Why New Social Media Fails


(for now)

We all know and love social media. In this day and age, it's almost impossible to avoid it. As social creatures we crave the satisfaction of being connected to so many people at once. But we also hate the platforms that are available -- Facebook is data hungry, Twitter has some bizarre developer policies and is rife with bots, reddit is a hive mind... the list goes on. So why can't we just make a new social platform that solves all these issues?

The sad truth is that incentivizing people to move to another platform is really difficult. We can observe this with something like Google Allo, which surged with popularity when it was announced but has apparently completely stalled in downloads (via Android Police). A handful of people I talk to on a regular basis have it installed, but we also end up communicating a lot on Twitter, which defeats the purpose (I also have a sneaking suspicion I might be the only person they have on Allo)

Unfortunately Facebook is no different. Despite my best efforts, for a lot of people including my bosses, it has pretty much completely replaced SMS. Facebook Messenger is the only messaging platform they use, and who can blame them -- it's a solid messaging app. And I say this with a hint of sarcasm (reddit, although I've seen some reports suggesting they fixed it recently).

And other social networks... have fared no better. The two biggest names out there, Facebook and Twitter, dominate. Startups have attempted to build better platforms -- I remember signing up for the beta of App.net, which ended up shutting because the company simply ran out of money, due both to low adoption rates and low conversion of free customers to paying. Niche platforms have risen like Mastodon, which have potential but the adoption rate will be low and very niche.

Now there is a bright side to all this. There will always be a place for startup social platforms -- Remember, we all thought MySpace couldn't fail (and when was the last time you thought of MySpace?). There will be a time when Twitter doesn't manage to keep up with the times, or people wise up and ditch Facebook completely. I don't want to discourage people from exploring the potential of their twist on the idea, who knows what could happen.