One of the challenges of social networks is that these platforms are meant to serve as the pipes that connect us with others digitally. Since many of us do not have one digital hub that we use as our online home, we use profiles on these networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Mastodon) to assemble bits and pieces of content that ultimately add up to some pictures of us.
We never have a complete picture of our digital identity, including what we’ve learned, what we currently think, and what we want to learn. Instead, we have a constant staging of our identity in which our audiences consume and judge us based on our last message. There is no desire to scroll back and look at the last 5 to 10 pieces of content from an individual to see if what they’re saying is credible, sincere, or relevant.
Most important, when we spend time writing that perfect post that will capture everyone’s attention, it is quickly lost in the fire-hose of information online. The algorithms that negotiate that content will determine who sees your content, and for how long. Your content now is far more valuable to the social network as a data point on you that they can sell to others to finetune advertising.
If you want to begin owning your content online, you need to start thinking differently about content, audience, and identity.
Content, Audience, & Identity
Start thinking about pieces of content, your audience, and what this all says about your identity as you participate online.
You can control the type, format, amount, or regularity of content you create and share. The algorithms and social platforms generally dictate your audience…unless you do something about this.
If you reverse the model, you begin with your identity. You may have one identity you want to broadcast across different social networks. You may want different identities for different spaces.
If you want a different audience you need to change the signals you’re sending to social platforms and users. Share different types of content. If you want to attract or join a different audience, you need to switch up your identity and content.
Lastly, your content will help determine what is valued by your audience, while also building your identity. Is your content valuable and insightful, or is it just noise? Is your content conversational and inviting to others? How will your audience perceive your message…and is this your intent?
Publishing & Syndication
So now you put a lot of time, resources, and energy into creating great content. You should want to get the most out of that effort. You’ve identified the type of identity you want to create. You’ve sketched out the audience you’d like to attract.
To maximize your effort, you could publish your content on your website. You then syndicate this work to social networks, or other websites, attribute it to you, and link back to your website.
The IndieWeb community has been thinking about these intersections for some time. They’ve even developed some terms to make sense of these approaches: POSSE (Publish Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere) and PESOS (Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate into Own Site).
Owning Your Content
As I create and share online, I think about what difference it makes what platform I use, where I share things, and whether or not “sharing” really makes a difference. I routinely switch up my signals to see what this does to my content, identity, and audience.
As you create and/or curate a digital identity, take the time to think about content, audience, and identity as you participate online. Make logical decisions about publication and syndication to ultimately take the next steps to write yourself into existence.