Are Social Media platforms losing their individuality?
Updated: Sep 13
Since the birth of social media in 1997, platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and most recently Threads, have launched their way into our pockets and taken over our home screens. But the fight for attention on our 9: 16 screens is more competitive than ever. With new entrants and increasing competition, each platform has had to evolve, add, develop, grow, pivot and adapt their proposition as new components enter the ring of social media.
How many in the UK use social media and what for?
In January 2023, 60% of the global population used a social media platform, with the UK making up over 57 million of those users. 53.1% of people in the UK report that they mainly use social media to keep in touch with friends and family, whilst 36.7% to fill their spare time, and 22.2% use it to find inspiration for things to do and buy. Additionally, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 151 minutes per day, up from 147 minutes in the previous year. This illustrates that throughout the years of social platforms evolving and gaining additional functionality, we are becoming more and more dependent on them in all facets of life - entertainment, online shopping, or creating interactive content.
Fight Over Short Form Video - TikTok changing the social media narrative
During lockdown we saw the explosion of TikTok. Its popularity grew significantly due to everyone wanting to find a new and creative way to stay entertained whilst stuck at home. With its addictive short-form video content and unique editing features, it provided us with fun and engaging ways to express ourselves creatively. And due to the algorithm being designed to surface content that is relevant and engaging to each individual user, its ability to hook you in and hold attention is greater than its competitors. And although reputed for being the virtual playground for teenagers, TikTok has since seen big jumps in 25-35 year olds on their platform.
This appetite for short-form video content has led to a shift in the social media landscape, as many other platforms have incorporated similar features in hope of keeping their users engaged. For example, the well-known social media giant Instagram introduced a new app feature called Reels, which allows you to create 15-second videos and set them with music…. Sound familiar? Or YouTubes introduction of Shorts which also has a similar look and feel.
Fight Over the Text - Threads vs X (Twitter)
Then we have Instagram's latest development with Threads. A separate app Meta have built for sharing “text updates and joining public conversations”. Allows users to post up to 500 characters and includes links, photos, and videos up to five minutes in length. Having a high level of similarity and direct competition to Elon Musks 16 years old X (Twitter) platform.
Launched in July, Threads surpassed 2 million sign-ups in the first two hours, and crossed 100 million users within five days, faster than any other app ever has. But user engagement has fallen dramatically since the initial burst of enthusiasm from users, according to data analysts SimilarWeb. By the end of its first month, Threads retained just 8 million daily active users, down 82% from its initial peak whereby, X still boasted 238 million daily users.
Threads might not be perfect, but it is backed by a huge parent company and has just last week launched its Web version. Zuckerburg announced the update with a post on Threads, captioned: “Actual footage of me building Threads for web. Rolling out over the next few days.” The web browser functionality takes Threads a step closer to matching what X offers.
My Take On It All.
As a Gen Z, I have grown up with the hype of social media since they first launched and have interacted with every new app feature that has been introduced each year. For me, Instagram and Snapchat are my personal favourites. Despite their similarity in allowing you to communicate with your friends online, they both have different ways for you to interact with them. Snapchat is all about quick snap pictures and fun filters that you can share to your friends. Whereas Instagram is more about sharing photos, videos, and stories that come up on your feed. As well as making sure your profile looks aesthetically pleasing.
Then there was the launch of TikTok, which if you're a fellow Gen Z, you’ll find that it's actually an updated version of the popular app Musical.ly, which was a craze for us back in 2015-2018 (read more about it in my colleague Paige Winchester recent blog). With TikTok, it’s annoyingly addictive as your feed is filtered with videos based on your algorithm. But as it continuously grows, it has been evident that other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat have incorporated similar features. For me, despite it being fun to interact with new app features, it seems that most social platforms are losing their individuality in fear that their app might become ‘outdated’ from TikTok or any app that is highly used amongst our population. Personally, I like how each platform has different features and creative tools, as you are exposed to a variety of ways to be interactive online.
But as each app releases a new feature or sub-apps like Threads with similarities to another, will there be an upcoming time when there is no individuality between social media platforms? And what could this mean for brands and their advertisements in the future?
Written by Darcy Coates