a problem. If you’re lucky, then you might regain access to your platform just by speaking to customer care - sometimes, mistakes happen, and you get caught in the crossfire.
Sometimes, the causes are a little more serious, and customer care will lead nowhere. In these cases, you stand to lose not just your content, but also the audience that you spent years building up. Even if you didn’t lose access to your account, social media platforms aren’t infallible - and failure is still something that can happen to the biggest website.
Owning your content isn’t enough. You need to own the platform that it’s distributed on if you want to be 100% sure that you can still put your content up without running the risk of getting de-platformed.
This doesn’t mean buying out Twitter or Instagram or Facebook - though if you have the money, go right ahead!
It means making an app that you can have control over.
An app for your audience
Say you did get de-platformed. However many years you spent building up your audience on that particular account: gone. Your audience itself: gone. If you have other social media platforms, you can probably at least alert your audience that something has happened and that you’ll be on a different account for the time being, but rebuilding the same momentum of a popular social media account is hard - and for a lot of people, that simply doesn’t happen twice.
The alternative solution is that you build a place where your content can live independently of any social platform.
An app sounds expensive…
It’s not a solution that’s going to be cheaper than a free social media platform, but it’s safer. It’s secure. Unless the entire app ecosystem goes down - a case which is incredibly unlikely - your app is going to survive whatever happens to social media. Lost your audience? You still have the app. De-platformed? There’s still room for you on your own app.
It can be expensive. It can also be really, really cheap - far cheaper than taking the risk of putting everything in one social media basket and then having to start from scratch if the worst does happen.
What can I do with an app that I can’t do with social media?
For starters, you can have a place that your audience gathers that you control entirely.
Let’s take Twitter as an example.
If you’re popular on Twitter, you’re subject to the same whims of the platform as everyone else. That means if there’s a sudden increase in ads, your content is either getting pushed down or pushed aside, and you might need to pay more for the same opportunities to be seen. The current changes to their code heavily prioritizes accounts that have blue checkmarks, which leaves you with two options: pay for a blue verification mark (which you probably already have), or start looking at other platforms.
Building an audience on a new social media platform is difficult. Your audience might have several accounts scattered across the internet, but they probably curate each account strongly, or don’t use some as often as others.
An app makes it so that they don’t have to go digging all across the internet to try and find you. That in itself is powerful: we live and breathe in an age where the internet has become so sophisticated that if you ask a search engine a question worded vaguely, it will give you the right answer (within reason, of course: it’s code, not magic).
People like convenience. An app is convenient.
There’s another aspect to that convenience: you’ll have people’s attention whenever you want it. If your app has push notifications, your audience will get an instant alert every time you upload new content, when you decide to go live, or just to keep your fans updated on what you’re going through. With social media, those notifications can be limited, but with your own app, you can use push notifications as often as you like and send out actionable messages that make it easier for your own audience to keep track of and see your content.
Would I just repost my content on the app? How does that work?
With your app, you can do whatever you like.
Social media platforms are kind of limited in the sense that their algorithm might work against you. Depending on what one you use as your main platform, you either need to post every day, or to look into boosting and resharing, or spending a lot of time just interacting on the platform itself, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’ll cut into your content creation time.
With an app that you own, however, you can create your own content, share it, and work on building up exclusive content that you can use to grow your audience. You can have an e-commerce platform that will give you the opportunity to grow your brand further with merchandise. You can notify your audience every time you upload, and not have it get lost in the general noise of the internet.
That sounds like it’s a lot of work and effort.
No more effort than maintaining a social media account. An app that you own needs the content loaded into it, but other than that, it exists as a failsafe against the eventual collapse of whatever platform you’re using at the moment.
And social media platforms are prone to shutting down, or becoming obsolete. The companies that own them have to make money somehow, and when you’re working with huge quantities of data and people like that, usually that money making takes the platform in strange directions. MySpace, Spotify, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Mastodon: it’s all a balancing act between usable and big.
An app is slightly different. If you don’t want to load it down with ads, if you want your content to shine, if you want to have it easy to find things on: all of that is achievable. It just takes some coding, and some patience.
Is an app worth it?
If you’ve built your following up on social media to the point where you can monetise your audience, we think an app is necessary.
Think of the alternative: you lose your platform, and you start from scratch, but you can’t maintain the same momentum that led you to monetization in the first place, or you just never manage to start from scratch to begin with.
Relying on a company that is going to take a cut of your profits and might shut you off the platform is bad business. If there’s an alternative solution, like an app that you can have alongside your social media platforms, it’s worth giving it a try.