The Evolution of Social Media Part II – Battles for Platform Dominance

In the Evolution of Social Media – Part 1, we looked at the established giants as well as emerging players. In part 2 we’ll cover the various fronts in the ongoing battles for dominance. 

Change is the only constant in social media. We realize that by the time we finish proof-reading and uploading this article, things will have changed. For the brands and content creators, this means new opportunities emerge often, such as new platform green fields to earn followers. New challenges also pop up, like the need to climb learning curves. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram to stay up to date.

Explore New Platforms & Stay Open-Minded

Just because a platform is the latest and greatest, doesn’t mean you have to jump on it. On the other hand, just because it’s new and trendy also doesn’t mean it’s a passing fad for kids and you should ignore it. Among constant change, some things remain prevalent, such as ongoing growth of total users. Even with such growth, each social media platform must still compete with the others for users’ time and attention. 

Stability Followed by Volatility

The oldest established giant, LinkedIn, officially launched in 2003. Facebook launched next in 2004, followed by YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, and finally Instagram in 2010. The platforms innovated, such as both Facebook and Instagram launching live video streaming in 2016. But overall, the social media landscape remained stable for several years – that is until TikTok became available worldwide in 2018.

In the end, all the platforms want eyeballs – more eyeballs and for longer – since that drives more revenue. We’ve broken it down into 5 important specific battlefronts in which leading platforms are currently trying to take the leader position.

1. Battle for Innovation

When I envision a “battle,” I think of opponents facing one another, each trying to outperform the other. But social media platforms competing to innovate are most accurately described as spying on one another and chasing behind. A consistent trend among social media platforms is to copy good ideas. 

  • SnapChat is known for FOMO-inducing content which disappeared, then Instagram launched “Stories,” described as a Snapchatty feature.
  • In April 2016, Facebook launched Facebook Live, a live video streaming service. Instagram launched live video November 21 of that same year.
  • TikTok is credited with having taken advantage of Vine’s departure. Vine was a very similar app which eventually fell due to difficulty monetizing videos.
  • Instagram released “Reels” in 2019, described as a direct competitor of TikTok. 
  • On 25 Feb 2021 Twitter announced paid Super Follows, which let users charge their followers for access to additional content. Other platforms with direct creator payment include Facebook, YouTube, and even GitHub.
  • “YouTube Shorts,” considered to be a rival offering to TikTok, launched in the US on 18 March 2021
  • Launched in late 2018, “Lasso” was widely regarded as Facebook’s TikTok clone. However, Facebook shut it down after only a year and a half, making that a swift surrender.
  • Twitter Spaces is a “Clubhouse-like” live audio feature

Getting dizzy yet? These are just a few examples but there are countless more, and new examples are appearing ever faster and more frequently as time passes and competition in the social media landscape sharpens. 

Whatever new functionality and user experience any social media platform launches, they can expect copycats. Still, there are fresh approaches, such as Facebook leveraging the Oculus VR platform to beta-test a virtual world that allows people to explore, connect with others, and play games.

2. Battle to Capture Creators

Content is still king. Each platform would be nothing without creators sharing content that draws users. For example, my favorite local gourmet deli only posts their specials on Facebook. For that alone, I must keep my account. No wonder Facebook has been focusing on the small and medium sized business segment to sustain current and future business revenue and growth. 

Creators are key to success in the social media world, since their unique, engaging content gets audiences hooked longer and coming back faster and more often. Recognizing this, TikTok was strategic at recruiting and compensating content creators. “TikTok has recently created a $1 Billion Creator Fund. This money will be paid by TikTok directly to its creators in an effort to further solidify its relationships with influencers.” TikTok describes an additional creator bonus, “The LIVE gifting feature allows viewers to show their appreciation to their favorite creators by sending them virtual gifts which will be taken into account by us in the calculation of the reward for the creator who is hosting a LIVE stream.”

TikTok’s algorithms also serve users the content they like, whether the platform makes money from it or not. Whereas on platforms like Instagram it might be more difficult to grow one’s audience as the platforms algorithms seem not to favour content creators to the same extent as others do. The expectation is that we might see changes in this positioning from Instagram in the future however.

Twitter announced paid Super Follows, which let users charge their followers for access to additional content. Kayvon Beykpour, the head of consumer product at Twitter, stated, “For Super Follows, our goal is not for Twitter to make money. Our goal is for creators to make money.” 

Described as an “answer to Substack Local,” Facebook will spend $5 million paying local reporters to join its news platform in an effort to maintain a strong content flow and appeal to the content consumer. 

