A social network is a digital platform for social interactions and personal relationships. Of course, these interactions and relationships can significantly vary across the social network. As such, some cast a wide net and strive to provide an all-inclusive networking solution while others attempt to narrow their focus to a specific networking area where they feel they provide a superior solution. The above chart includes a selection of social networks that have thrived, been acquired by thriving networks or died (often when thriving networks adopted their core feature set and rendered them obsolete to their user base).
For the sake of comparison, the social networks were divided based on whether their features are focused on community or personal interactions and whether their offering is experiential (emotional content) or ephemeral (momentary events). Some networks continue to expand their functionality and may shift their position on this graph, it is intended to identify our interpretation of their core offering and perceived "sweet spot" in the social media landscape. As the most successful social network with the most robust and ever-expanding feature set, Facebook is squarely in the center of the social media universe. In some instances, they have acquired other successful platforms that offered companion features that may integrate with Facebook but still operate independently. Looking at each quadrant will allow us to generalize what is offered to users and how they are likely to use the services provided.
These social networks often have a higher frequency of content additions by users with an emphasis on community building. Users typically derive value from accumulating a large number of people into their community, normally identified as friends or followers. Additional value is created by receiving "likes" from members of the community. These votes of approval validate the quality of the content added by users. Reciprocity is a significant driver of this activity as well. To get more followers you should follow more people and to get more likes you should like the content contributed by others. This formula has proven to be very successful in generating tremendous activity on social networks and creating economic value to help justify their existence. Since content is rapidly replaced with new content and the number of friends/followers are higher the content isn't treated as especially memorable by the users. It's beneficial to the network when the users want to move on and consume more of the content in their stream. This category best fits with the traditional definition of social media and that may explain why this area is dominated by the juggernauts.
A picture is worth a thousand words and the leaders in this sector take full advantage of that fact. By focusing on sharing visual media with the community they can prompt emotions that viewing a photo album can evoke. However; since the goals are similar to other community focused networks this can fall short on many occasions due to the volume, repetition and general disinterest in some of the available content. The quality of the images/videos may have been a challenge in the early stages of these platforms and they have focused on developing technology and tools to help their user base improve the visual appeal of their content. Larger social networks have actively pursuedacquisition of networks in this category with mixed success. This could possibly have been to more quickly adopt their functionality into their own platform or to integrate these services with their own.
The social networks that dominate this category would be best described as messaging platforms. They provide the ability to send messages to individuals or groups that can include photos or video clips as well. Snapchat is an interesting member of this group. They initially captured a great deal of attention for the ephemeral nature of their platform. Content wasn't simply buried by fresher contributions like it was with community focused apps, it literally disappeared in seconds. It became extremely popular for this reason and reportedly rebuffed acquisition offers from Facebook and Google. They have since worked to grow out of their narrower focus to be a more full-featured social media platform. Time will tell if this will be successful, Instagram has continued to add similar features as both platforms move to the center of our graph. Snapchat share price has been sitting below its IPO value and more changes are likely to come...
This has been the forgotten quadrant. It's occupied mostly by e-card solutions which have had limited success in moving purchasers away from the traditional paper card industry dominated by Hallmark and American Greetings. These two industry leaders have developed their own digital products or made acquisitions to move into the digital age. Interestingly, despite these efforts they still sell 20 times more paper cards and are failing to gain traction in the digital arena. They aren't the only one failing to make inroads either. Facebook acquired Karma, an app that specialized in carefully curated gifts to integrate with the popular Facebook Gifts feature. Within a year this was shuttered and Facebook Gifts reverted to gift cards and Karma disappeared.
Is it possible that community focused social media isn’t a suitable environment for personal, emotional events? Are users concerned about mixing their lasting, sentimental moments with an ever increasingly high volume of ephemeral content? According to Bequeathit, a new “emotional network”, the answer is providing the best possible personal experience with the ability to accurately convey emotions. Social media features are only present if the sender and recipient agree that what they’ve expressed is appropriate to share with their communities. This two-party privacy system is unique in social media. If the sender feels the sentiment they’re expressing should be private it must be. If the recipient feels the interaction sent publicly should be private it must be. The recipient may feel this is necessary because they are sharing their reaction. On Bequeathit, as a message is revealed the recipient’s real-time reaction is being captured on video. The recipient will want to respond to the sender in most cases and they can share this video if they choose and take this opportunity to make the content private.
This creates a dedicated solution that fits perfectly within this quadrant but adds the ability to shift into the Community-Experiential sector when fitting. If moved to a community event it is open to viewing and comments by connections. One traditional social media feature that is not present is likes. Expressing genuine feelings is the true value and users receive immediate validation rather than waiting for the approval of people who "likely" have no involvement or awareness of the content they are validating and could potentially diminish the experience of the people interacting.
It could be the case that this quadrant does not lend itself to fraternizing with the others and the strategy of segregating a social network within quadrants will be more successful than attempting to merge the appropriate features into a network that is successful in other sectors. Hopefully there will be some growth in the personal experience sector because the amount of negativity and lack of overall empathy shown on social networks is a deficiency that social media is trying to remedy.
Face book is an ideal digital bulletin board, while Bequeathit is the perfect digital handwritten note and also Bequeathit has ability to disrupt the market. The world might be a better place if people spent a little time expressing their feelings to someone special.
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