Comment

Wanted: social originality and a USP

It’s absurd, the way social media platforms are trying to imitate each other. Plagiarism was rife at school, but I thought people had outgrown that.

The last 12 months have seen a lot of ‘progress’ (read regress) in Social’s seemingly unrelenting desire to morph into one almost indistinguishable, digital mess.

Possibly only Snapchat has retained some element of originality – and dignity – in my eyes, rebranding as Snap, a ‘camera company’.

But what are the USPs of the others? One of the fundamentals of marketing has been flouted – differentiation. It’s all becoming the same.

That’s why platforms such as Twitter are increasingly registering declining use among the digitally native – those who were ‘born into’ social media. They are looking for something different – something their elder siblings, parents or even grandparents aren’t using.

Story to date

Let’s have a brief recap:

  • Instagram has copied Snapchat with its launch of Stories – co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom admitted it last year. I foresee more changes for the pic-heavy platform, purchased by Facebook in 2012 for just US$1bn, probably revolving around what its nemesis is doing. Keep your cards close to your chest, Evan.
  • Facebook has launched Workplace – a fusion of LinkedIn and Yammer/Slack – to connect work colleagues and draw in businesses. Furthermore, it has also copied Snapchat (the plat du jour, it seems) and included Live video streaming and face filters.
  • LinkedIn is ‘retaliating’ by becoming more like Facebook. Anyone else sick to the back teeth of posts like: “This is 83-year-old George. I sat next to him in a coffee shop and had a life-changing moment... let’s all be more like George” or the vomit-inducing, emotional X Factor stories? Leave them at home. This is for business.
  • Twitter – goodness knows what Twitter is doing, and I doubt Dorsey et al know either. It is like a confused teenager. As we all know, puberty is indeed a challenging time but, despite its problems, Twitter remains a firm favourite of mine – simple, quick to react, does what it does well, and now includes GIFs (who doesn’t love GIFs?).
  • Snapchat, too, has felt the need to evolve/emulate. Discovery added a news and content element to try to be more like Facebook, giving users their daily fix of world affairs and what the latest reality celebrity (yawn) is up to.

I understand why this is happening (see blog on Snapchat’s important audience), with the millennial audience being overtaken by Generation Z – aka the iGeneration. But the amalgamation of individual unique elements into one generic platform style risks losing originality and, therefore, alienating users.

So what is the end game? To ‘lower the bar for sharing all types of photos and video – and not just the carefully planned and painstakingly touched-up photographs that are typical of the service’, Instagram's Systrom told the NY Times.

I can sense the panic building in the Californian corridors of social media behemoths, as they realise that the speed of consumer change and the iGeneration’s desire for something new is overtaking their strategies. 

To me, this feels like a big game of one-upmanship across the Social giants, a game that may end up leaving egg on Silicon Valley faces. For, while each is engrossed in what its rivals are doing, the next new thing will overtake them all ­– be that AR, VR or something else. And it'll probably be created by someone born after '99.

 
Adam Driver
is senior associate - client services
at CPL

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