Social media has become engrained in our lives. It’s hard to believe just 10 years ago only 9% of young Americans had used a social network. Now, almost 1.5 billion people go onFacebookevery month, while around 300 million log intoTwitter.
It’s clearFacebookandTwitterrule the social kingdom, but how much longer can these two dominate? We’re all becoming more aware of what data these sites can access and more cautious about what we share with the world. So what does the future hold for social networks?
The first big shift in social media is already underway, as people look to connect online with complete anonymity.Whispertook off through 2014 as a way for people to share honest opinions and secrets with friends or strangers. The fact that no one knows who a comment has come from makes it very easy for people to be honest, and that meansWhisperalready has millions of users every day.
If the big social networks can’t adapt to anonymity, they’ll at least have to create more privacy. Every couple of months, Facebook updates its privacy settings to an uproar of indignation from its billion users, and that makes it vulnerable to apps likeEllo.
Ellowas bathed in hype when it launched last year. It said it was ad-free, meaning it would never share your information with third parties. So withEllo, you still have control of your details. With the controversies around NSA and GCHQ spying over the last couple of years,Ellohas become massively popular. But as the new social network is still under development, its growth has stalled for now.
When social networks started getting big, we were all amazed by how many people we could connect with (remember finding old primary school chums on Friends Reunited?). But now people are less concerned with counting their friends list and more worried about sharing stuff with a select few.
We now care about who we’re sharing tweets and statuses with, whether that’s because we don’t want potential employers getting the wrong (or right) idea, or we just don’t want to spam our nearest and dearest.
That’s why social networks likeYourInterestandTagstrare getting more popular. They let you connect with people who have similar interests. So if you’re a Trekkie, you can share your latest thoughts on Kirk vs Picard with fellow Star Trek enthusiasts instead of annoying all your Facebook friends.
Videos and photos are key
The fastest growing social network right now isTumblr, which more than doubled its user base last year.SnapchatandInstagramare booming too. And with the recent overnight success ofMeerkatandPeriscope, it’s clear that the future of social media will rely heavily on photos and video.
It’s hard to see how a new social network could dethroneYouTubein the video sharing world, butMeerkatandPeriscopeoffer something new, the ability to live broadcast from your phone.YouTubeis probably going to stick around, but with this new technology, it won’t rule the video world alone.
We will still share written content
Written content will survive alongside the photos and videos we share on social networks, but it’s likely to be more about quality information rather than 140 character updates on what socks you’re wearing.
Edgee.comlets you pull together text, articles, images, GIFs, and videos into stories, letting you share the complete picture with the world. Then there’smyindependentbookshop.co.uk, which is a massive social network for booklovers where you can find honest reviews and ask people what you should read next.
These niche networks get a surprising amount of traction, showing there’s an appetite out there for sharing more in depth ideas.
One thing will never change
No matter what social networks evolve into, they’ll always be dominated by advertising. Anonymous social networks will just give marketers clever new ways to intrigue you. Private networks will show you ads that probably aren’t relevant to you (after all, where are they going to find your interests if your information’s private?). Small scale networks will be full of brands you’re bound to be interested in. Photo and video networks will carry on as normal. And networks that rely on in-depth written content will be full of insightful articles written by big brands, like this one.
Got any thoughts on what the future of social media holds? Let us know in the comments.