Digitalisation has been speeding up the rate of content consumption by users and at the same time content shelf life is ever shorter. As a result all platforms and media providers are experiencing this ever growing need for content and thus the content creators who help provide it, and as such are experimenting in how to establish a strong creator pool and sustainable content flow.

3. Battle for Engagement

Among the 4 key reasons TikTok will grow and broaden its appeal in 2021, it’s the easiest platform algorithm for users to train to feed them content they love. Additionally, TikTok users are also 31% more likely to engage with brands than users of other platforms.  

“TikTok’s average monthly time spent per user grew faster than nearly every other app analyzed, including 70% in the US and 80% in the UK – surpassing Facebook. TikTok is on track to hit 1.2 billion active users in 2021.”

Engagement is the new currency. Although engagement on its own might not be 100% key for users, it does indicate the degree to which users like the content and thus how the platform is succeeding in delivering content that users appreciate. In turn, this will be a driver of long-term success.

However, for brands the story around engagement is a little bit different. Engagement is one of the main metrics a brand should measure to evaluate the success of its marketing efforts. More engagement means more people have actually taken the time to absorb your content and who have thus heard your brand’s message. Therefore, the platform that provides more engagement becomes more interesting to invest time and effort in from a brand perspective. 

4. Battle for Spending and Social commerce

Platforms want both consumers to make purchases and brands to spend advertising money. Of course, these objectives are inextricably entwined, since the latter won’t happen without the former.

Many platforms are actively courting brands and helping them succeed. TikTok launched new tools to help SMBs use the platform to their advantage, including new promotions, ad tools, and education sessions. A TikTok announcement on May 4 states, “Business owners can also share their experience and give us a peek into their world. From packing orders and behind-the-scenes tutorials to business advice and motivation for the tough times, we are excited to see more business owners and their supporters interact with each other on TikTok.”

In the summer of 2020, TikTok gave small businesses $100 million in ad credits and launched TikTok for Business to help them connect with communities.

Facebook has been betting on small and medium sized business (SMBs) to drive growth and revenue generation. In late 2020, Facebook launched a “Season of Support” initiative which included free training, marketing support and insights to help small businesses capitalize on the holiday shopping season. The program also included support for Instagram.

70% of consumers search for products they need to buy on Instagram and Facebook. More than 50% of Millennials would buy through social media, figure that rises even faster for generation Z consumers.”

An even more important evolution is the growth of social commerce. Social commerce capabilities are another way platforms are working to help businesses drive revenue, as well as generate revenue for themselves. In 2021, 52% of socially-engaged shoppers have already made one or multiple purchases through a social platform. Instagram and Pinterest provide the most relevant social commerce experiences for brands today, but Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok are all expanding their offerings rapidly, investing heavily to try take the lead and capture a bigger share of this rapidly expanding business model, with (online) shopping expected to shift increasingly towards social commerce in coming years. Social commerce capabilities and features are evolving and advancing fast as a consequence. With Instagram Shoppable posts, you can sell products directly from shoppers’ feeds. “TikTok has invested more heavily in commerce capabilities, recently introducing tie-ups with retailers including Walmart that allow consumers to purchase products without leaving the app.” Social commerce accounted for about 44% of Southeast Asia’s $109 billion e-commerce market last year, according to Bain & Co. Meanwhile the number of US social commerce buyers accelerated 25.2% to 80.1 million in 2020 and will grow another 12.9% to 90.4 million in 2021. Total US social commerce value is expected to be over $ 36 billion in 2021. 

5. Battle for Screen Time

While platforms must continue to compete with one another for users, they’ve collectively succeeded at winning over traditional media. Time spent on mobile devices now actually surpasses time spent watching TV. According to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2021 report:

“The average American watched 3.7 hours of live TV a day, whereas they spent 4.0 hours on their mobile device in H2 2020.”

Of course, competition remains, such as the current battle to dominate audio streaming. 

So, What Next?

While these developments can be fascinating to observe, it’s tough to stay up to date when things change fast.
Following Kingfluencers can help you stay current.


Author: 
Megan Bozman, Owner @Boz Content Marketing

The Evolution of Social Media – Part I

The term “social media” has been used as far back as 1997, which predates the release of the major platforms we think of today. In part 1 of this series, we’ll look at the established giants as well as emerging players. In parts 2 and 3, we’ll cover trends and what makes each platform best suited for different objectives. Follow Kingfluencers on IG and Linkedin to catch upcoming articles. 

