[Tribune] Are social networks becoming unified?

Snapchat, Instagram or even TikTok… We very rarely get lost moving from one social network to another. The terms “Swiper”, “Scroller” or “Like” are now part of our everyday life. Identical by definition (a social network is a website or application that brings together groups of people bound by common tastes or interests), they seem to be becoming so in terms of the features they offer. Take the example of the stories, those portrait photos and videos, which are usually taken on the spot and disappear after 24 hours. Its inception dates back to 2013 on Snapchat.

A few years later, in 2016, when Instagram was lacking in innovation and running out of power, adding Stories made all the difference (in 2019 we observed 190 million daily Stories users on the Social to the Ghost network, compared to 500 million on Instagram). Then follow Whatsapp (which calls it “Status”), Facebook and Youtube. In 2020 the health crisis appeared and it was up to Linkedin and Twitter to seize it, no doubt to offer users an additional tool to communicate more easily. And finally, in 2022, TikTok. Another example, heavily Clubhouse-inspired audio spaces Twitter (Spaces) and LinkedIn, confirm the popularity of podcasts.

Or with the reels, almost copied and pasted from TikToks (we also find the same content on one, with the logo of the other), which in reality were just the beginning of the mutation that Instagram is doing in the face of this newcomer. Indeed, as I write these lines, we are witnessing the delivery of a bewildering new feed that moves away from Instagram’s DNA. Instead of adding the features requested by many developers (allowing editing a carousel, modifying or programming stories via tools like Swello), Instagram has opted for a new feed, judged sloppy, dedicated to consuming reels. The aim is to bind users to the application, to the detriment of the UX/UI of releases in image, video or even carousel format that we do not (yet) have in the right format (16:9, such as the Stories) can publish. .

On the social media side, as in any field of activity, we see a race for retention and acquisition. To achieve this, a simple technique is to add to your product/service what is working well for your competitors. Follow without innovating.


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

On the consumer side: Habits and consumption patterns are maintained across applications. In addition, they can take advantage of the differentiators that each social network offers.

Keep the essence of its concept

But basically, do users really want every copied and pasted feature to look identical on every social network? Time proves no. Despite our best efforts, we find that adding its competitors’ flagship features doesn’t necessarily mean success. Let’s take the example of Stories, specifically on Twitter (Fleets). It was only a few months before they disappeared. “We thought people would feel more comfortable with Fleets if they joined the conversation on Twitter. But we didn’t see the surge in new active users that we were hoping for.” says Ilya Brown, Vice President of Product at Twitter.

The same goes for LinkedIn, which is only available on desktop (which is worrying for a feature still used on mobile), they will disappear quickly. “When developing Stories, we assumed that people don’t want casual videos attached to their profile and that this transience would lower the barriers people have to posting.” said Liz Li, Senior Director of Product at LinkedIn. Innovation and daring pay off.


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A place for new actors

In the meantime, this leaves room for new social networks, such as BeReal, the anti-Instagram social platform created by a Frenchman. The concept ? Post a photo (not retouched) once a day at a time set 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.

This also allows certain entities to question themselves: we know in particular that Europe wants to create a social network whose data is hosted on its territory so that security, confidentiality and data protection are in accordance with the laws in force there. Or finally, as Steve Jobs and Apple have done in the world of telephony, it gives a new social network, whose name or concept is not yet known, the opportunity to create surprise and take the stage in an unprecedented way.

About the author :

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

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