[Tribune] Are social networks changing into uniform?

Snapchat, Instagram or even TikTok … We are very rarely lost when we switch from one social network to another. The terms “swiper”, “scroller” or even “liqueur” are now part of our daily lives. Identical by definition (a social network is a page or application that brings together groups of people connected by common tastes or interests), they seem to become so in terms of the characteristics offered. Take the example of stories, these photos and videos in vertical format, mostly taken on the spot, which disappear after twenty-four hours. Their creation dates back to 2013 on Snapchat.

A few years later, in 2016, when Instagram lacked innovation and was running out, adding stories made all the difference (in 2019, we could see 190 million users of stories a day online with social ghosts, compared to 500 million on Instagram). Then follow Whatsapp (which calls it “status”), Facebook and Youtube. The health crisis appeared in 2020, and it was Linkedin’s and Twitter’s turn to take it over, no doubt offering users an additional tool to facilitate communication. And finally, in 2022, TikTok. Another example is the audio rooms Twitter (Spaces) and LinkedIn, strongly inspired by the Clubhouse, which confirm the popularity of podcasts.

Or with the Reels, almost copied and pasted from TikToks (we find the same content on one, with the logo of the other), which in reality were just the beginning of a mutation that Instagram operates against this newcomer. Indeed, as I write these lines, we are witnessing the installation of a confusing new feed, which is moving away from the DNA of Instagram. Instead of adding features that many creators require (allowing carousel editing, modification, or story programming via tools like Swello), Instagram has chosen a new feed, rated as messy and dedicated to reel consumption. The goal is to keep users trapped in the app, to the detriment of UX / UI publications in image, video, or even carousel formats that we can’t (yet) publish in the correct format (16: 9, such as Stories).

As far as social networks are concerned: as in every sector of activity, we are seeing a race for retention and acquisition. To do this, a simple technique is to add to your product / service what works well with your competitors. Follow, no innovation.

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On the communication side: this forces us to adapt to the social network and / or recycle. In any case, we are dependent on new products and their use in our communities.

On the consumer side: habits and ways of spending are kept through applications. In addition, they can take advantage of the different features that each social network offers.

Keep the essence of your concept

But basically, do users really want to find every feature copied and pasted identically on every social network? Time proves no. Despite all the efforts made, we note that adding the leading characteristics of its competitors does not necessarily mean success. Take the example of stories, especially on Twitter (Fleet). It was only a few months before they disappeared. “We thought people with Fleets would feel more comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter. But we did not see the expected increase in the number of new active users, “ says Ilya Brown, vice president of products on Twitter.

The same on LinkedIn, only available on the desktop (which is a concern for this feature that is still used on mobile devices), will quickly disappear. “In the development of the stories, we assumed that people would not want to attach ordinary videos to their profile and that this transience would reduce the barriers that people feel when posting,” said Liz Lee, senior product director at LinkedIn. Innovation and daring pay off.

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A place available for new actors

Meanwhile, this leaves room for new social networks, such as BeReal, an anti-Instagram social platform created by the Frenchman. The concept? Post a photo (unretouched) once a day at the time defined by the application. No more racing for likes, it allows you to see real life, to see that not everyone goes out every night or eats brunch every day.

It also allows certain actors to reconsider: we know in particular that Europe would like to create a social network whose data is located on its territory, so that security, confidentiality and privacy are in line with the laws in force in it. Or finally, as Steve Jobs and Apple did in the world of telephony, it gives an opportunity to a new social network whose name or concept is not yet known, to create a surprise and reach the top of the stage in an unprecedented way.

About the author:

Jonathan Noble is the CEO and co-founder of Swello, a French platform that allows communicators to better manage their social networks, thanks to 3 main features: monitoring, programming and analysis.

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