We’ve reached peak social media sameification, and it may get worse
Everything is content. And everywhere is TikTok, so argues Sedge Beswick, founder of Seen Connects.
Once upon a time, social media managers had a smorgasbord of social platforms to preside over. All totally different – so we needed bespoke content for each one. Repurposing generic assets was the enemy.
Instagram was the place to share your curated, enviable images. Twitter, now X, was for real-time, bite-size insights. As it unfolded, Twitter’s hot take on the news was what you wanted to read. From our side, Facebook was where you offloaded your ad spend. Not innovative, but reliable. The margarita pizza of platforms. For video, YouTube was for long-form content. And then came TikTok, where we’d put all our short-form, low-fi, unpolished and – though it pains me to say it – more ViRaL video content.
But that was then. Oh, how things have changed. They’re now all pushing short-form vertical video. This isn’t just about the TikTokification of social media, although that is one of the biggest shifts.
This runs way deeper than copycat features like Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. It’s about the overall sameification of these platforms.
From a consumer perspective, you could see the same content regardless of which platform you were scrolling through. If a new feature works for one, you better believe it will be integrated into a competitor’s app next quarter. Threads anyone?
Meta hasn’t just created Reels. It tested out broadcast messages on WhatsApp –but barely anyone played with it. But when the clever people at Instagram noticed that Creators like Lil Ahenkan, aka @flex.mami, were using ‘Close Friends’ on Stories like they were a Patreon or Substack – for (usually) paid subscribers only – it took notice and integrated Subscribers and Broadcast Channels into its platform instead. This is a way to build and strengthen communities and a real middle finger to TikTok, for whom it would be much harder to integrate. Rumor has it this isn’t the last bit of test and learn we’ll notice on my (and two billion other monthly active users) beloved WhatsApp. We might see the rollout of ads soon, surprising perhaps that we’ve enjoyed it free – and ad-free – for this long.
Of course, some social-adjacent apps haven’t shifted their focus to ride the short-form video wave of success, even if some of the most niche apps, like Spotify, have. LinkedIn has held pretty firm in its uncomplicated format – because it’s about finding work, sharing work and generally a space to discuss all things work. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got Pinterest – steadfast in its MO to be a positive space (read: troll-free zone) to come to for inspiration. It’s digital vision boarding for you – not your followers. Yes, they have integrated video and have made Creators an important focus for both – but the purpose of each platform still feels distinctive from the rest.
Everyone, including me, wants social channels to pivot and evolve.
That makes them feel relevant, intuitive and like an excellent place to spend an hour or six scrolling. “The general public digests content in different ways and continues to change regularly, but this can’t be seen as a negative,” explains Chris Bolter, head of influencer and brand partnerships at Abbot Lyon.
“Ultimately, it does allow brands to think outside of the box and connect with their audiences more engagingly, from a creative point of view, to educate audiences, generate experiences, and create emotions. Due to its range of creative channels, you can achieve longevity, not just short-term wins.”
So what next?
According to DataReportal, spending across social media platforms is now up 24% YoY. Undoubtedly, brands are spreading any perceived risk by betting on multiple platforms to amplify their campaigns and messaging. But what if those brands – knowing that most platforms essentially offer the same thing – decided they didn’t need to be present everywhere to engage their audiences? Couldn’t they hone down and focus on one?
“I truly believe 2023 has been the year of niche platforms,” says Jack Francis, social and content manager at eBay. “In a society where attention spans are diminishing and there’s a new social trend every week, users crave more dedicated spaces to converse about the subcultures that matter to them, instead of memes for the masses. Take Reddit or Discord for an example; subreddits allow passionate users to dive deep into whichever ‘lore’ takes their fancy and have meaningful discussions with that community. At the same time, Discord groups allow sub-cultures, such as Sneakerheads, to keep each other informed on the latest drops and raffles to participate in and support one another in a much more authentic way. I believe the Fyp’s and ‘suggested Reels’ of the world greatly ignite interest in those niche communities. Still, with how it is set up, it will also struggle to harness much deeper connections that many Gen-Z craves from the interests they truly care about.”
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It is all-important to keep treating audiences on each social channel differently. This way, they’ll be able to use the best features to play ball with the algorithms – allowing them to keep growing, engaging audiences, and driving brand uplift and revenue. We’re living in a video-focused social ecosystem right now. Keep your strategies bespoke for each channel. Invest in video. Analyze your audience overlap–your most engaged audiences for platform focus. Then, hope and pray for new, game-changing, unique features across social platforms so we can start to have some fun again.
Check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, The Media Convergence, for more on how the borders between channels are blurring as they steal each other’s features, adopt universal standards and simplify for consumer ease.