Audience Building · · 3 min read

"For You" feeds are not for you.

Some ​large creators on X​ say their reach is down (read the replies):

I've felt this personally and seen it in the accounts I follow closely. On average, impressions seem to be down. But there are a couple of caveats:

  1. Video content is growing
  2. Viral content seems to be more viral

Sounds like a familiar story, right?

The rise of For You feeds

If you weren't paying attention, you may not have noticed that the default feed on X switched from "Following" to "For You:"

We shouldn't be surprised. X may be one of the last social media platforms to adopt the For You feed and push for video, but it's becoming the default for every platform.

As I shared in ​my recent essay about Jack Conte's "Death of the Follower" talk​, the evolution of social is that Algorithm Knows Best. Just open the app, and it's going to spoon-feed you the most engaging content it finds (whether you follow that account or not).

And, to be honest, the algorithm is really good at this. For You feeds have increased consumption time. This is a boon for creators who are producing viral content – at the expense of creators who are not.

Think about the viral videos you see. How many of them have taught you something? Maybe they've taught you about current events or how to get your dog to put ​their hands in​. But for educational creators, this push for viral content isn't good news for your typical content.

Yes, you should try to be more engaging.

But we're competing with puppies, politics, and pop culture here.

So now what?

Well, I'll tell you my recommendation (after a quick note from my friends at Podcast Movement).

Fighting the For You feeds

Most social platforms will let you curate your experience if you jump through some hoops:

  • Change your default feed
  • Create "Lists"
  • Change your feed settings
  • Submit feedback on posts you don't like takes effort.

I'm not optimistic that you can educate (and persuade) your audience to take those actions, but you can try. You can encourage them to Favorite your profile or turn on Notifications to proactively see more of your content – this will have some positive results.

But it's more important to play games you can win long term.

Retreating to For Me feeds

Social media platforms (YouTube included) are what I call Discovery Platforms. They are great for helping NEW people discover your content, but fickle and unreliable in terms of ongoing communication.

The For You revolution should be a sign to double down on your Relationship Platforms. These are email, podcasting, SMS, and private communities. Those platforms don't have a ranking algorithm – they are decentralized feeds that are still firmly in the individual's control.

We will receive emails from you, chronologically in our inbox, for as long as we choose. Same with podcasts – our podcast feed shows new episodes chronologically specifically for shows we've chosen to subscribe to.

These platforms are more difficult to grow because people have to discover you elsewhere and then opt into hearing from you with their direct contact information. Higher barrier to entry, more difficult to earn, but a more reliable means of communication.

You might as well think of these platforms as For Me feeds – because YOU curate what's in them. Are social media For You feeds REALLY for you...? Or are they for the platforms and their advertisers?

For You feeds present a great opportunity to earn a lot of NEW attention and direct it to your Relationship Platforms. But those feeds get more competitive every day.

So, develop your own means of distribution. Direct your new attention towards those systems (email, podcasting, SMS, communities). And then continue to deliver a GREAT experience so people stay opted in.

Guard your own attention with your own For Me feeds — and earn the right to exist in others’.

Accelerate your success with For Me feeds:

Questions? Opinions? Leave them in the comments below.

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