Sometimes it seems like every other week socials’ key players announce an update, acquisition or new feature. These developments are rolled out to offer users more from the services but behind this we know that these sites need to increase visitor time spent on site in order to monetize the activity. Yes, social media may be ‘huge’, but most platforms have failed to produce huge profits and we continue to see every social platform intensify tactics to monetize. We’re always keeping an eye on developments and have compiled a list of predictions for the social media world:
Spot the difference
A trend is emerging that suggests the key social media networks are all on a track that will eventually offer similar service provisions albeit with different interfaces & content focus. For instance, we’ve seen Facebook begin to compete for search users from Google by introducing Facebook Graph Search and LinkedIn compete for ‘Newsfeed’ visitors from Facebook and Twitter by acquiring popular web and mobile reader Pulse. Similarly, Twitter have ramped up their multimedia offering seemingly to attract users away from YouTube, introducing a Music Discovery App and a new video capture and loop service, Vine. Alongside rumours of a partnership between Twitter and Viacom/Comcast these developments demonstrate that the popular social media networks are beginning to move away from their specialist hooks, moving in on competitor ground towards a blur of services in one-stop-shops.
Industry commentators are increasingly referring to Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin as ‘social destinations’ as opposed to ‘platforms’ or ‘networks’, perhaps because more and more users are encouraged to keep the site or application open/on constantly. A prime example of this change is the recent launch of Facebook Home, a new app which replaces standard mobile home screens with a steady stream of friends’ posts and photos from Facebook. Although the past couple of years has seen data suggest the amount of time UK visitors spend on social platforms is declining, industry experts deem this trend to be skewed as data often doesn’t take into account the rapid increase of mobile access. Nonetheless, social media continues to dominate our online activities, with time spent on social networking and forums likely to be higher taking into account mobile users. Over the next couple of years it will be interesting to track how these visitor durations are impacted by tactics to become social destinations.
Monetize v. Humanize
The issue with the key social networks homogenizing and focusing so intently on increasing time on site is the basic business logic that if everyone has the same strategy, inevitably the most financially powerful (in this case, Google) will prevail. These social networks risk losing audiences if they don’t prioritise what makes them unique, after all traditionally audiences have a preference for unique over mass-market. We like niche, not mass. To use an entirely obnoxious analogy, we far prefer the experience of going to a tailors than a supermarket for a suit. Why? Because these experiences are authentic.
If the update/integration/new feature trend continues to escalate, serious questions should be raised about the future UX offered by our favourite ‘social media destinations.’ Of course, digital demands updates, but the rate and breadth of which is comparable to my increasing levels of annoyance every time the UX is disturbed, always just as I have gotten to grips with the previous update!
Fundamentally, constant new features are attempts to reduce the necessity for users to go elsewhere for social whilst driving advertising revenues based on user numbers and time-on-site. But, should Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin even attempt to be ‘destinations’ akin to oligarch Google? As globalisation moves forward, industry experts predict a move towards niche social platforms, therefore Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin should perhaps refocus on their founding niche and away from mass-appeal & advertising models. Indeed all businesses must make money, but I question the long term success of networks relying solely on advertising for revenue.
At DEER digital, we are advocates of social media for business and have seen the return possible when it is approached with a well thought out strategy. Our advice remains that businesses should take advantage of these platforms but we’ve learned like in many aspects of business it pays to be agile. Don’t rely on these networks staying the same, keep your ear to the ground for changes and most importantly, be present on the sites your target audience are – even if that means retiring some profiles and launching new ones.
Are you concerned about the future of your favourite social platform? Can you see yourself moving towards niche platforms in the future? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
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