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
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:
- 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.
- Facebook 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.