It is difficult to discuss digital strategy without mentioning the issue of social fragmentation, a challenge which all communication and marketing professionals are faced with. Nevertheless, the time of consolidation seems to be here.
The audience: the sinews of war
In order to ensure their sustainability, social networks must reach a critical size. One figure summarises it all: 1,44 billion, the number of active Facebook users. This figure is impressive... but still way below the real total. In fact, together, WhatsApp and Instagram have more than 900 million active users and are also brands owed by Mark Zuckerberg's firm. Therefore, the scope of the Facebook brand is wider than it appears at first sight.
In this context it's hard to exist as an outsider, especially given that the main social media leaders have significant financial windfall that allows them to buy out any social network in vogue and even poach the talent which designed these new networks, a strategy known as acqui-hire. A buyout implies the willingness of both parties: $3 billion dollars was not enough for Facebook to buy out the ephemeral social network SnapChat...but that didn't matter! The social media conglomerate from Menlo Park was quick to develop its own app in response - Slingshot, allowing users to exchange ephemeral photos and videos.
In short, while the new players may have all it takes to sell us the new concepts of tomorrow, they often lack the audience. However, to bypass the problem, there is a solution: capitalise on an audiences that already exist. A concrete example? Periscope, a live-streaming app that graphs itself onto the audience of Twitter or Meerkat, its direct competitor, which now integrates with Facebook.
Towards a Digital Lab, new trends incubator?
We are evolving in a more and more app-centric world. It's no surprise that the popular social media networks are mobile applications that do not offer an online version. Is this a sign of an ephemeral fad?
Everything indicates that the future of social media will be two-tiered. Shaped on one hand by a small group of social leaders, including Facebook and Twitter, and another group, the challengers, which will propose concepts for all tastes and interests.
The social leaders will dig into this incubator according to their desires, sometimes buying these networks, sometimes duplicating the service for their own network. They will further consolidate by becoming focal points in the media ecosystem and thus, bring more coherence into cross-media brand strategies.
From time to time, all the same, a new social network will succeed in integrating into the club of elites. But in a highly competitive world, being the first to launch a new concept will no longer suffice. It must offer an innovative service that is difficult to appropriate or duplicate. Foursquare has borne the brunt of this ruthless world...what social network hasn't incorporated check-ins into its platform?..
Check out our gifographic on this two-tiered social media landscape