What Makes Once-Great Social Media Platforms Die?
Social media has been around for so long and has played such a huge role in most people’s lives that we can’t imagine a time without it. People spend hours every week on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and MySpace. Wait…MySpace? That’s a name that most people haven’t heard in a long time.
Once, MySpace was the social media platform. Everyone had their own MySpace page. But eventually, Facebook took over as the social media platform everyone had to have and MySpace was forced to adapt. It would never recapture its former greatness, but it did manage to redirect its focus towards music, which allowed to hang on for a while longer as the Internet’s largest repository of online music. At least until they lost over 50 million songs and twelve years’ worth of data in a server migration, that is.
The Forgotten Platforms
MySpace isn’t the only social media platform that was once great that has seemingly disappeared off the face of the Internet. Vine was a hugely popular video site that limited video length to a few seconds. It generated thousands upon thousands of memes that were popular the world over. But then it was abruptly shut down. Google tried to get into the social media game with Google+, but that was ultimately shut down as well when it failed to take off.
There are many others that most people now may not have even heard of: Friendster, Yik Yak, Meerkat, Google Wave, Google Buzz, iTunes Ping, FriendFeed, Daily Booth, and more. So what is it that causes social media sites to fail? How can you identify these characteristics early so you don’t invest a lot of time and energy (and money) in a platform that will ultimately close down?
Staying Ahead of the Times
Ultimately, the social media platforms that shut down did so because they failed to adapt to a changing user base. Social media users switched away from platforms that no longer met their needs to ones that did. MySpace was able to stay around after its initial decline because it was able to rebrand itself as a music-based social media site. Whether or not it can survive the accidental loss of twelve years’ worth of music is yet to be seen.
Facebook has been in the news before because of privacy concerns. The platform preferred to make money off of selling its users’ data. But in 2019, it announced that it was going to be introducing stricter privacy measures to protect its users. Privacy is a big concern with many online, so these changes may be an attempt to ensure that Facebook is able to weather coming changes.
Survival of the Fittest
A lot of social media sites are based on novel, creative ideas. These platforms can quickly gain a lot of followers. Many will seem like the next big thing before the novelty wears off and users move on to something else. Others will stick around for the long haul. But how can you tell the difference?
The ones that stay are the ones that are able to adapt. They make sure they’re meeting customers’ needs even as those needs change. Facebook, for example, has shown that it’s willing to make changes to keep up with what customers want. The Facebook of 2004 is not the same as Facebook today. So long as it continues to change and update, it’s likely that Facebook will be around for a long time to come. YouTube is another platform that similarly reinvents itself as it sees its userbase change.
Twitter, on the other hand, hasn’t made many changes since it first launched in 2006. Its focus on short posts, limited to only 140 characters, was novel and saw the platform have great success for many years. However, since then, the only major change it’s made was to increase the post length to 280 characters (for all languages except for Japanese, Korean, and Chinese). Twitter still struggles with users abusing one another and the company hasn’t made much in the way of revenue lately. User numbers continue to drop.
What to Look for
The biggest thing to look for when you invest your time and energy into a social media platform is whether or not it’s willing to make changes. Is the company researching what its users want and then rolling out new features to accommodate those wishes? Or is the social media platform the same now as it was when you first started using it?
The best social media platforms to invest in aren’t just those that are household names, but those that are clearly invested in their userbase. Look for regular updates and changes. Look for new features and capabilities. If a social media platform is constantly updating and providing new features for its users, it’s looking to stick around in the long run and is a good investment.