Emergence and Growth of Social Media Platforms

LinkedIn

We’ll move chronologically with some key stats on the giants. The oldest of our established giants, LinkedIn officially launched on May 5, 2003. There were originally many technical professionals active on the platform, and savvy marketing people discovered we could hop on and easily find our targets for free. (We probably annoyed them back then; sorry about that.) But it made sense to emerge as a place for professionals in all industries to share their work experience, network, and find new work opportunities and new employees. 60.1% of LinkedIn users are 25-34 years old, followed by 18-24 year olds at 19.2%, and 35-54 at 17.5%, and, reflective of the workforce, only 3.3% are 55+.

Famous LinkedIn Posters: The top influencers of the year on LinkedIn, as ranked by engagement and more, start with Bill Gates, followed by Richard Branson, Mohamed El-Erian, James Altucher, and Bernard Marr.

Facebook

The first version of Facebook was launched in 2004 and it currently has the following distinctions:

2.7 B

monthly active users

59%

social media reach

3rd

most visited website

2nd

most downloaded app after TikTok

Facebook’s largest audience segment by age is 25-34 years old at 32.4% of Facebook users. The next largest group is aged 18-24, representing 23.5% of Facebook’s audience. 

Famous Facebook Users: Funny, but unlike other platforms, ‘Facebookers’ hasn’t become a common term. As far as the most popular accounts, the Facebook platform itself comes in first, followed by Samsung, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CV, Coca-Cola, and FC Barcelona.

YouTube

Three former PayPal employees created YouTube in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for US$1.65 B and it now operates as one of Google’s subsidiaries. YouTube has over 2B users, which amounts to almost one-third of the Internet.

Three former PayPal employees created YouTube in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for US$1.65 B and it now operates as one of Google’s subsidiaries. YouTube has over 2B users, which amounts to almost one-third of the Internet.

As evidence of their investment in creators, the number of channels earning six figures per year on YouTube grew more than 40% year over year. YouTube is the world’s second-most visited website, used by 77% of 15–35 year-olds, as well as 73% of Americans aged 36 to 45. Unlike with many other platforms, use does not drop off with age. YouTube is still used by 70% of those aged 46 to 55 and 67% of those 56 and older.

40%

yearly growth

77%

of 15-35 year olds

2nd

most visited website

70%

of 46-55 year olds

Cognizant of the huge impact of user-generated content, in 2006, the Time Magazine “Person of the Year” was ‘You’. “It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace.”

Famous Youtubers: In first place is PewDiePie, known for video game commentary videos as well as coverage of internet memes and viral videos. Next are Kids Diana Show, Like Nastya, and Vlad and Niki, all of which feature children playing with toys and going on adventures. In fifth place is Dude Perfect with videos of trick shots, famous athletes, and comedy.

Reddit

Claiming the accolade of, “The Homepage of the Internet,” Reddit was founded in 2005. The ability to upvote both posts and comments within posts enables the best content to rise to the top. The approach is appealing and has been proposed for other scenarios. With over 52 million daily active users and 50 billion monthly views across 100K communities, it’s the 12th most popular site worldwide. Quirky humor abounds, such as the fact that the subreddit r/trees is all about marijuana while the subreddit r/marijuanaenthusiasts is “the go-to subreddit for all things dendrologic!”

Famous Redditors: Redditors notoriously don’t reveal their real names. Anonymity is an appealing feature of the platform. Celebrities occasionally participate in an “AMA,” Ask Me Anything, which resulted in this wonderfully wholesome, uplifting quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the most famous Redditors, instrumental in the January 2021 disruption to the stock GameStop, is known as, “Space-peanut.”

Twitter

First described as a “microblogging service,” Twitter debuted in March 2007. Tweets were originally limited to 140 characters, which was doubled to 280 on Nov 8 2017. Twitter also has one of the oldest audiences with 63% of users between 35 and 65 years old. At 353m monthly active users, the platform sits below Reddit and above LinkedIn in popularity.

Famous Twitter Posters: While an individual post on Twitter is called a “tweet,” those making tweets aren’t referred to as “tweeters.” Former US President Barack Obama is the most popular with 127.9m followers. Justin Bieber is next, followed by Katy Perry, Rihanna, Cristiano Ronaldo. Former US President Donald Trump hit a peak follower count of nearly 89m on Nov 17, 2020, before seeing a decline in followers, and being permanently suspended on January 8, 2021.

Instagram

Instagram officially launched in 2010 and, although it’s primarily used through a mobile app, Instagram is the sixth-most visited website. Over 1 billion people use Instagram every month.

