Artisanal Social Media

Mass market trends always give birth to their own backlashes. Farm-to-table and localvore movements glorify bottoms-up artisans over top-down algorithms. Well, if Facebook is the McDonald’s of social media, be aware there is a back-to-the-land movement towards what Cal Newport calls the “long tail of social media”:

The mass audience strategy is starting to fray. As users become more familiar with both the joys and depredations of the attention economy, they’re increasingly shifting toward a long tail model for the social internet.

In this new model, users don’t want to connect with everyone they already know, but instead, want to connect with small groups they find really interesting. Similarly, they don’t need access to massive libraries of low-quality content, but instead, want access to curated collections covering topics they really care about.

Part of the quality control mechanism is permissions. Unlike Twitter and Instagram, you can’t just share anywhere you want. There are gatekeepers and moderators which act as a form of government within these new and not-so-new platforms. Examples of these platforms include:

  • Your iMessage and WhatsApp groups
  • Slack memberships
  • Nextdoor (requires address verification)
  • Email chats

The interactions in these smaller groups are, on average, more rewarding and useful than the mass-market platforms. Even Twitter which is mass market can be narrowed into a much tighter conversation if you curate and segment your groups as I’ve explained here and here.

If you are interested in meeting an awesome Slack community to see what I mean, my favorite one is Khe’s Rad Reads. A number of Moontower readers are actually in it. The interactions are much richer than what you will find in any permissionless forum. And it’s worth noting that the caliber of people across many dimensions is very impressive. It’s like when you wish Yelp reviewers were “more like you”. This is that place. You can subscribe here.

*I met Khe after being a long-time subscriber to his newsletter. It’s still my favorite one (out of about 20 letters I read — I don’t read the news if you wonder what gets displaced). Sign up to RadReads here.

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