Chronicles Of A 50+ Entrepreneur: Backing Away From Facebook and Twitter

About this series:

In the previous articles in this series I wrote about the beginnings of my company ‘Next For Me.’ From inspiration, collaborators, the law, broadcasting, money, conversion-ing and the company as a movement. Then a family emergency caught me off guard. We got introduced to just the right venture capitalists. I moved to a tiny office and acknowledged the lonely days of startup-land. We’ve started talking to and analyzing our audience needs and worked on our brand architecture. With some guidance we launched our decision to go forward to raise an angel round and how we updated our pitch deck. Then, we simply had to wait and see what would happen with an investor. When we have time on our hands we remember to Always Be Publishing and share some time with other entrepreneurs. An advisor made us think hard on subscriber growth and we kept on connecting. Oh, and then I was interviewed by StartOut.

Next For Me publishes news and resources for 50+ audiences. We host events across the country to discuss work, our communities, and what’s next.

Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I want to have a very successful business. More and more I have questions about using social media as a vehicle to get there.

My company is here to promote well-being. These platforms are proven to cause depression and anxiety. How can I reach people where they are without doing more harm than good?

I don’t want to build a company that relies on publishing platforms that lack ethical standards. I mean who are you if you buy into that? You’re just feeding the machine that is corrupt, full of liars and will change the rules on you when they feel like it.

I know this goes against all the rah-rah approaches for startups trying to grow an audience. The startup industrial complex says – you can ‘hack’ people to join your cause. We did this. We were able to ‘convert’ people. I’m embarrassed to admit that we were most effective when we’d use emotional triggers that played into their fears. The words ‘ageism’ ‘age-insecurity’ etc. sure got the clicks, but that’s not the message we want to send. We are about positive transition, not stoking fears and insecurities.

The people leading these companies are living in a bubble of quarterly results. Whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook tap dancing around the facts when testifying to congress or Jack Dorsey of Twitter justifying the harboring of conspiracy theory nut-jobs who threaten grieving parents and find their way around the amorphous rules. If these are the people who are at the helm of the ships we’re publishing into, I ask again is that an environment we want to be associated with?

If you play in dirt, you get dirty.

However ‘woke’ these companies are now positioning themselves, they got pushed into this corner by turning a blind eye to the fact that our democratic process was being hacked by foreign powers. If they only attempt to remedy the problems when forced to, you can be sure they’ll do anything they can get away with when nobody is watching. 

What Now?

If we really stand by our beliefs, does it mean we walk away and find a way to grow our audience that doesn’t depend on the social platforms? I actually think we can do it. We’re seeing positive monthly growth by word of mouth and by partnering with other companies that are co-hosting our real-world events.

Maybe it’s the demographic makeup of our audience (50+), but we aren’t getting traction via sharing of our stories on the platforms. We are getting email shares which is our primary publishing vehicle anyway and still a reliable platform for the audience.

If we look ahead five years and consider that Facebook’s growth is slowing more than it has since 2011, maybe we’re just ahead of the trend here. If the current patterns continue, it’s possible that the dominance of the platforms will wain and we need to be ahead of that.

Either way, we don’t see enough benefits to investing much on these platforms now. As good scientists we’ll see if there is any downside to stepping away from them.

We will spend our energy and resources on writing better articles, interviewing people who have positive transition stories, making connections to the big thinkers on aging and transformation, and meeting our readers in their communities to understand their needs as they transition to the next phase.

Previous articles in the series:

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