In 2004, just a decade ago, there were two really prominent social media sites- MySpace & Friendster. Then, this happened and Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, which exploded, redefining “social media” as we knew it. As soon as the popularity of Facebook got around, entrepreneurs and imitators were quick to try to get a piece of the pie. In 2007, just a few years later, Mashable was able to put together a well-organized list of over 350 social networking sites. Fast-forward to 2014 and a list like this would be virtually impossible to keep up with as new social networking sites & apps come and go every day.
Today, there are about 90 social networking sites with over 1 million users and 18 social networking sites with over 100 million users. Social media has become so integrated into our everyday lives (and the technology we use to go about them) that it is rare to find an app or site that lack any social aspects to them. Sign up for this app using Facebook, Share this article on Twitter, Pin this picture on Pinterest, connect with this this random guy on LinkedIn per his suggestion in the signature line of the unsolicited email he sent you and the list goes on… Consumers who receive their credit scores through Transunion.com now even have the option to share their credit scores on their Facebook pages.
While Facebook (currently over 1.26 billion users) and Twitter (currently over 250 million users) claim a vast percentage of the social media population, there are many other havens for people to turn to. There are the “secondary” social networking sites such as Pinterest & LinkedIn that are certainly not to be discounted. There are also rising social networks that represent a new kind of social media such as Snapchat and Whisper who have staked their claims in disappearing and anonymous user-generated content, respectively. If none of these sites do it for you, then there are plenty of other niche social media havens for users to flock to such as Ravelry, a “tight-knit” community of knitters, or Stache Passions, a social networking site for people who have a passion for mustaches. Whatever you’re buying, they’re selling.
The Long Tail Theory by Chris Anderson, a theory that is proven time and again in this digital age, suggests that countless new (niche) social media networks will continue to surface as the world continues to grow more and more connected through the internet. Social media sites for every kind of person will continue to be developed to fit their interests (“they have a social media network for that”).
The question is not whether or not social media will be around in the future, but rather, what form will it take (see “Social Media is Broken? No, Social Media is Still Young). Facebook’s recent moves to acquire WhatsApp & Oculus show that they are looking ahead to what they can and will be to their current and future users. Mark Zuckerberg had this to say to investors after the announcement of the acquisition of Oculus,- a company leading the way in virtual reality gaming,- “This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home”.
Some of the more immediate variables that will determine the future shape of social media are: How far, and how quickly, will wi-fi reach around the globe? In what ways will wearables and other emerging technologies affect social media? –What types of new social media networks will spur from these developments? Which tech or social media giants will buy out up-and-coming social media players?
And yes, I purposely left out tougher restrictions placed on social media networks due to privacy issues. That’s a topic of it’s own.
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