Instagram officially launched in 2010 and, although it’s primarily used through a mobile app, Instagram is the sixth-most visited website. Over 1 billion people use Instagram every month.

81% of people use Instagram to help research products and services, and 2 in 3 people say the network helps foster interactions with brands. Like Facebook, the largest user segment is 25 to 34 years old, at 33.1 percent of U.S. Instagram users. The second-largest user group is 18- to 24-year-olds.

Doing it “for the ‘gram” has become such a ubiquitous concept, it’s mentioned in the chorus of the Iggy Azalea’s latest song, “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching.”

81%

people use Instagram to research products and services

2 in 3 people

say it helps foster interactions with brands

33%

is 25 – 34 years old

+22%

growth in 2020

Famous Instagrammers: Like Facebook, Instagram itself is the most followed account, with 2nd place held by footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, followed by Ariana Grande, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez, and Kim Kardashian West.

TikTok

TikTok was originally released in the Chinese market in September 2016 and became available worldwide after merging with another Chinese social media service, Musical.ly, on August 2, 2018. As the world’s most downloaded app in 2020, TikTok is available in over 150 countries and has over 1 billion users. TikTok users are younger, with 60% being Gen Zers. About one third, 32.5%, of US-based TikTokers are 10-19 years old. The next largest segment is aged 20-29 – 29.5%, followed by 30-39 at 16.4%. Looking for tips on how to succeed on TikTok as a creator? Check our our previous article here.

TikTok was strategic at recruiting and compensating content creators, knowing that they’re key to the success of any platform. “TikTok has recently created a $1 Billion Creator Fund. This money will be paid by TikTok directly to its creators in an effort to further solidify its relationships with influencers.”

Famous TikTokers: The two most followed TikTok accounts are dancers, 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio with 100.2m followers, followed by Addison Rae. In third is magician Zach King. The actual platform itself comes in fifth with 43.6m followers.

Twitch

I confess, I went straight to a subject-matter-expert here: my 12-year-old son who loves video games. He said Twitch is the best platform for vid-gamers to stream their play. You can subscribe to your favorite streamers and even win in-game prizes for watching in games such as Rocket League (a name I kept forgetting and calling it, “Car Soccer.”) However, the tech doesn’t enforce that you actively watch. Running in the background is adequate.

Twitch is operated by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc. There are both free and paid versions as well. With over 9 million active broadcasters, it’s not exclusively gaming, but all of the top 5 are gamers.

Other Emerging Platforms

Clubhouse is an exclusive, audio-based social media app that’s by invitation-only. Users share audio clips instead of text posts. In May 2020, the company was valued at around $100 million. In a recent article, Mashable described it as, “something akin to a live, free-flowing podcast. You can simply listen or choose to throw in your thoughts. Imagine a cocktail party or, clubhouse.”

Clubhouse is popular with celebrities including Oprah, Kevin Hart, Drake, Chris Rock, and Ashton Kutcher.

There’s a rule that conversations can’t be recorded, and they’re not saved. Although I have my doubts that we’ll never hear some scandal revealed from the app.

Triller is a video-making and social networking service that allows users to automatically edit and synchronize their videos to background tracks using AI.

New Players Overthrowing Established Platforms?

People sometimes claim Facebook is dead and deleting it has been trendy. There’s even an entire website dedicated to encouraging deletion, addressing how it fosters toxicity and polarization as well as exploits our biases. Social media breaks, such as in January, are also popular for instance.

With the emergence of new players, there are concerns established platforms will be abandoned. For example, MySpace was an early pioneer and it made me genuinely surprised to see that it’s still live, however I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s relevant. And Vine has languished. Is TikTok to blame? It probably didn’t help. Join us for part 2, where we address competition between platforms and more.

PlatformMonthly Active UsersGrowth 2020Daily time spentEngagement %Revenue 2020
LinkedIn303 M+9.39%<1 min0.4%8.05 B
Facebook2.4 B+7.27%58 min0.19%85.96 B
YouTube1.9 B+5.00%40 minmicro-influencers: 1.63%
mega-influencers: 0.37%
19.77 B
Reddit330 M+23.26%16 minN/A120 M (2019)
Twitter330 M+4.12%1 min0.036%3.72 B
Instagram1 B+22.87%53 min1.42%
micro-influencers: 3.86%
mega-influencers: 1.21%
22.2 B
TikTok1 B+37.50%52 minmicro-influencers: 17.96%
mega-influencers: 4.96%
1 B
Twitch140 M+14%9 minN/A213.8 M

Author: Megan Bozman, Owner @Boz Content Marketing