If Imitation is Flattery, Then Social Networks Are All in Love With Each Other
Lauren Johnson has an interesting write up in AdWeek about social networks imitating each other. Titled "4 Times Facebook and Twitter Copied Each Other in 2015," the piece explores just that; the times Facebook and Twitter decided to imitate each other (read: completely rip each other off) over the past year.
Johnson highlights four times the two giant social networks took ideas from each other and tried to implement themselves. The first is the cosmetic change Twitter made to change its "Favorite" button, in the shape of a star, into a "Like" button in the shape of a heart. It makes sense as a change, as one would have a lot of "likes" of tweets than "favorites," and the micro-blogging social networks was looking to increase user engagement. But, as Johnson notes, reaction to the change was mixed.
The second imitation was Facebook's jump into live streaming, in imitation of Twitter's Periscope app. Facebook Live Video was tested earlier this year and then rolled out to the general audience in December, allowing the social giant to compete with Periscope, or at least keep it from growing into too dominant a position in the field of live streaming.
Third is Twitter aping Facebook video's autoplay feature, which, if you think about it, might not have been the best move. Sure, autoplay allows Facebook to claim video views from users that haven't actually seen or watched the video, let alone turned on the sound, but its also one of the features of Facebook that users find to be deeply annoying.
And last is Facebook's app Instagram becoming more text heavy, and adding an "Explore" feature that lets users categorize and search by hashtag, which is one of the feature for which Twitter is most known and most used.
But for all the back and forth between those two leading social networks, they are just a drop in the bucket. Leading teach and social media companies steal from each other all the time. Twitch.tv was dominating live-streaming for gaming, so YouTube created YouTube Gaming. Snapchat became a very popular app with perishable messages, so Facebook starts exploring that option. Pinterest continued to do well this year, so suddenly tons of "Pinterest for men" imitators popped up.
And because we live in the digital age, this sort of imitation can often be done very easily, and very quickly. In the pre-digital era, when a manufacturer created an innovation that manufacturer's competitors would have to reverse-engineer it, change their own manufacturing processes, and make a slew of other adjustments if they wanted to compete. The process could take years.
Now, although it isn't instantaneous or anything, all a tech leader or CEO needs to do is go to his software engineers and ask "Can we do that too?" More and more and faster than ever it seems, the answer to that question is yes.