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What And When Will Be The Next Social Media Disruption?

October 2016

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Most people in the tech industry, as well as avid consumers, marketers, and business owners, are always on the lookout for the next big thing.

In the social media world, we’ve seen a ton of developments over the past decade or so. Apps have become more friendly to mobile devices than desktops, content has become more visual and more immediate, and borderline gimmicky apps have risen to almost inexplicable heights of popularity. But I’d argue we haven’t really seen anything that’s genuinely disruptive.

“Disruption” has been one of the tech industry’s favorite buzzwords, used to describe any app, business, or even basic idea capable of changing the way people think about something.

Does that mean we’re overdue? Are we on the verge of the next major social media disruption? If so, what will it be, and when can we expect it?

Qualifying a Disruption

First, since the definition is so vague, let me explain what I’m personally referring to when I mention a “disruption.” To me, a disruptive social media technology would need to meet three criteria:

  • Significance. A disruption would first need to have some kind of massive impact on the way we use a technology. Consider Facebook’s recent rollout of emoji reactions; these changed the ways people interacted with content on social media, but weren’t that big of a change from the traditional “like” mechanism.
  • Breadth. Disruptive innovation would also need to cover a wide breadth, both in terms of the apps and devices affected as well as the populations using them. For example, if Snap (formerly known as Snapchat) were to release a new feature that truly changed how people used and thought about Snap, that would still only apply to the limited population that currently uses Snap. It doesn’t affect other social media apps, nor does it affect the majority of communicative consumers.
  • Timing. Finally, there’s timing, and this may be the toughest one to qualify. A “disruption” can’t be said to occur if it unfolds very gradually; instead, it needs to have a near-immediate effect. For example, the transition of most social media apps to mobile devices occurred gradually, taking the better part of a decade to get 80 percent of users primarily relying on mobile for social interactions. Thus, it can’t qualify as a disruption to our everyday lives.

The Facebook Effect

One of the biggest factors holding back the possibility for disruption is what I call the “Facebook effect.” Facebook is undeniably the biggest influencer in the social media world; with more than one billion active users and a long, consistent history, Facebook has earned its reputation for being the dominant player in the social game.

Its users are satisfied and comfortable. As a result, many new platforms mimic standards that Facebook has already put into place, reducing the cutting-edge, unconventional thinking needed to produce a true disruption.

To make matters worse, Facebook itself stifles disruption to avoid unsettling its massive user base. It releases updates slowly and carefully, gradually acclimating users to new layouts and environments. Plus, when it does this, its contemporary platforms (like Twitter and Instagram) tend to follow suit.

Potential Launch Points

There are, however, a handful of potential “launch points” for new social media disruptions. These are opportunities for disruptions to emerge in the modern paradigm of social media, and my guess is when the next disruption occurs, it will come from one of these three areas:

  • New hardware. Mobile devices radically changed how we use social media, shaping apps’ functionalities and giving us more real-time updates, but they weren’t adopted fast enough to qualify as a true disruption. Our next disruption may, then, come in the form of similarly game-changing hardware. For example, virtual reality (VR) headsets are starting to emerge and challenge how we engage with our digital environments—if adopted fast enough, by enough people, it could theoretically support a major change in the way we interact on social media in general.
  • A strong gimmick. A new platform with a strong gimmick could also challenge our traditional social media conventions. The novelty of it would allow it to catch on and spread quickly, like most fads, giving it an advantage in the timing department. Its popularity could also cover sufficient breadth, and if the idea itself was good enough, it could affect how our existing social media leaders think about their own apps.
  • Existing leadership. It’s also possible that today’s social media leadership intentionally drives the next disruption, especially if it’s a desperate play to stay alive. For example, Twitter is barely able to keep up with its contemporaries these days, and could easily resort to a drastic change in an effort to keep afloat.

Making a Guess

Social media remains one of the most integral, practical, and flexible channels for marketing and advertising, so it’s important to at least venture a guess about its future. It seems unlikely that we’ll see a major disruption anytime soon, but then again, these radical developments tend to spring up without much warning.

As users grow tired of the conventional form of social media interaction, and as new hardware like VR devices and smart home technology become more commonplace, we’ll likely reach a crossroads where new and existing social media leaders must change course. If that’s the case, we’ll likely see at least a major formatting change (or a revolutionary new platform) within the next five years.

 

This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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