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Social Media Is the Gold Rush of Our Time. But When Is It Going to End?

At one point, everyone had a pan and a dedicated mission to strike it rich. Now, everyone has an Instagram channel and a sponsorship -- and the same determination to strike it rich.

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At what other point in history could you easily jump online, claim your expertise and begin collecting money? Perhaps the dot-com boom, but I can only assume the current social media landscape most closely resembles the Gold Rush of the 19th century.

It's foolish to mock the power of social media (though I do it frequently) but would social media more important to me if I had 500,000 to five million followers and a slew of passive income streams? Oh, absolutely.

The formula

According to the interwebs, during the Gold Rush the formula for success included drills, pans, pickaxes, rockers and even stamps.

In 2021, the formula for making it in the social media Gold Rush includes: 

  1. A highly followed Instagram, and/or a similarly large TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube channel.

  2. A digital course 

  3. Products that you influence people to buy

  4. A podcast

  5. From time to time, a speaking career

  6. High-end, one-on-one coaching clients

Am I wrong? Of course I'm not. In fact, it's a gift that so many humans can share their gifts so readily with other humans. If you are stuck in some aspect of your life, there are likely 500 — or even 5,000 — coaches ready to take your money, solve your problem and help you expand.

Related: 6 Instagram Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

The problem

The problem is verification and manipulation. You can purchase Instagram followers, buy logos from Forbes China, put nonsense into your course and manipulate your message to make your audience feel weak and like they need you to be successful. That's the part of the online, social media movement that truly keeps me from devoting my precious energy to growing a serious following. Not to mention the crowded space. When I pop into Instagram, I'm immediately met (mostly due to the algorithm and my reticular activating system) with 20 other blonde women doing it better with more followers. What's the point?

The strike it rich appeal

The fact is that if I did social media right, I could likely make up to $2,000 — or more — on a digital course that could potentially change other's lives, if only I could get over my own melodrama and moral high horse. We all possess a specific alchemy meant to reach a specific audience, but the fear of intense competition stops us from grabbing our drills and attempting to pan for gold ourselves. 

Related: 3 Ways to Become an 'Overnight Success'

But, what happens when it's all over?

So, do you do the dang thing? Five years from now, will Instagram still reign supreme? Will people still be solving their problems on a digital screen, or will they move on? And, when they do, what happens to the 30- and 40-year-old chakra clearing coaches who are now knocking on 45 or 50? Where do they go?

Related: This Is Why Your Brand Should Be Using TikTok Right Now

My prediction

If and when the world looks up and goes back to regular life, lived without a deep, unhealthy attachment to our phones, it's my prediction that mega-influencers will eventually be replaced with micro-influencers. People will begin to seek out community and group programs to work through entrepreneurial issues in person at yoga studios, conferences, Wim Hof groups, etc. Those who made a killing — or even a simple living — teaching unique topics online, such as the aforementioned chakra coaches, will find home and refuge within healing communities and continue to serve others (if they still find it appealing once the gold is gone). Digital courses will remain, but interest will wane as the world declares itself complete and goes back to normal. 

In the in-between...

Grab a drill and pan, and get out there to make a difference. You might never have this captive of an audience waiting for your specific skills. It's the Gold Rush, after all.

Related: Why the Entertainment and Social Media Industries are Converging

Gabrielle Garrett

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Gabi Garrett is an award-winning journalist and speaker. She spends her time consulting large corporations on their messaging, media and time management and thoroughly enjoys nerding out on self-improvement and research.