With all the brouhaha of the Facebook IPO, it’s easy to look at Facebook and think that it’s sitting pretty atop the social space: more time on site, more visits, more users… surely, it must be only a matter of time before Zuckerburg dominates everything?
Well, firstly let’s terminate one misconception: there is not going to be ‘only one winner’ in this space. It’s too big for that. So, if we suggest who’s winning is merely our view, today, on who’s going to outperform the others. All the main networks have certain things they do really well… for example Pinterest is social image sharing (it is what Yahoo! should have done with Flickr).
So, in this article, we’re taking a view of the overall landscape and are making some considered observations – many of which you can do from your desktop / laptop / mobile.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and now So.cl (another Microsoft social project) are mainly driven by managed relationships – you setup a profile filled with as much personal data as you want to share, you find someone, you connect with each other (through careful befriending processes) and then each of you is ‘IN’ to the others network.
They have all adapted a little to make it more open, but essentially the aim (whether for business or pleasure) is the same: share stuff with them you’d otherwise not share with the great unwashed, or should that be ‘users unknown’.
Most new startups are in this space too… all wanting to effectively offer ‘free’ services so that you share as much information with them as possible – to help them target you with advertising and marketing so that they earn money back.
Yet, for the incumbents, there are a number of problems here:
We believe this will, in the end lead to a number of unsatisfactory conclusions, either:
And, in the end, it’s likely that the latter will happen. In fact we can see this happening right now, and the network which is leading may surprise: it’s Twitter.
Firstly, we noted when Google+ came out that it wasn’t there to replace Facebook, but to be a communications hub with social sharing plugged in. Because Social is as much about sharing as it is about communicating. We got that right, so are also prepared to admit that at the time we thought that Twitter should be concerned with Google+ – however we can see that Twitter has continued to go from strength to strength.
Firstly, whilst there’s all this competition about the ‘bigger’ social networks as described above, Twitter has very little direct competition.
Secondly, Twitter avoids most of the concerns about privacy mainly because you don’t really share much (depending on what you Tweet, of course). So their carefully timed announcement of a ‘Do Not Track’ option is genius because of all the social networks, Twitter needs this least, but it puts pressure on the other networks to follow suit when it’s the last thing they want to offer.
Thirdly, Twitter is the easiest social network to understand. As others layer on the functionality, apps, filters, circles, feeds etc. with Twitter you have the 140 character box. There is some initial understanding about how it works with retweets, mentions, hashtags and so on, but nothing that can’t be understood over a coffee or two.
Fourthly, Twitter dominates mobile devices. 80% of Twitter users have it on their smartphone and use it predominantly. Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ have a big problem with their mobile users – because they don’t really know how to monetise these users – and it’s not going to be easy to fit advertising in to disrupt the social user experience (and turn them to another network).
Finally, all the evidence suggests that Twitter can monetise more readily. A promoted trend, for example, goes for about $120,000 per day. Promoted Tweets minimum spend is $5,000 a month. These are BIG numbers.
If you go to your LinkedIn feed, once you filter out all your ‘automated’ messages (people connecting to others, people changing jobs and so on) and virtually all the interesting opinions, perspectives and messages are fed in from Twitter.
If you go to your Facebook feed, you’ll see about one in three of the posts in Facebook is from Twitter too.
Not only this but you need to consider:
So, if you want to access the most vibrant social network, where most of the conversation is taking place, where you don’t need to give all your personal details… where users are active and accessible. Then you need to consider Twitter.