Social Media: Is Winter Finally Coming?

Throughout this past semester in IS6621, we have observed a social media revolution of sorts. As we move beyond the wall of what we have come to consider ‘traditional’ social media, the title of ‘the most powerful platform in all the land’ has been fiercely sought after and contested for, especially with the introduction of powerful new players like Snapchat. In 2013, HootSuite provided a Game of Thrones themed synopsis of how ‘social media titans [like] Twitter, Facebook and Google…struggle to the death to lock in their users.’

Below I have provided my own summary, highlighting a selection of major new developments within social media that were an integral part of class discussion. In order to condense my thoughts to fit this blog post I focused specifically on the Facebook-Snapchat rivalry to show how the social scene is evolving.

#1: The King: Facebook 

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We learned that Facebook is at the top of the social hierarchy. With over 1 billion members, the platform is the largest social network in the world with the largest technology IPO in U.S. history, raising $16.007 billion. Recently, Facebook has made significant strides in both the social and digital business space to stay on top of technological trends. Major additions/ revenue-generators include:

  1. Mobile App Install Ads: Developers can now create ads that prompt users to download apps and games rather than like pages. By the end of 2013 this feature had enabled of total of 145 million new app installations.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 1.29.22 PM.pngFacebook Exchange:  This real-time bidding platform is designed to show ads and content based on users online browsing history, upping Facebook’s consumer data game.
  3. Facebook Messenger: In 2014, Facebook forced users to download the service as its own app, and in 2015, added a functionality in which users could send money to their friends. This service attracts 1 billion monthly active users for the platform.
  4. Live Streaming: Most recently in 2016, Facebook rolled out its live video streaming feature in which users are able to broadcast in real-time using the Facebook Mentions app. Facebook strategically uses this feature for both user-generated and advertiser-created videos. Due to their foothold in the growing streaming market, eMarketer estimates that Facebook’s global ad revenue will hit $25.9 billion this year, up from $17.1 billion in 2015.

#2 The Contender: Snapchat 

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Snapchat, founded in 2011, is mainly a messaging application built on the idea of an automatic delete feature that erases messages once they are viewed. The company also just recently began dabbling in news with its ‘Discover’ feature, attracting brands to advertise their content via the app. Although Facebook and Snapchat have different core value propositions, it seems like Facebook views Snapchat as a direct threat, and therefore, has been responding with recent feature updates. Specifically, Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, has been using the photo-sharing application to undercut/compete with Snapchat’s success, copying the innovative company with the features highlighted below:

Instagram Direct: In what seemed to be a response to Snapchat’s dominance in messaging, Facebook expanded Instagram’s core offerings in 2013 to include a messaging feature, which seemed antithetical to the application’s original purpose as a place to post ‘artsy’ photos. Instagram Direct lets you exchange threaded messages with one or more people, and share posts you see in Feed as a message.

Instagram Stories: Stories are Instagram’s version of Snapchat. Just like Snapchat, users can post videos, photos, and Boomerangs that will be added to temporary stories that disappear after 24 hours. But Facebook has not stopped there. A recent update imitates Snapchat further by allowing users to send private temporary messages that disappear after they’ve been viewed and alert users when someone has taken a screenshot. The alert is sent when the photo or video is part of a temporary direct message sent through Instagram Direct. Therefore, not only has Instagram copied Snapchat’s features, it is trying to devalue its core offerings through replication.

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The Battle CTD…

Features like Snapchat’s face-filters, geotags, ‘Chats’ (designed to automatically delete a message after you and the recipient have both viewed it and swiped out of the Chat screen) and ‘Memories’ (a personal collection of the Snaps and Stories you save) allow Snapchat to have a unique advantage over Facebook in messaging. However, it seems like Facebook’s war on Snapchat is only beginning. Rumors have surfaced that Facebook is testing a new camera that uses Snapchat-like video and photo filters such as masks that map to your face and full-frame effects. These features can be sent as a direct message and only remain visible as long as you and a friend are talking about it. The feature will be located on Facebook’s main app. It seems like the social media giant is addressing Snapchat’s threat full force.

Will Snapchat fight back or leave the game of social thrones to focus on a new offering?

The New Wall

As illustrated in Hootsuite’s video above, Snapchat was an entity ‘beyond the wall’ of social media. It’s scope of success was an unperceived threat at that time. However, its estimated IPO, valuing the recently rebranded Snap Inc. at $25 billion or more and Facebook’s copy-cat initiatives say otherwise. With the introduction of Snap Inc.’s ‘Spectacles,’ the company is now identifying as a camera company–it seems to be shying away from the challenge or perhaps the company has something else up their sleeve.

