Making sense out of Twitter political ad ban and Instagram’s ‘war’ on influencers

The last three weeks have been dramatic for social media advertisers, influencers and politicians. Two of the world’s largest social media platforms fired unexpected shots against the underbelly of the social media underbelly.

For Twitter, the founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey (who recently paid an eccentric visit to Nigeria) did not dignify his targets with an official statement or press release. On the night of the 30th of October, Jack dropped the bombshell via his personal Twitter handle (@jack) that the world’s largest social microblogging platform will no longer tolerate any form of political advertising.
To Jack, it is not only deceptive but illogical, in his stern statement he said:
“Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”
The impact of this decision on the political ambition visibility and narratives pf many those concerned is huge. Less than six months to the U.S. presidential election, the most important social media platform for politicians has shut the door of commercial advocacy. This is not just on politicians and their handlers but also on media agencies who spend a heavy budget to gain the attention of a highly-political audience on Twitter.
Instagram fires Influencers
As if this was not enough, Facebook’s Inc., photo-sharing platform, Instagram has started hiding the number of users who have “liked” a photo for some accounts in the US in an ongoing effort to supposedly create a less stressful experience.
In the word’s of Instagram’s chief executive, Adam Mosseri, “The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them.”
However, the decision is not going down well with many influencers who depend on Instagram as their daily ‘bread and butter’. Some big influencers such as Nicki Minaj are already threatening to leave for good.
Counting the Cost
While Twitter’s decision has not received much criticism, but it will surely put pressure on politicians to look for other means of using social media to push their political career and agenda. Google, Facebook (and Instagram) as well as other digital publishers would benefit from the ‘idle’ budget. However, the move is very strategic for Twitter as it could increase its image for authenticity, transparency and unbiased.
As for Instagram blanking out likes from all posts, there are consequences on both sides of the divide. Many micro and mini influencers will lose massive revenue in the short and medium-term. However, Twitter and Snapchat could leverage the opportunity to fill the gap. There are accusations that Instagram took the decision because it was bleeding revenue to influencers.
A major lesson to all media people, brand owners, influencers and politicians is that social media platforms are more or less like rented apartments. Owners of the platforms are the landlords, they call the shots, the more reason our brand needs a holistic digital strategy, not a social media plan.
First published on NEXTGEN, A weekly Newsletter of SBI Media Limited