Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of failed attempts to create alternative social media sites and platforms. From Voat to Gab, PeerTube to 8chan, the internet’s filled with ambitious projects that tried to compete with the big boys yet quickly fell by the wayside.
And it generally happens for one reason; the platforms attract the wrong audience.
Namely, all the people banned or made unwelcome on existing ones. These people tend bring over extreme left/right wing views, and create the perception the community is for others like them rather than the mainstream.
The end result is an increasingly extreme echo chamber that drives off everyone outside of it until the site is reduced to a hateful, dying ghost town.
So how do we stop this? How do we stop a new platform become an alt-right trash pit in short order?
Well the answer is very simple.
We don’t market the site as a free speech alternative right from the start.
No. Instead, we find a specific market that we feel’s being underserved by existing services, and built specifically for them instead.
Like say, gamers. Or sports fans. Or people interested in music, TV, fashion, literature or any other number of fields under the sun.
That way, we get an audience that’s not particularly ‘extreme’ in terms of political views, and built up some communities on our platform with interests beyond just ‘Here’s why Trump is the best/worst thing to happen to America’ or ‘Investing in cryptocurrency scams 101’.
From there we can then just expand out further and further, adding support for new markets as we go. Perhaps our gaming site is now going to cater to anime fans and sports fans as well, or our fashion site is going to aim at photographers. Either way, the appeal slowly builds up, and more and more communities start coming on board.
This then builds up cultural immunity to extremism when we open the floodgates and allow everyone to come on board. It means that when the nutcases do inevitably find the network, they’re outnumbered by reasonable people, and don’t end up making up much of the audience overall.
And that stops said nutcases tainting the reputation of the site or service. Now our Reddit or YouTube alternative isn’t Reddit/YouTube for alt-righters or pizzagate supporters, it’s just an alternative to Reddit or YouTube that just happens to have a few of them, in the same way Reddit or YouTube itself does.
This then provides immunity to smear campaigns by the media, the existing platforms and others with a vested interest in seeing our site or service fail. Now they can’t paint it with the ‘evil’ brush, since any reasonable person knows that the site or service is a place filled with perfectly decent people talking about everyday things.
It’s a win win strategy all around.
And it’s one you can see all over the place in the gaming community. After all, who were Discord and Twitch originally aimed at?
Gamers of course. They started with a niche audience in mind, then expanded to other groups as the services took off.
Same goes with other popular services today. Facebook started off as an invite only service for college students. Instagram was a mobile check in app that expanded into a photo sharing service. Imgur originally existed to service Reddit, before growing into more of its own thing later on.
So if you’re looking to start a new social media platform, take notes. Don’t position it as an ‘uncensorable, free speech alternative’ to an existing platform, position it as something a particular audience will find useful, then expand outwards from there.
That way, you’ll develop a large community before the kooks find the platform and your reputation won’t get hit in the same way Voat or PeerTube’s did in the past.