With Twitter bears straying into civilization as the company hit all-time lows this month, I think that it’s a good time to talk about the social medias. I recently started using multiple platforms for marketing, integrating Hootsuite and SNAP! social media poster to make the management process less time consuming. I feel relatively comfortable talking about these platforms from both a consumer and producer perspective.
Changing at the Speed of Tech
Social media platforms leverage advances in technology and society to make it easy to connect people with each other. MySpace and Facebook brought the idea that you could have friends on the internet to the mainstream. Twitter leveraged a desire for social brevity to create a platform for knee-jerk reactions and easy-to-curate personal insights. Instagram adopted photography as a mass network communication media and Vine and Snapchat have taken it a step further with video. Periscope is attempting to bring live streaming into this fold.
The business model of these platforms primarily relies on attracting eyeballs to ads, and increasingly these ads are integrated into the platforms through influential users, though traditional banner ads using audience targeting methods still exist. This can generate revenue when a new platform explodes and rapidly gains users, but my belief is that most social media platforms have inherently short lives as expanding hubs for people. In other words, these companies will experience generational growth, but eventually growth will stop and revenue will taper, similarly to generational clothing companies like Abercrombie and Aeropostale.
The reason that new technologies are constantly adopted is also the reason social media platforms have short lives. New technologies push the boundaries of how people are comfortable with sharing, and younger generations build up new platforms. If Snapchat was your first major social media platform, Periscope may seem like a natural leap. But as a consumer or business managing a Facebook profile, a twitter account, an Instagram profile and various duplicate platforms with different audiences like LinkedIn and Google+, something has to give if I notice that I need to Snapchat and Vine to attract new customers.
That’s not to say these platforms can’t endure. Facebook has done a great job of incorporating new media forms, redesigning with improved usability in mind, and creating enough depth to deserve investing time. Twitter still has appeal. My favorite aspect is the ability to get breaking news on Twitter, as journalists and columnists often use Twitter as their first public channel. But unlike Facebook, it seems like Twitter is not gaining depth of features, and user experience is not smooth like many of the one click video and photo platforms that still manage to convey lots of info.
While I like Twitter to post a quick thought, similar to a Facebook status update, it’s not great when I want to post a link to my blog or an article I read. It’s harder to bring things from the “outside” internet into the rather cryptic Twittersphere. Though this limitation can be seen in Snapchat, Instagram and Vine, which don’t act as great internet hubs despite being good life/content hubs, these platforms are newer, and can convey more information because of the media types.
The problem with the industry is that it’s hard to price ‘users.’ More users means more eyeballs on ads, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue. Because of this, platforms can develop high valuations but have trouble generating revenue. And existing platforms are hesitant to simply buy up younger platforms in fears of paying billions for a fad. And since the software’s themselves are not hard to implement as a cash and resource rich company, the social media race is more a race of designing well rather than buying well.