Social Media platforms – there seems to be one born every minute. By the time you finish reading this article, another 5 will have been launched somewhere in the world. And probably 5 more will have been shut down.
A recent casualty of what I call the “50 Shades of Social Media” syndrome is Broadcastr, a user-contributed audio content platform for location-based story telling.
In their farewell note to the Broadcastr user community, co-founders Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum stated:
“While we’d love to keep Broadcastr alive, technology requires money, active development, and maintenance. We’re a small team, and, sadly, don’t have the resources to continue development.”
Broadcastr has inevitably lost out to category-killer SoundCloud, an earlier site that dominates Social Media audio content (and is also the likely cause for the wavering fortunes of MySpace). In recent months, iTunes has withdrawn its Ping social networking application for music fans; Webdoc has rebranded itself as Urturn (possibly due to confusion surrounding its name) and Yahoo! has just announced it is withdrawing a number of Social Media products – not forgetting that Yahoo! dumped Buzz, a social news site that was hard to distinguish from Digg. There are even some mutterings that Google+ does not yet justify the hype as a serious Social Media platform to take on Facebook or Twitter.
Even if you are first to market with a new Social Media platform, most sites are just a different (not necessarily better) mousetrap – same bait to tempt you in, same tools to capture your attention. The sheer volume of sites means that they are hard to differentiate from one another – hence the “50 Shades of Social Media” syndrome. Each Social Media site is trying to become THE destination for its target audience, but as The Cure once sang, “In the caves, all cats are grey.” Despite their differences, all Social Media platforms end up looking pretty much the same.
In light of the heated competition for market traction, here are 9 challenges to success in Social Media:
1 There are essentially only 5 types of Social Media platform:
- Networking (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Google+)
- Lifestyle (food, TV, travel, dating, cinema, sport, health, etc.)
- Media specific (photography, video, audio, games)
- Instructional (e.g., TED, Lifehacker, MonkeySee)
- Commentary (WordPress, Twitter, Blogger, etc.)
2 There are only a limited number of activities you can do within these sites, such as “like”, “follow”, “share”, “post”, “publish”, “comment”, “recommend” and “tag”.
3 Increasingly, single-purpose or single-interest Social Media sites are attempting to cross over into adjacent domains, in an attempt to build scale and stickiness, and to improve the user experience.
4 This diversification means Social Media lose focus, dilute their original offering, and potentially alienate users.
5 Every Social Media platform starts out claiming to be different and offering something unique – but both the content and the business models are relatively easy to replicate, which is why we see multiple variations of the same concept or minor iterations with each new site.
6 As we engage with multiple Social Media platforms, we need our own personal media monitoring and management systems just to keep tabs on everything, especially when sites start to overlap as they encompass richer media formats and enhanced content functionality.
7 Meanwhile, the increasing inter-connectivity between different sites means that as individual users we can multi-channel as if we are our own mini cable networks.
8 But as with cable TV, multi-channelling leads to audience fragmentation and narrowcasting (which in turn has an impact on advertising revenue).
9 The Social Media industry will be subject to further mergers and acquisitions like Facebook’s purchase of Instagram, and consolidation will inevitably result in an oligarchy of dominant players, as happens with all media.