Venmo: The Future of Social Media

I’ll be honest, I only just downloaded the Venmo app on my phone this week. It is borderline embarrassing, but I had to ask a “young” co-worker how I could send and receive money. Apparently no one uses PayPal anymore which was news to me…

 

Background

So what is Venmo? Venmo is actually a payment service owned by PayPal. It’s a simple way to transfer funds using either a credit card, debit card, or a bank account. According to their website, Venmo enables you to do 4 things:

  1. Send money confidently
  2. Connect with people
  3. Make Purchases
  4. Quickly transfer money to your bank

I found it surprising that a fund transfer company put connect with people as number 2. My blog post will focus on this aspect and why it is unique and crucial to the company.

 

Social Media Aspect

Unlike other payment methods, Venmo has a strong social influence. Similar to Facebook, users have a friend network and a newsfeed. This allows you to see the transaction history of your friends but excludes the amount of the transfer. PayPal CEO commented that “Venmo users open the app four or five times a week. But they only do transactions a couple of times a week,”. This means that half of Venmo use if purely for the social media aspect. The Wire wrote an article describing that the newsfeed “has become one of the most interesting, informative social networks out there. But don’t say that too loud, or you’ll feel like a creep.” This is because it is literally documenting the who/what/when of all your activities. Companies would KILL for this type of big data. As a new user of Venmo, I never contemplated the social aspects. Just now realizing that I have been flashing the intimate details of my life to hundreds of my closest friends.

 

Platform for Amateur Comedians

Because of the public newsfeed, Venmo also serves as a platform for joking around with your friends. A Bloomberg article included a study on which emojis are used the most on Venmo. No surprise that a flying sack of money and pizza were the top icon. What I do find interesting in their by hour study is the prevalence of eggplant. Someone used it 500 times in a single transaction..

emojis-by-the-hour

Thought I was being funny by paying my liberal friend with the comment Trump 2016 Campaign Donation. Can’t figure out if she didn’t notice or if she just doesn’t think I’m funny…

trump-venmo

My “young” co-worker that I mentioned earlier let me in on his own personal Venmo joke called “TRUST”. He said that he transferred a friend $1,000 with the comment “TRUST” to see if the friend would send it back. Luckily for him, there was trust in the friendship and the money was sent back. Not quite sure I am willing to take that risk but it’s just another sign that Venmo is so much more than just a cash transfer service.

I was able to stumble across one instance of a Venmo joke gone wrong. Someone wrote “ISIS beer funds” as a bad joke and ended up getting their money seized by the government (Office of Foreign Assests Control). Moral of the story: make sure your jokes aren’t something that would raise a flag to the government.

 

Social Media Evolution

When you think about the evolution of social media, it makes sense that Venmo could be the next “fad”. We transitioned from Facebook, which included long posts, pictures, videos, etc. Then came Twitter, which was basically a Facebook status with a character limit. After that we saw Instagram, which was basically just the photo feature of Facebook. Then Snapchat, which is arguably a barebones and selective Instagram with self-destruct features. The next step in the minimalist social media world could be Venmo: a one sentence update on what you are doing and with whom.

 

Business Impact

Above and beyond the user social media functionality, Venmo also is becoming a way to promote your business. The newsfeed shows when a user pays a business. It is free advertising to that entire person’s friend network. Friends can even comment and ask questions about the purchase. Another benefit for business is the relief of responsibility. Venmo handles all the payment data and customer interaction, including a quick and simple checkout experience.

 

Monetization

Right now Venmo has something that the other platforms do not: non-advertising related revenue. Instead of making money off of advertisements, Venmo invests the money that sits in user accounts and conducts quick trades. They are not reliant on advertising revenue and therefore users are not bombarded with the same noise as other social media platforms. In my mind, this gives them an opportunity for longevity that the other platforms do not have. Or even better, the opportunity to make even more money by adding advertising revenue to their topline.

 

Final Thoughts

Like everything else in this world, there’s a shift to instant gratification through technology. If you don’t already have Venmo, I recommend you jump on the train. While writing this blog I checked Wikipedia’s Timeline of social media, Venmo is not listed. I wonder how long it will take before the page is edited…

 

11 comments

  1. Very cool article about a side of Venmo I never really thought of. I love venmo, and can’t imagine a world without it. It makes paying my friends for anything that much easier, and saves the hassle of us breaking 20s in order to help pay for something. Last semester when we lived off campus Venmo was our savior in paying for bills. But, I never really thought about the social media aspect of venmo especially looking at other people’s transactions. I always thought to be a little invasive of myself to do. However, I do see the upside to using Venmo as more then a banking platform and more as a social media platform, where the monetization possibilities are endless.

  2. vicmoriartybc · ·

    Really interesting post about the social aspect of Venmo! I admit, sometimes after I finish my usual rounds of flipping through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what’s new, I’ll click over to Venmo to see what people have been exchanging money for, even if I don’t have a payment to make. It’s easy to get a laugh out of the ridiculous things people title their payments. Similarly, I think LinkedIn is actually becoming more of a social media network than a platform to find potential employees/employers. It’s interesting to look at networks like Venmo and LinkedIn to see how they have sort of diluted the importance of their primary functions to gain a more social function; I wonder how many more networks will do this in the future.

