FIGHTING THE CORPORATE STRANGLEHOLD

Recently some large corporations have been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons again. Etsy and now Amazon have out of the blue been adding long delays before accounts can withdraw their own funds from orders.. sometimes by up to three months. The reason? Apparently to cover potential funds needed for customer returns – this seems disingenuous considering Etsy sellers have had 75% of their funds frozen for 45 days! Some small companies and sole traders have had to desperately beg and borrow money to pay wages and make the products that keep their businesses afloat. This is one of the dangers of being dependent on a huge corporation despite the advantages.

Does a company like Amazon that makes over £200 billion profit a year really need to damage small businesses by holding on to your money for longer? Recent studies have shown that one of the biggest reasons for higher inflation in recent years are huge corporate profits, not so much small increases in wages that have been lagging for many years.

Have you noticed that some of your local restaurants ask you to call in orders rather than use a national app, or have made the effort to create their own? Most of us will be guilty of going for the most convenient option and restaurants feel that using these apps is the best way to get noticed and orders, but did you know that JustEat take a 17% commission on orders made with their app, with Deliveroo and UberEats it’s even high at around 25-30%! If a business has the knowledge or funds to make their own app or website, they can reduce these fees massively to just the processing costs of 1-2% but they then lose the visibility of not being on popular apps. Are they really a necessary evil? Can we really turn a blind eye to the damage they do?

The golden age of free social media is definitely in the rear-view mirror. Social media wasn’t really a huge way of communicating when Totally Locally first started and over the years we have thoroughly recommended getting online as a way of promoting our campaign in your town and for individual businesses to promote what they do and sell. More recently, this takes up more and more of our time as we dance around the algorithm updates to change how and what we post so that we’re seen by a bigger audience. Even free to use Facebook groups and pages seem like a great way to communicate with communities, but did you know a post in a Facebook group is only seen by 10% of that group? Unless you pay to boost the post of course!

Does a company like Meta that makes over £20 billion profit a year really need to monetise communicating with all groups such as small non-profits and hobbyists? They have shareholders hungry for returns and they will do anything including tax avoidance to support this. We support paying a fair price in return for a useful service but lately it seems as though it’s all going too far and a fight-back has begun.

We run and monitor our national campaigns such as Fiver Fest and Magic Tenner via hashtags on Instagram – previously you could easily see everyone who has used a particular hashtag in the order that it was posted… great! Mid 2023 however this vital view has been removed from the Instagram app, now when viewing a hashtag you can only see ‘Top posts’ or ‘Recent top posts’. Basically this means that only the most popular and engaged posts for a hashtag are seen and don’t change often. You can’t see everyone that uses it in the order that it’s posted. What does this mean? It means the little guys won’t get their posts seen, only those with huge followings, or more importantly those that pay to to promote their posts funnily enough. We’re back to square one with advertising and the days of free promotion on social media are ending. Also imagine if you like interacting with posts on a particular subject or news event, now you simply cannot see them happening real time, they will be controlled by those with the loudest voices or the deepest pockets.

Decentralised social networks such as Mastodon is starting to appear and although they take some work to operate, using them means you’re not beholden to changes and monetisation that corporate social media apply. Email marketing has recently become the best way of keeping in touch with your customers because it’s controlled by you and mostly just costs time to do.

We are working on some of our own answers to these issues, more news on this soon including a potential collaborative online solution for High Streets. We’re considering running our own Forum software instead of hosting the Totally Locally network (Doers Group) on Facebook so that people will simply see notifications and updates. That aside, the best way of answering this problem is by collaborating and using people power to have enough of a loud voice to be heard. Large corporates don’t have your interests in mind, only your money. Work together, recommend each other, together we are stronger.