What’s Ahead for Social Media?

Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Tik Tok, Instagram, and LinkedIn are thriving.  What’s next?

Change is on the way – regulators say Facebook has illegally crushed competition while major social media platforms continue to adopt the successful features of their rivals. How will this impact the social media landscape in 2021 – or even a decade from now?

First, Look Back

Ten years ago, the Obama presidential campaign successfully used social media to mobilize voters. This was an exciting first. 

In 2010 marketers knew they needed social media but were clueless about the application.  At GH we recognized social media as just another tool to connect, additional message conduits to add to our cache.

When Instagram launched 10 years ago, the platform was little more than shared photo albums with a basic follower system. Now, Instagram offers shopping, augmented reality lenses, and in-app money transferring. It is also now owned by Facebook – perhaps not for long.

Platforms – No Longer Distinguishable?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat all offered clear differentiators. Now it is challenging to distinguish features that set them apart.

It is important to note that despite the uniformity of social media platforms, there is no one-size fits-all message in social media marketing. As a researcher I see that content is not successfully transferable across the platforms.  The algorithms that determine what content users see remains very much individualized. These algorithms and different audiences are why we couldn’t simply take one of our successful CEO positioning initiatives on LinkedIn and just shift it over to Facebook: a different audience would prioritize different content depending on different variables.

Is Social Media a Free-For-All?

Fact-checking and government regulation remain uncertain. With endless misinformation spreading about COVID-19 and the 2020 election, Twitter and Facebook finally acted and rolled out fact-checking and misinformation labeling programs to combat trending falsehoods. A Cornell University study found the initiatives have done little more than further polarize audiences.

Initiatives such as limiting microtargeting, more transparency, and ‘circuit breakers’ have been proposed to limit the spread of misinformation and data harvesting on social media platforms, but it’s unclear how pragmatic these initiatives are.

The Future, Is There One?

Social media is becoming monotonous, but still essential. Audiences still consume authentic, believable content. Marketers continue to blatantly sell and persuade, and consumers continue to adore kittens and craft beer. At GH we understand what audiences need and adapt rapidly to their changing moods. We are moody too – it helps. 

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