How Social Media Monetization Is Evolving In The Face Of Algorithmic Bias: A Discussion With Nick McCandless - Forbes

A picture taken on September 4, 2019 shows logos of US social networking websites Instagram, Twitter … [+] and Facebook, displayed on smart-phone screen, in Lille, northern France. (Photo by Denis Charlet / AFP) (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)
Is it even worth it, all the posting, sharing and commenting on social media? Over the last decade, this question has led a lot of people to approach their social media platforms with a bit more purpose and drive. We now live in a world of social media influencers and content creators who have managed the feat of building an admirable revenue stream from their social media audiences. 
Social media has become a really huge deal and for a lot of Gen Z users, social media monetization just might be the only picture of real work that they have seen. This is not strange when you consider how fast social media use is growing.
Brands and influencers alike are getting much better in creating more captivating content and the results have gone both ways; brands and influencers make more money from social media on average and the platforms themselves have seen massive growth in their profitability as well. 
However, some argue that the AI algorithms of these platforms are not as innocuous as they may first seem, According to Nick McCandless, the CEO of McCandless Group, “In the grand scheme of things, you only make money from direct sales made on social media, but when it comes to monetizing your audience directly, influencers are not making nearly as much as they should, not nearly as much as these platforms are making from their audience”.
McCandless created McCandless Group in response to this assertion, as an AI solution to help influencers maximize their profits from monetizing their audience. His examinations of the profit sharing models and general working structure of social media platforms revealed a few problems. The main problem seemed to be that because influencers and models don’t have ownership of their platforms, they have to dance to the tune of an ever-changing algorithm to maintain relevance, their creativity is reduced, and their profitability is dictated by the platforms. 
McCandless Group which was already a very successful software and technology company took up the challenge to start creating and managing custom websites for influencers and models. This solution has seen their clients increase their profits by at least 25% and as much as 10x in some cases. McCandless has a large vested interest in social media monetization and the fairness of AI and shares some of his views in this article. 
While many of us were still enjoying making connections with friends and families on Facebook and Instagram, these platforms changed up on us and became way more business conscious. The percentage of people that now use these platforms mainly for business is growing at an alarming rate. Some argue that this is taking the fun out of it, but what is clearer is the huge dependency that businesses now have on these platforms.
The October 4th Facebook outage that affected all their platforms; Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, revealed just how important these platforms had become. According to a CNBC survey, small businesses who relied on a combination of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for their business to run, lost amounts of money ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in just the 6 hours of the outage.  
More than 200 million businesses actively use Facebook’s tools and numerous content creators rely on Instagram for sponsored posts, affiliate links, and sales revenue and this outage has made many start rethinking this reliance. According to McCandless, this only lends credence to his cry for influencers and brands to have a backup plan; 
“Its foolhardy to rely on something you do not own, social media should definitely be maximized, but creators should learn how to use it more as a lead generation tool. McCandless Group is set up as a perfect solution for exactly this problem, we develop a custom plan for specific influencers and brands. We execute it and manage it for them, this way you have something to fall back on, should you ever lose your place on these platforms.”
The debate on discriminatory algorithms has been raging for a few years now and not without cause. Sometime in mid-2020, Facebook all but acknowledged bias in their algorithms when it announced that it would be building “equity teams” on Facebook and Instagram to study bias in their systems and to ensure that the platforms work well for everybody. 
This came at a time of increased pressure on the tech giant after being accused by different groups over algorithmic bias in their moderation and censoring which affected minority races and genders. 
The general consensus is that in spite of the best efforts of these platforms, bias still exists in their algorithms.  The reason is not hard to decipher; AI runs on data and data is derived from real life scenarios. So clearly, if biases exist in certain real-life scenarios this bias will be reflected in the data and be passed on to the algorithm. 
Take for instance, if there is a bias in society against a certain race of women which leads fewer people to like or comment on their pictures, the recommender algorithms of these platforms will only exaggerate these biases against these women with regards to more relevant opportunities or ad reach. 
Nick McCandless
The re-training and monitoring of social media AI has become a priority if these platforms are to create equity both with regards to visibility and to profitability of its users who depend on them to make money.  
McCandess is convinced that influencers and brands should invest more time in their own AI monetization tools than in guessing what these algorithms will do next.
“We need these platforms, we probably always will, but it’s only wise that we utilize AI and digital solutions for ourselves as a way of protecting  ourselves. The ability to offer models ownership of their own content and platform is why we have been so successful.”
McCandless’ advice is one that many creators are not taking for granted; the use of external AI tools to boost social media monetization strategy has become more rampant in the last year. 
There has been a proliferation of AI tools that help create, manage and distribute content, and social insight tools that help deliver marketing insight from your content, profile and audience behavior. We have also seen an uptick in usage of tools that write social media ads that are optimized for clicks and conversions. This plethora of AI tools are proving to be an alternative way to guard against the loss that may come with relying solely on social media algorithms. 
With the emergence of solutions, like McCandless Group, as well as other AI-based platforms that enable content creators, influencers and celebrities to maximize their creativity and profit, it is clear that the future may see influencers adopting a hybrid method where absolute reliance on social media algorithms would drastically reduce.
McCandless predicts that based on the success of McCandless Group, it is likely that personal platforms will accelerate growth even beyond what has been seen up to this point; 
“A wise man once said, you can’t build castles on borrowed land. The reason our solution has been so successful is because our influencers and models have realized that ownership and the ability to increase your monetization options outside of the supervision of an algorithm is a recipe for rapid success. It’s a hypothesis we have tested and proven and it wouldn’t surprise me if personal platforms accelerate growth even beyond what has been seen up to this point.”

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