As digital convergence and cross-media platform sharing diversifies, we are arguably in a convergence stage where different social platforms are experiencing either a rise or decline of user-ship dependent on a single aspect of how these platforms function: their algorithms.
With the modern-day consumer comes both a shortened attention span and a heightened understanding of algorithms and how they affect the visibility of certain types of user-generated content. Overtime, social platform algorithms and the ways in which they optimize the visibility of user-generated content has determined in part where consumers and content creators are spending their time. This has been readily observed with the rise of short-tail and hyper-viral content platforms such as TikTok, the consistent usership of Twitter both as a social platform and a media news outlet, as well as the declining number of Instagram users due to a reduction in user visibility and engagement.
There is a correlation between user censorship and hyper-viral algorithms where the more visibility an algorithm supplies for its content creators, the more likely users are to share their individually generated content, including cross-platform content sharing using different mediums. If one were to go on TikTok today, they would find short-tail videos made by ordinary people receiving a level of consumption and user-ship that has yet to be seen before. This is due to the platform’s algorithm, which is designed to boost user-generated content to the masses in a very digestible format. The same can be observed for Twitter, where the usage of hashtags has maintained its origins of linking users with content that they are interested in observing. Whereas, Instagram has seen a decline in its base as users are not receiving the same level of engagement as they once did. Instagram’s algorithm is profit-focused and wants users to pay for boosted content as opposed to supplying them with an audience for free.
As knowledge of algorithms become more mainstream, users are moving to platforms – new and old – that are exposure centered. With that being said, arguably, algorithms are determining where new forms of digital media are converging and where cross-platform content sharing is occurring. This benefits newer platforms as they are seeing a rise in consistent user-ship and is placing older social platforms at a much-deserved detriment for being profit-focused as opposed to user-focused. Moving forward, I think that digital convergence in the social media realm will not only continue to consolidate – Let’s not forget Facebook owns Instagram, Google owns YouTube, etc. – but will diversify technologically. Algorithms will play a big part in how these platforms merge as well as their reputation across different media channels.