How to navigate the perils of Enshittification

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Social platforms sinking

How to navigate the perils of “Enshittification” ? Let’s begin with a definition. Here is how Cory Doctorow refers to the ‘enshittification’ of web platforms — including Amazon, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others:”

“First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die. I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, holding each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.”

The question of whether this evolution inevitably leads to the demise of the platform, as suggested by Doctorow, remains a point of discussion. With recent and visible exceptions such as Facebook or X/Twitter, which many argue have entered a state of diminished utility (trying to be politically correct here).

Look at Amazon. Initially operating at a loss, Amazon offered goods and services below cost, gradually expanding into a comprehensive marketplace. Over time, the platform underwent a fundamental shift, with search results influenced by paid placements, altering the user experience and raising questions about the platform’s original promise of being the “everything store.”

Same with X/Twitter, Inc., today a terminally ill platform, a terrible place to be whether you’re a user, a media company, or an advertiser.

This paradigm has significant implications for marketers, as highlighted in Rand Fishkin‘s discussion with Justyna Brownbridge (link in comments); Rand notes the tendency of advertising platforms to claim credit for organic outcomes, de facto distorting the perceived effectiveness of paid efforts.

In response to these challenges, Rand recommends a strategic approach of “reinvesting paid efforts in experimental channels.” This entails a departure from established platforms and a proactive exploration of emerging channels that may offer untapped potential. In light of the evolving landscape, it becomes imperative for B2B marketers to remain adaptable, emphasizing experimentation and a forward-thinking approach. 

The exploration of uncharted territories, as proposed by Rand, underscores the need for marketers to anticipate shifts in the industry and proactively seek new avenues beyond established platforms. In a world where advertising platforms seem to be on a one-way ticket to the dumps, let’s stay agile, experimental, and a step ahead. 

Who knows, maybe we’ll find the marketing holy grail beyond the reach of enshittification.

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