What’s the next big thing in social media?
With little fanfare and no sense of surprise, Friends Reunited is closing its doors for good. Despite being valued at £175 million a decade ago, this former giant of social media has officially been declared defunct by its co-founder. Even boasting 16 million registered users at one point wasn’t enough to secure Friends Reunited’s future; a measure of its decline can be gleaned by typing “Friends re” into Google. Friends Reunited isn’t even the first result.
Clearly, the world has moved on. But what has it moved on to? What are the new generation of social media platforms that business owners should be aware of, and are they worth considering in an increasingly congested marketplace that is still dominated by Twitter and Facebook?
Attempting to mimic Twitter’s microblogging style just as Twitter considers abandoning its 140-character limit isn’t a promising start, but it’s an indication of how rapidly social media is moving at the moment. Peach launched just last month as an iOS app, with an Android app in the works and a rudimentary desktop interface now available, albeit beyond a rather uninviting Sign In portal. There are no social media staples like newsfeeds or hashtags, and Peach’s relative simplicity arguably aims it at an older clientele. Whether it succeeds or not will depend largely on the quality of material being posted, though its penchant for animated GIFs and emoji suggests it has little to offer corporate clients.
Launched in late 2010, Instagram was originally a photo sharing platform. Following its $1billion takeover by Facebook two years later, Instagram became more of a rounded social media site. Today, photos can be any shape (instead of the original square template) and posts can include fairly lengthy text commentaries. From a corporate perspective, Instagram is great for displaying merchandise or promotions, making it ideal for manufacturers or designers. It’s not particularly useful as a communications tool since individual users can’t be contacted and the desktop interface is for observation only.
Beloved by teenagers and hosting 400 million posts per day, Snapchat has the marketing-friendly statistics to back up its assertions of social media stardom. Its core video functionality enables people to view events or walkthroughs, while the platform’s design makes it ideal for hosting promo codes and discounts. It’s important to note that Snapchat posts disappear from a user’s timeline once they’ve been viewed, so there’s a very disposable nature to anything uploaded. This is not the place to showcase art or carefully-crafted products, but it is useful for capturing the attention of younger people, albeit briefly.
With its name derived from an amalgam of Want, Need and Love, this retail-based app borrows heavily from other established social media platforms. The five square function buttons along the bottom of the app portal are remarkably similar to those on Instagram, while the ability to swipe left and right (depending on whether a user likes or dislikes a particular product) is reminiscent of Tinder. Nevertheless, the presence of millions of products makes this a useful promotional platform for companies with a retail element, especially photogenic goods like confectionery or clothing.
The video version of Twitter, Vine’s USP is that individual clips have to be no more than six seconds in length. While some would see that as a sad indictment of modern attention spans, Vine’s immediacy and simplicity make it ideal for targeting 40 million users with compact video clips that are mostly recorded on mobile phones. Since many smartphones have HD cameras and respectable microphones, that’s not as amateurish as it sounds, and Vine’s millennial user base is generally unconcerned by the absence of omnidirectional microphones and arc lighting. Vines can be cross-shared on other social media platforms, making them a handy way of promoting visual content or events in bite-sized chunks.