  3. mashamydear · ·

    Nice post! I never thought of Venmo as a social media platform but rather strictly as a payment app, but after reading your blog post I’ve shifted my position somewhat! I’m fascinated by the statistic that hinted that Venmo users actually scroll through their feeds even when they aren’t completing or requesting a payment– I’ve never done that myself but it highlights the stalking attribute that most social media platforms tend to share. The nice thing about venmo too is that you can make a payment or request for a payment privately. I had to do that when I was crowdfunding a birthday present for my friend in the fear that he would see it…I guess that would be kind of like the messenger equivalent of Facebook whereas the Venmo feed itself is Facebook (if that makes sense). I think if Venmo added profiles where it showed the most popular businesses or friends you financially support, it may end up under the social media umbrella one day! To tell you the truth though, I think Squarecash is a much better payment app because the funds transfer immediately instead of the next business day, and since I don’t care too much about what people are buying I don’t mind the simplistic interface!

  4. sandytanny · ·

    Great in-depth post about Venmo! For the most part I’ve usually just used Venmo as a payment platform but in recent times it definitely has become more social. I definitely relate to using the platform as an amateur comedian (I am not), as I tend to describe my transactions as something far more different or absurd than paying my friend for pizza or splitting an Uber ride — and I’m not the only one. It’s amusing going through the Venmo timeline and seeing the funny captions or emojis people use to describe their transactions and decoding what it means. Aside from being very convenient and simple, I think this social aspect has definitely helped Venmo attract such a large audience, especially among millennials. If you have to pay your friend, why not also send an emoji and witty caption along with it on your smartphone. It’ll be interesting how Venmo continues to evolve moving forward, especially as it faces concern over safety and competition from banks themselves.

  5. polmankevin · ·

    Nice post! I personally love Venmo, it is such an easy and convenient way to transfer money to friends. It also helps limit some of the awkward talk that comes along with asking for money. Users can just request payment and receive transfer from anywhere. I definitely agree with the comedic element of Venmo. I always try to post a witty comment when paying my friends. Some of the best ones generated a good amount of likes and comments as well. The main part of your post that I resonated with was the breakdown to popular social media networks. Most of the apps that we cherish are doing something that Facebook already does, just in a simpler way. And Venmo is the definition of simple. This speaks volumes about the characteristics we cherish on social networks. We don’t want expansive platforms that are complex and thorough. We want simple ways of connecting to our friends in a focused manner. One of problems that Venmo is going to face in the future is fierce regulation. I’m honestly shocked they haven’t been aggressively regulated yet. They are basically serving as a bank, holding users money and investing it for their own gain. They should be regulated as a bank.

  6. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Interesting post. I am a big time user of Venom, and the social aspect has always been intriguing to me. While I find it funny to see the different comments people leave when they make a transaction, I find it hard to think that people actually use the app at times when they aren’t making a transaction. The only times I open the app are when I want to pay someone, cash out, or remind someone to pay me. The social aspect is more of like a secondary aspect of the app, at least in my own experience.

  7. Awesome post! I wasn’t aware of Venmo’s approach to revenue generation. It is very interesting that they essentially operate as a small bank, investing the money that sits in accounts and making small transactions. I wonder if that set-up has any potential to go awry and threaten the security of user’s money. I use venmo on a daily basis, and while I don’t have my bank account attached to the app for security reasons (I leave my balance in venmo rather than transferring immediately to my checking), I could see this app becoming even more of a necessary service in the future.

  8. It will be interesting to see how long platforms like Venmo exist before the government steps in with some sort of regulation. It’s too tempting for the company to just take the invested money and run.

  9. A lot of people don’t know this but Paypal was actually started by Elon Musk so he’s technically the reason we even have Venmo. Also, you talk about how Venmo may just be another “fad”, I truly believe that if they don’t start using fingerprint analytic software to authorize transactions, it will be just that. More and more apps that are linked to users’ bank accounts are doing this such as credit card companies, banks, shopping apps, and apple’s new ‘wallet’ feature. It’s a great security measure that allows users to feel a lot more comfortable giving out their financial information. If Venmo doesn’t do this, someone else will. I truly believe this.

  10. Aditya Murali · ·

    Awesome post! Along with everyone else in the comments, I love Venmo. As far as its functionality goes, it has made my life so much easier in terms of exchanging money. You are definitely right that it is also a social platform, because I also find myself looking at transactions on the app when I personally have no payments to make. I love reading the captions and trying to decipher what is going on. I am curious about the future of Venmo, and I think it would be interesting if Facebook acquired Venmo, since FB is trying to become a marketplace. A trusted payment system like Venmo would be a great asset to FB, if they were able to utilize it properly.

  11. I love venmo but it is a scary proposition if you think about. It functions like a bank but has none of the regulation. It will also be interesting to see if venmo starts selling consumer 3rd party data similar to how Facebook and Instagram do.

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