The past year has been a wild one for those watching and living social media. In the span of 12 months, we saw a major IPO (Twitter), billion dollar sale (Tumblr), rise of a new disappearing messaging phenomenon (Snapchat), and the further integration of social marketing into the rhythms of everyday life (see: Oreo Super Bowl tweet).
Social media is still incredibly young — Facebook, remember, is less than a decade old — and will likely see more significant change 2014. So, looking ahead to the next 12 months, here are four big questions we have, and some predictions to go along with them:
Will A Major Player Get MySpace’d?
Take a look around the social media landscape. What do Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Pinterest have in common? Answer: they all rely on massive amounts of photo sharing to stay afloat. But people don’t want to share the same photo over and over on each social network. So, it is inevitable that some of these incumbent platforms will start to lose their appeal. A MySpace moment – defined as drifting into irrelevance despite one’s best efforts — likely awaits one or more of the names above, but will social (media) darwinism unleash itself in 2014?
Prediction: Yes, expect an incumbent platform or two to get MySpace’d in 2014. The smart money is on Tumblr, which recently hid its traffic numbers on Quantcast, a worrying sign.
Will Facebook Tank?
When asked by The Atlantic editor James Bennet in September if his company was still cool, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered a fascinating answer: “People assume that we’re trying to be cool. It’s never been my goal.” he said. “Maybe electricity was cool when it first came out but pretty quickly people stopped talking about it because it’s not the new thing, the real question you want to track at that point is are fewer people turning on their lights because it’s less cool?”
Through the comparison, Zuckerberg essentially argued Facebook would be around forever. Just like electricity, he implied, Facebook had become a utility that people were not about to do without. But then something funny happened. The next month, on a call with investors, Facebook CFO David Ebersman admitted that teens were losing interest in the site. “We did see a decrease in daily users, especially younger teens,” he said. And with that, Zuckerberg’s electricity theory went out the window. Facebook isn’t cool, and it’s not electricity either. So can it hold its dominant position?
Prediction: Sort of. Facebook’s user base won’t plummet, but the average time spent on it will. You might not hear much about that metric, but it matters a lot, especially when it comes to advertising.
Will there be a breakout social media company in 2013?
Whenever you feel the urge to state that social media has matured, hold the thought and remember this post. Despite declining investments in consumer tech, powerhouse social companies continue to burst onto the scene every year. In 2013, for instance, that company was Snapchat. So the real question here is not “will” but “who” and our prediction might surprise you.
Prediction: Yes. And you’ve likely heard of this one. Launched in January 2013, Vine has quietly flown under the radar over the past year but it’s poised to explode. After being baffled by its six second time limit for the first few months of existence, Vine users are starting to get the hang of the app and producing some amazing — and often very funny — work. Get ready to see Vine take its place among the big dogs in 2014.
Will micro social networks rise?
surprisingly, so far private instagram feels remarkably like old instagram, in a good way http://t.co/nIa1jI7gvY
— matt (@mattbuchanan) December 13, 2013
In early December, Instagram added a direct message feature allowing users to send photos privately to friends and converse with them in the comments underneath. Instagram made the move to compete with Snapchat but, as the New Yorker’s Matt Buchanan pointed out, the product ended up feeling not like the disappearing message app, but closer to the old Instagram: a quiet social photo experience shared between close friends.
Instagram and other mainstream social networks have turned too bulky for many of their users. One thousand Facebook friends may be an ego boost, but it also means a News Feed filled with updates from people you hardly know. As mainstream social networks grow more impersonal, the door will be open for smaller, niche networks to siphon off those users longing for recapture the magic once found on the now-mainstream social networks. But will they take advantage?
Prediction: No. Expect to hear a lot more about smaller, niche networks in 2014 but their rise is still a ways off.