From giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to challengers such as Ello or about.me: social networks have engaged in an incredible race to popularity. This article gives an overview of the present situation in a nutshell and shares visions on the future of platforms that could win… or lose this race in the coming years.
The evolution of practices on social networks depends strongly on mind-set, cultural habits and user lifestyles. These changes involve increased reactivity expected from software companies in the development of their product, and high responsiveness from their communication strategy.
The largest platforms in the world: Facebook, and… QQ and Qzone
According to figures collected by French social media news site le Blog du ModÃ©rateur, Facebook remains unsurprisingly the largest network with 1.32 billion registered users worldwide. Not far behind, yet far less known in the western world, QQ is the most used messaging platform in China with 798 million users. Third place on the podium is Chinese Qzone, which allows users to customize their blog, send photos and listen to music. With 623 million users, Qzone is nearly triple the size of Twitter!
To give you an idea of the average time spent on social networks, the global average is 2 hours per day. China is slightly below with 1 hour 30 minutes per day while the French average is one minute less, with 1 hour 29 minutes on social networks daily. Note that this is already a decrease compared to 2011!
The progressive death of Facebook?
Gone are the days of Facebook’s hegemony in terms of messaging and image sharing. The time of diversification has come, and users now spend their time between several social networks on multiple devices simultaneously.
Facebook has lost attractiveness, which can be seen both in terms of new registrations and in terms of volume of content shared: public discussions are struggling in favour of discrete likes. Typically, we notice that Facebook is struggling to attract the 13-24 age group who are not part of the original “Facebook generation”, as shown by the figures in the table below (figures for the United States).
Number of Facebook users in the US, in 2011 and 2014, by gender and age group. Source : iStrategy Labs
Who to blame?
First, given the business potential of social networks, it makes sense that new social networks would appear on the market. This boost of competitiveness is therefore a logical consequence dictated by market forces. But other reasons could explain Facebook’s drop in popularity, such as the many doubts expressed in terms of data privacy and unwanted advertising. That’s enough reasons for some users to deactivate their account, leave it inactive, and eventually turn to other social networks.
The privilege of private messaging and picture-based networks
Looking at the numbers in the illustration below, there is no denying that Instagram has experienced strong growth. Content based on images allows for a different kind of creativity, a new way of expression, and a greater incentive for interaction. Text requires (relative) effort in reading while showing an image is more obvious. Proof of the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”…
Growth of social networks in terms of active users (2013). Source : Softonic
Another trend concerns the strong growth of private messaging: 760 million snaps are exchanged daily on Snapchat and over 70% of WhatsApp users are active every day. This would also explain why Facebook has decided to create two separate mobile apps, one being an app version of the classic platform and the other being solely the private messaging system (Messenger).
Mobile is king
In order: mobiles are the most used devices to access social networks, followed by tablets, and finally fixed computers. The device influences in a major way the design of platforms, their structure, and UX.
According to figures from Laurent Giret, it turns out that some mobile applications are actually experiencing strong growth because they are dedicated to mobile support.
Compared to 2013:
- Vine: + 403%
- Instagram: + 130%
- WhatsApp: + 123%
From a social network to a business network
Any good solution offers features that can meet the needs of masses of users and create a loyal consumer base for businesses. From social to commercial, , companies try to master the psychology of social networks and implement that while creating their own platforms. Professional and targeted platforms are now highly acclaimed, and emphasize the feeling of spontaneity, fun and proximity. This is the case of Sephora with “The Beauty Board.” Users share their “looks,” find inspiration and test Sephora products online. And of course, they can buy their favorite products in a few clicks. I say, way to go!
From one year to the next, the multitude of platforms and apps appearing on the social networking market are changing existing solutions and creating trends that may affect tens of millions of users at a time. The challenge for software companies is to please an extremely varied age range and retain their loyalty because users will ultimately and endlessly be curious to test new platforms and look for new ways to connect. What will the year 2015 hold for us? Even more innovative and creative concepts, or on the contrary, a tendency to return to basics and reject virtual interaction via social networks? Read these great insights collected from social media influencers about 5 social media trends for the year!
This article was written by Julie Hong from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.