For this post I’m thinking specifically about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a few others.
It’s an obvious point. I’m probably not the first to make it. But for me it’s been getting more clear.
Social media is all about the new.
I think that’s on purpose…
The founders of developers of the social media sites and apps above have commented about how they know that people love to feel liked. Post a photo. How many likes does it get? Whatever the result, you want to post more.
The same with feeds. Login and see what’s new. Scroll for a bit. Go do something else for a minute. Come back and see what’s new again. Repeat: all day.
It’s great for the social media sites and apps, but what about the content creators?
Lifespan Of Social Media Content
I can respect that Snapchat cut right to the point. They delete old content. Instagram does the same thing with stories. You post it. It lives for a little while. Then it’s gone. Probably stored and saved on some server somewhere, but for the majority of us it’s just gone.
Sure, you can access your old tweets and Facebook posts, but trust me…it’s incredibly difficult to do so. If you’ve posted regularly it takes time to find old content. Even if you do try to use the search functionality you will struggle.
The lifespan of social media is meant to be short. As we know, that’s great for the social media sites. They keep putting pressure on the users to post more and more and to view more and more. And because of our human nature…we oblige.
But maybe that also leaves and opportunity…
There is demand for timeless content. We see it with books. We see it with tv shows. We see it with music. The classics have a very long lifespan.
One example from my childhood is The Shawshank Redemption. Never read it. Never saw the movie in theaters. Have seen the movie on TBS and on Netflix a million times. The movie might never die with audiences.
I wasn’t around when the Eagles were popular in the ’70s. I wasn’t really paying attention when they got back together in the mid ’90s. But at the turn of the Millennium I started really paying attention.
Ryan Holliday has written about the concept of a perennial seller. It’s not easy to make something that is timeless. Even content. One strategy for accomplishing it seems to be to focus on quantity. Creating a lot of content and learning along the way how to get better and then stumbling on a few timeless things.
I’ve noticed that in blogging. Just recently there was a post that started popping more in the stats. I had written it several months ago. Now it’s a top post every day. And I’ve had that happen with other posts. A few seem to pop on the stats and the thing is that they stay there.
For another blog I wrote a post that was a list of sad country songs. That started hitting the stats within a month or so and it’s been bringing traffic for nearly ten years. It’s crazy.
I didn’t sit down and aim to write timeless content, but I did make the decision pretty early on to not write topical content. I wanted to aim to write as much timeless content as possible.
I just read George Carlin’s autobiography. He mentioned it a bit. He never really got into specific political and topical items with his comedy. He knew that if you told a joke about a president, for example, that once the president was out of office the bit would be dead. He wanted to focus on more timeless topics. And it worked incredibly well for him. He’s been gone for awhile, but his content has been given new life with brand new audience on YouTube.
In fact, his content may have gotten more important as time as gone by…
What Are Your Options?
I’m not telling you to stop using social media. I’m just pointing out that it’s important to recognize what it is. It’s designed for the new. You have to always be creating new things. And that’s fine.
But wouldn’t you rather create new things while also benefitting from what you’ve created in the past?
Search is a big component of it. With Google, your blog posts can have new life at just about any point as long as you’re writing about things that people will continually search for. And you can reshare posts over time from your archives on social media. You can’t really reshare an old social media post. It’s challenging to find it.
YouTube actually is similar to Google. Seems obvious since Google owns YouTube. But if you go on YouTube you’re very likely to search for something. And I don’t think suggested videos necessarily have a bias toward the new. I see suggestions all the time that are years old. And I watch them.
When you’re creating content be aware of the platform and its intentions. If you want to create timeless content make sure the platform allows for your archives to be found easily. It’s the only way to build something that has a chance to last.