The Future of Social Networking
Mason Carter wrote this article
I used to envision a world where Facebook was a mainstay of my life.
A few years ago I had difficulty imagining a world without the presence of big social networks.
But, you know what? My vision of the future has dramatically changed.
I see us moving towards a balanced social life on the Internet. I see the rise of smaller, more niche-driven social networks and online communities. This does not mean that big social networks are going to be extinct.
For example, TikTok is on the road to becoming a big social network and a mainstay for the iGeneration.
While Facebook is starting to show signs of vulnerability, they also have Instagram.
More people than you would think don’t know Facebook owns Instagram. And these networks will still be mainstays for celebrities of all sizes and their fans.
Finding balance in how we socialize online
I imagine many more niche-driven and smaller networks are about to hit the Internet.
Some of these will be paid platforms, but users will find the value in that. If the network can add a lot of value to your life that drives you to pay for it, that’s a good sign for the network’s long-term viability!
I also imagine that these networks are going to be closer and more intimate in scope. Advertising will be different. Some of these networks may not have advertising at all.
With these changes, you’ll get to know the people in your network much better.
I think too many of us don’t know half of of the people on our Facebook friends list. The need has arisen for social platforms that will connect you closer to the people you care about and have things in common with.
The focus will be on socializing rather than driving human behavior. These networks are going to have less noise. They will cater to more specific interests and be more community-driven.
Check out Dissolve, an iOS social media network we built here at Chop Dawg. In fact, this app was built to be an “ephemeral social network without all the noise,” giving friend groups the framework to have carefully thought-out, intellectual conversations about the topics that interest them the most.
There will be a visible divide between personal and impersonal social networks.
There are already networks around that are uniting people who share a common interest.
One example of this type of common interest network is NextDoor, a platform where users can easily exchange information with their neighbors. It’s all about bringing people together and connecting them and neighborhood services. The goal of the network is for neighbors to feel informed and connected.
On this private social network, neighbors report on news and events in their neighborhoods. Members also can recommend local service providers. Only residents can join neighborhood groups. The average number of households in a group is 700 households according to Next Door. To fund itself, Nextdoor does advertise. It’s in a much different way than Facebook, though.
Advertising on the big social networks is invasive. In fact, Facebook’s entire advertising model just came under review in Germany. If they don’t make some major changes to their data collection model, they’re no longer welcome.
These ads encourage people to make irrational choices. And it’s also not specialized enough anymore.
But for Nextdoor, the advertising is specialized. Advertising is for real estate listings and businesses that offer a tangible benefit for locals. Nextdoor tells its advertisers to “drive local awareness with national scale.” The idea is to connect businesses of all sizes with neighborhoods so that they become trusted.
Along with less invasive advertising, we are going to see smaller, niche-driven platforms that don’t exist simply to suck your time away. They serve as a complement to your life and keep you in touch with your real-life communities.
The rise of social marketplaces
As smaller social networks come into existence, their appeal is going to be how they serve people’s specific interests.
I can see this merging with the marketplace, as marketplaces are inherently social. A lot of people like to shop, and shopping can be social. And there are those people that really like to shop for specific things.
So, if I’m an avid shopper, where would I go to find out the best deals on everything? If I want to feel like I’m in the right place, I would use the social network Wanelo.
Wanelo is a community for avid shoppers and includes all of the social aspects that come with it. On Wanelo you can follow other shoppers, set up wish lists, swap ideas for bargains, and more. Signing up is simple, and you can immediately find people that have the same tastes as you or tastes you didn’t even know about. Wanelo offers a customized, curated feed of shopping deals that might interest you, all people-based. Wanelo also allows you to buy products within the app. We can already see a different monetization strategy at play.
People love to make lists and socialize about making those lists.
So Wanelo lets you set up various wish lists for different items. You can pin collections, products, and curated lists to your profile. You also have the opportunity to share photos of and reviews for products you’ve bought.
I can see a lot of shoppers learning from other shoppers on Wanelo, and the social network will stay focused on its core mission.
Connecting people and letting them be truly social online
I think that paid social networks are going to have much more of a standing now.
People want to communicate with the most specific things that matter in their lives. The key with paid social networks is that product is the service instead of you.
An example of a social network like this is Vero.
Vero is an ad-free social media platform that launched in 2015. It is becoming a subscription service this year, with its first million members being allowed to keep their free accounts for building up the network. It’ll be very cheap to use, and I think that people will gladly trade some of their dollars for a network that doesn’t turn them into a product. Users have a complete say in the content they see. They can interact with others in a way that’s more like how they would interact with someone in-person. Vero lets users share six categories of content — images/videos, links, music, Movie/TV, books and places. People can categorize each member of their networks as close friends, friends, acquaintances or followers and decide who sees what content. Finally, the community is subject to human moderation and users can report anything inappropriate or that breaks the site’s rules.
According to Vero’s manifesto, “We created a social network that lets you be yourself. Hence the name Vero,” which is the Esperanto word for “truth.”
Even new, popular networks won’t be the ‘Next Facebook’
And that’s probably a good thing.
How we socialize on the Internet is changing. While people are still seeking out big networks, it’s not the “Next Facebook” that people want.
They are looking for new, fresh places to socialize that feel more personal to them.
One of the things that I believe is important to take note – pay attention to the generation that was born after you. I think about this a lot. GenZ isn’t going to be interested in what the Millennials were.
Teens are flocking to TikTok because it’s a whole different vibe. It doesn’t feel boring, and it encourages positivity. It’s playful.
So, I would not call TikTok the “next Facebook” because it’s really in a space of its own.
TikTok is also a great example of how the monetization game is going to change for bigger networks. TikTok offers in-app purchases of coins, starting at 100 for $0.99 and leveling up to 10,000 for $99.99. Users can give coins to their favorite creators, who can exchange them for digital gifts. Monetization will be more directly geared towards influencers and personalities. How social networks make their money is going to change completely. Even if Facebook weathers this shift and still has a relevant place in social networking, I imagine its monetization strategy is going to have to change at some point.
I see the big brands being the last to leave the likes of Facebook. Big brands have become an institution on Facebook and are too invested in it for now.
So, I see the niche brands migrating to other networks to stand out from the giants and to connect with their audience more intimately.
More people are becoming conscious of how they spend their time online. Where people invest their time is going to matter more and more.
I believe there will be positive places that are not run by algorithms but are curated by real people. People are going to seek for a much more social experience where they don’t feel like their time is secretly managed.
People are clamoring for more social experiences
In real life, but also online.
People want to feel a sense of community.
The big social networks have steered away from their community-driven routes in the pursuit of profit.
I see that people want this change, and I’m optimistic about where social networks will be going. There will be less noise, and the emphasis will be less on media and more on building networks.
Yes, there will be some social networks that will be about media and influence.
But since social networking is becoming less monopolistic, people will have more choice on where to go as they socialize online. There will be more interest-based networks that focus on being complementary to people’s lives instead of time sucks.
Social networking can be a tool for living your life rather than being your life.
The next frontier of social networks is a topic that I’m going to be closely following, so I’m looking forward to writing an update in the coming months!