Tommy Landry, the show runner here, suggested many moons ago that I draw up a quick post to predict the social media platforms of the future. We both agreed it would be a no-brainer and, therefore, easy-to-write. And, yet…
The answer was so obvious that I didn’t reckon I could find 600 words to put on either side of it, especially without boring us all to tears.
I should have known better — the obvious things can be the hardest to write (which I learned in 9th-grade English). Or as one of my clients likes to say, “It’s hard to do simple easy,” which sounds like a Zen koan. Until you’re on deadline staring at a blank screen trying to explain why the answer is so obvious.
There’s also a short answer. A long answer. And, oh, by the way, it’s a trick question, so there’s that answer, too.
Which Social Media Platforms Will Survive? Long Answer
To me, the obvious social media platforms to survive for the next 36 months are: Facebook (and its bought brands, Instagram and Snapchat), LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Facebook. Because duh.
Will we all have Oculus Rift systems in our home theaters in 2019 like we all had Wii game systems in 2009? How should I know? I’m not the ghost of Christmas Future. (Full disclosure: I do not have a home theater, a game room, or cable for that matter.)
Here’s what I do know about Facebook:
- They’ve invested in breathtaking next-level tech, like a data center in the Arctic, which cuts cooling costs for ye olde server farm. They’ve developed a solar-powered drone with the wingspan of an airline that runs on the power of just three hair dryers. Why? To deliver internet to the 4 Billion people who don’t have it yet.
- They have more monthly active users (1.71 Billion) than either China (1.36) or India (1.25) have citizens. One expects that, by some measures certainly, Facebook’s user base is more engaged than the American electorate. One might like to read an old-style journalistic piece on that side-by-side.
- Upon the birth of their first baby, Zuck and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced they’ll be giving away 99% of their fortune to advance the human cause.
In short, Facebook’s not going anywhere. Except wherever they want.
LinkedIn because inertia.
At first, I included them because, in many legitimate ways, they’re the oldest and they’re populated by the oldest. They’ve been running a long time and many of their users have been running with them for a long time.
But, to carry forward a respected senior institution simply based on tenure, is no longer valid, if it ever was.
I mean, look at Yahoo. Has it been bought yet? (Let’s just pause for the cause and Google it — see what I did there?) Sure enough, Yahoo did get acquired by Verizon in July 2016. Industry observers say that, with this purchase and the previous acquisition of AOL, Verizon is positioning itself to be a mobile online powerhouse. Personally, I think they’ve been tasked to collect artifacts of our modern society on behalf someone like Henry van Statten’s museum, but what do I know?
My first memory of Yahoo! is when I checked my account immediately upon seeing the breaking news reports about the bombing at Murrah Federal Building. In 1995. I’m just sayin’.
Oh, hey wait! Here’s why LinkedIn will still be around in 2019: Microsoft bought them. Will it look like LinkedIn by then? Who knows? Stay tuned, that’s part of the short answer.
Twitter because the revolution won’t be televised.
If you’re a regular reader of this space, you know that I adore Twitter. It’s not my first, but it’s my favorite. Biased though I may be, Twitter is too big to fail.
Or, rather, too integral? No. Too niche? No. Too connected? Demonstrably no. Too clutch? Yes! That’s it.
Twitter is too clutch to fail. Ask anybody who’s leading a movement or caught up in a revolution or watching TV.
Say, speaking of TV, did Disney buy Twitter yet? At press time, nope, not yet. That they’re considering it speaks volumes as to the platforms’ stickiness.
Short Answer: Which Social Will Survive?
Let’s say, for the next three years, you trek off to some place Zuck’s shiny new internet drones don’t reach. Or, let’s say that you and Elon and Branson take a trip to Mars. When you come back in 2019, would you recognize any of the social media platforms?
I mean, if it weren’t for the logos and helpful Millennials.
I bet you wouldn’t recognize any of the platforms as themselves. They’ll continue to merge and morph as they adapt new functionality based on usage and available tech. They will evolve toward the best, most streamlined feeds and display algorithms that exist.
That means, they’re going to continue to look more and more like each other.
What makes me think so?
In the history of vertebrate life on this planet, true flight has evolved three separate times. Along three separate branches of the tree of life — insects (Family: Arthropoda), bats (Class: Mammalia), and birds (Class: Aves). Animal scientists can tell you about all the many minute and fascinating differences. But when you and I look at a flying critter, we see wings, basically. Evolution favors that form for that function.
We’ve been seeing this unfold across the social platforms for years — a new service oneupsmanship designed to capture and recapture more users, yield higher monetization — now offering a mobile app, allowing private messages, tagging features, privacy features, image posting, vanishing image posting, video posting, real-time video posting, and so on.
It’s a Trick Question Anyway.
(You were warned.)
As Christopher Heine and Marty Swant write for Adweek,
Everyone is suddenly anti-social, and there are monetary reasons the identity has fallen out of favor. Offering brands a bigger “media” concept will garner more ad dollars.
This reminds me of a teenager, “OMG, Mom! I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t just dooooo social. I’m so much more than that. I’m, like, a real adult now, gaw-oooshh!”
Social is so four years ago.
As Adweek and other observers report, Snapchat calls itself a camera company, not a social media platform.
Nick Bilton at The New York Times called the play four years ago in the ongoing game of “Now, Define Twitter.” Is it a social media platform, a news company, a news source, a tech co? What is it? Why won’t it yield to our prodding fingers and probes? It must be defined!
As to Facebook, they don’t call themselves a social media company. They chuckle heartily at the idea. One shudders to imagine what they do call themselves.
The tricky answer then becomes: there aren’t any now.
Who knows what they’ll be or what they’ll look like or how they’ll refer to themselves in 2019? They will still be around. They will still be doing what they’ve been doing, but more of it and more of what each other are doing. And, hey, Twitter might be profitable by then.
Stay tuned for more on the “Anti-Social.”
Next week, I’d like to segue from the Heine/Swant quotation above to my own Anti-Social Media Manifesto. I hope to see you then.
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