The Future of Social Media – By Tony Burke
A lot has been said about Facebook’s acquisition of the popular phone app, WhatsApp. At a price tag of $19 billion, it’s definitely a historic purchase, and a few harbingers of doom suggest that it’s a sign that we may be going back to the dot com era bubble.
But keep in mind that this particular merger is not AOL-Time Warner or some other similar name in the industry that characterised the early 2000s; and in fact, paying attention to cash spent on any of Facebook acquisitions means missing a major point: where Facebook goes, everyone else follows.
Consider, it’s Facebook’s initial spread that basically made social media what it is today, and since then the company has been expanding the role of social media in the society, and in the process determining what qualifies as the norm in terms of behaviour and service. Even with new competitors going head-to-head with Mark Zukerberg, and a chunk of its younger users fleeing to smaller, more streamlined social platforms, Facebook’s long shadow is still visible in the social sphere. While the company might or might not be the embodiment of modern development, it appears Mr Zuckerberg recognises companies that are, and knows which ones should be integrated into his platform.
Now, considering all that, what can this acquisition -and in deed all their acquisitions- tell us about where social media is heading? We know at the moment that mobile interaction is defining social trends, and this won’t stop: so what Facebook is doing, and other social giants as well, is try to figure out what else we’re supposed to do with all that functionality.
Aside from mobile purchases, Facebook understands that social communication requires constant growth and evolution. The company may be gearing towards streamlining services and privacy between the sender and receiver, much like WhatsApp has managed to do with a simple and straightforward setup. Even as Facebook creates more capabilities, they still have to offer users a simple individual app experience that works within the larger Facebook umbrella.
Other social media companies may choose to capitalise on that particular trend by working on simplicity, mobile access and brevity. As marketers already understand, these days the reader accesses social posts on a much smaller device, and they have to adjust, so they make shorter posts. This push towards handheld social communication could also send consumers into a more dynamic and interactive mindset, something marketers could use to their advantage by coming up with more gamified experiences. Whatever direction the social giants concentrate on, the services will have to be even more streamlined, and privacy will always be an issue.