Volatility of Social Media

There’s three things you can bet on in life- death, taxes, and social media sites fading into obscurity one after the other. Eventually, every social media site will have its sundown. People said MySpace would always be the biggest platform and that AOL would be the standard.

Things change. World events happen. Billionaires get greedy.

To preface this, I was already writing this article in regards to account termination on social media platforms, effectively shutting off that line of communication for you. But with Twitter teetering ever closer to the brink of collapse each day, I’ve changed this up a bit.


Nothing lasts forever. We all know that, but it doesn’t quite hit us until, well, it hits us.

Social media platforms aren’t your friends. They’re run by corporations that are motivated to keep their investors and advertisers happy, not you. If their advertisers or app store companies want them to crack down on NSFW content, even if that’s a big part of their userbase, they’re going to prioritize the money over the users*. They might even see a cash grab with shiny new, ethically grey technology and decide to opt in every single user on the platform into this new technology, creating a mass exodus of creators.

Big changes at a company and CEOs that haven’t stepped out of a boardroom in years can and have tanked social media platforms before. Even without big shakeups, large platforms can be gone almost instantly. Twitter is on very, very shaky grounds right now and I won’t be surprised if I have to make some edits to this article soon with regards to it.

Social media platforms also don’t care about you, as an individual. Terminating one random creator account won’t hurt their bottom line at all. In most cases, you don’t have to worry about your account being terminated- don’t be a terrible person and you don’t have to worry, right? Right…

* Tumblr recently “undid” this ban on NSFW content but left it very vague as to what counts as nudity and what counts as porn, leaving it open to heavy moderation

account instability

Earlier this year I made a TikTok for a Studio Élan game Lock & Key: A Magical Girl Story. A few weeks after posting it, I noticed the video was flagged.

For context, users on TikTok are a bit… quick to report videos, even if they don’t violate any rules. For the Élan account, I’ve had several videos reported under false pretenses- most are reported for “nudity” despite having nothing even near nude. I assume most of these are bad faith reports as we make sapphic games, but I digress.

The video in question was flagged for “Scam and Fraud”. Like other reports, I appealed for it to be reviewed by a person and hopefully reinstated. The review process is rather easy and usually only takes a couple hours before hearing back. In the past, all my videos had been reinstated very quickly.

Not this time. After a manual review, the video was permanently removed from TikTok.

This video must be terrible to be removed after a human reviewed it, right? Well, you can watch it here:

To give the benefit of the doubt to the TikTok staff, I assume they saw that this was reported as a scam, saw the video was talking about downloading something offsite, and erred on the side of caution.

However, there’s no option to resubmit a claim. There is no comment section to open a line of discussion. This case was shut- the only thing I could do was delete the video.

Why do I bring this up? Because, like most social media platforms, after several infractions your account can get terminated.

It’s not quite clear how many violations it takes before TikTok will ban your account, which means that any violation that stays on your account can rack up towards this ban. At any time, if users brigade your accounts, you could be permanently removed from the site.

How can you build an audience on a website that might one day kick you off, or worse, shut down completely?

owned media you actually own

Owned media refers to media that a brand/company directly controls- this includes their website, newsletter, and social media. This is in contrast to paid media, which is media where the space it’s broadcasted is paid for, namely advertisements and sponsorships.

Not all owned media is equal, though, as you don’t fully own all of it. You don’t fully own your spot on social media. It can be taken away at any moment. The channels you do, for the most part, fully own are your website(s) and newsletters.

Websites are very hard to be taken down by outside sources- it’s more likely you’ll forget to renew the SSL certificate or pay the domain fee than for the host provider to shut your site down. Likewise, a newsletter is just a list of emails that can be easily transferred between tons of different mailing list providers.

Newsletters in particular are a wonderful way of retaining an audience- you can funnel them in from sites you don’t own and keep them updated on your projects, upcoming announcements, and more. To get people interested in your newsletter, you can offer incentives such as a free song from your soundtrack, a free wallpaper, an exclusive demo, etc.

somewhat owned media

I operate my social media accounts like I’ll still have them tomorrow, but with the thought that I might not be using it a year from now.

Even without big company changeups, social media sites come and go. Audiences grow older and shift from platform to platform. TikTok now has more minutes watched per day than YouTube. YouTube isn’t going anywhere for now, but this cultural overtaking of how people consume videos has shifted the media flow for plenty of other social media sites, namely Instagram.

Don’t put all your efforts into social sites that are destined to be gone in a few years from now. Maybe you’ll get lucky and invest your time in a social media app that lasts for 10+ years. Maybe you’ll be unlucky and invest your time into something like Vine, which lasted for just under 4 years.

Social media is practically a must if your business is online, but you can’t put everything you have into it. Set up your shop elsewhere, somewhere you own and direct to it. Otherwise, your shop might not exist in a month from now.

I hope this piece doesn’t come across as fearmongering. Rather, I want all of us to be aware that the companies—and personalities—behind social media sites don’t care about us. We’re each just one creator in a sea of hundreds of thousands of other accounts.

Just as you make backups for your projects and work, you should make backups for how to talk to your audience.

After talking to some other VN dev friends about our videos being falsely flagged on TikTok, I started approaching TikTok differently. The environment the app has fostered is one with heavy policing from users, meaning this situation will more than likely happen again in the future. As such, I try to not put much weight into it and try to funnel people to our other sites (namely the newsletter or where they can play our games) rather than focusing on gaining new followers on TikTok.

It’s sad we have to do that, honestly. TikTok is the only social media I treat as immediately volatile, that I might lose access to it at any time due to this over policing from users. Other social media I try to make clear to our followers that they can find us on other websites (most importantly, our newsletter and Patreon), but don’t treat them as if I might not be able to sign into them the next morning.

If you want to read more of my marketing ramblings, I’ve got a whole list of them here. If you’re a visual novel developer and want to talk to other devs, feel free to join Devtalk.

— Arimia

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