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Current State of the Union:

Throughout the course of this semester I have learned that the nature of social media has dramatically shifted. Not only are new applications major players, but individuals also consume information differently–our attention spans seem to be increasingly shrinking and social media adjusts itself depending on our ever-fickle desires for smaller and smaller pieces of bite-size info. Other developments/ challenges include:

  • Vine is dead.
  • Twitter is full of vindictive trolls, ruining people’s lives one tweet at a time. I wonder, amidst increasing criticisms of the application’s overall inferiority and polarizing nature, how the company will turn itself around. Streaming live is definitely a good start for the app in trying to stay modern.
  • The results of the recent election are ruining Facebook’s life as it battles accusations of fake news and requests to eliminate the filter bubble we all know, love and do not genuinely want to be taken out of. How will the app alter its algorithms, which are tailored to refine news to match users’ consumer data, to be more objective?
  • Speaking of objectivity Google cannot avoid its fundamental biases, and although it is still the world’s top search engine, it may not be as trustworthy as I initially thought.
  • Various ‘fad’ apps, like Houseparty, keep popping up amidst major social developments, but none have reached Snapchat’s level of digital disruption…yet.

Apparently social media has multiple phases and numerous frontiers. Perhaps this time with the introduction of virtual reality, wearable technology and artificial intelligence we have hit our social peak–or maybe AI and VR will alter our existence as we know it, replacing the human worker and creating existential crises within us all. Only time will tell.
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8 comments

  1. Nice post. Give houseparty time. It sounds like Chatroulette, but having solved many of the problems that plagued it. I also think AI is going to be a big revolution in SM.

  2. I loved this post!! It was such an innovative way to wrap up and discuss all the “battles” of the semester. Although not a Game of Thrones watcher myself, I knew enough about the show to get the buns and the cleverness behind this. I absolutely loved the video such a cool find! Facebook is definitely the King but as we know by the changing digital world (or the dramatic changes in Game of Thrones) you never know what will happen next….
    Great themed post and awesome wrap-up!

  3. adamsmea89 · ·

    This was a great recap of what we have talked about over the semester! It is interesting to see Facebook directly attacking snapchat through instagram. Eventually there can only be 1 winner in that space and it will be interesting to see who it is. I think Facebook will find a way to fix the “fake news” problem, or at least mitigate it in some way. Facebook has become apart of peoples lives, and at this point people have had it for 10+ years and it really is the place to go to check up on old friends or family you have not stayed in touch with. I can’t imagine people will be willing to give up the thousands of photos they have acquired over the years, or connects. Great final post!

  4. sandytanny · ·

    Awesome post! I love Game of Thrones, so I really appreciate the effort Hootsuite made with that video. Definitely a interesting angle to consider the different platforms as a hierarchy. I think in the upcoming years we will definitely see big shifts and newcomers that will disrupt this order. Just a couple of years ago Vine was the “next big thing” and now it is sadly gone. The future is unpredictable so it will be fascinating to see what the hierarchy is, even a year from today.

  5. adawsisys · ·

    Great post! The Thrones themed recap was a fun way to wrap up some of the topics that came up throughout the semester. I didn’t know Facebook was working on camera and direct messaging features to compete with Snapchat’s core offering. It will be interesting to see where Snap Inc. plans to take its “camera company”. It seems like it would directly compete with the live streaming feature that Facebook just launched. I like how you described social media as having many phases and frontiers. I will be interesting to watch how it develops as technology improves.

  6. cmackeenbc · ·

    Great work–love how you summarized the semester in such a critical yet forward-looking manner! I wonder if Facebook will end up further dominating the digital world. I keep seeing more and more of my friends adopting the Instagram stories feature. Though Snapchat is familiar and has a specific audience, I kind of think the Insta-story/snap feature is just simply better (maybe I’m biased–really not a huge fan of Snap founder https://techcrunch.com/2014/05/28/confirmed-snapchats-evan-spiegel-is-kind-of-an-ass/). I am surprised Snapchat hasn’t introduced a “groups” feature like the one Instagram has. It will indeed be interesting to see how Snap Inc. develops in the coming months before their IPO. I think it is cool they are moving towards being a “camera company”, but wonder how successful they can become given the recent struggles of GoPro and the staying power of companies like Canon. Awesome job!! Also, Vine might be brought back from the dead after all: https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/07/revive-vine/

  7. olearycal · ·

    Cool video to start off with! I only wish it was to the theme song of Game of Thrones because it’s just so epic. The battle between Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat is interesting to watch. They keep copying each other to make their app experience all-inclusive. Some features make sense while others (I’m thinking snapcash here) fall short and people might now want to use them. I don’t think one app can fully take over the other because they have unique users and motivations for use.

  8. That headline and video really drew me in! Great and interesting way to position this post.

    I think that Twitter is the next major player to bite the dust in the Game of Social thrones. I don’t know that their format as is allows for a way to solve viral nastiness that we see on such a regular basis. After a while, it’s going to be too risky for anyone to post for fear of retribution.

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