Are all social media platforms becoming the same?
There are so many social media sites to interact with that our phones are full of apps. Apps that you can’t delete because each of them serves a specific purpose and you just can’t get rid of them.
Back then, when a new social media platform was introduced, there was yet to be one like it in the market. It stood out from the rest, filled a gap in demand and offered unique features. But does that sentiment still apply?
Today, the lines that separate previously distinctive social media sites are blurring. This begs the question: have all social media sites started to become the same? Let’s explore.
TikTok is for short content, YouTube for long, Instagram for posting images, Twitter for written posts, and Snapchat for stuff that won’t stick around after 24 hours.
At least that was how it used to be.
Today, the boundaries between platforms are already blurred to the point that a single social media site contains features that combine two or more of the others.
The platforms overlap and do their best to entice users to stay on them rather than switch. That’s what the companies behind the sites want, but what do the users want?
Have users been asking for a comprehensive app that offers everything under the sun? Or is it something they have to put up with while enjoying their favorite platforms?
A unique feature? Not for a long time
Most things change, grow and evolve over time. Social networks too. Platformers that started out as a thing are currently a balancing act for many.
When a new social media platform pops up, ones that are already there, pay attention. All new and exciting features are reviewed and copied. Take Instagram, for example.
When Instagram arrived on the scene, it occupied a single corner of the market. It was the best place to share pictures.
Over time, it started offering features attributed to other social media sites that followed it. First, Instagram included Stories, which was the company’s response to Snapchat’s popularity. Then it incorporated Reels to compete with TikTok.
But do people go to Instagram for these things, or are they just after pictures?
Have users requested the integration of features typically associated with other social media sites? Barely. After all, half or more Instagram reels have the TikTok logo because they are reposted from the other platform.
The question is, are you going to delete TikTok and Snapchat instead of keeping Instagram since it has the same features as the other two apps?
Chances are you won’t.
Let’s look at some of the consequences users face when platforms overlap by copying functionality from each other.
All social media apps look the same
At some point, all platforms start feeling the same.
Integrating features by taking them from other platforms inevitably leads to those platforms copying each other, feeling repetitive.
Whereas before each app had a clear and distinct purpose, today they all seem to be heading in the same direction, offering the same things.
If a new social media app comes on the scene and becomes popular with users, other established platforms start copying its distinctive features. If one of the established sites decides to try something new and it works, the same thing happens.
When does originality cease to matter since it won’t be for long?
Is there a single user who wants to have five separate apps that do the same thing on their phone?
Social media apps are forcing change, but is it a wanted app?
It’s a gamble when an app decides to integrate features of another app to gain more users. Will it work? Or will it backfire and eventually lead to less engagement? This question is especially cautious when dealing with a change that no one asked for in the first place.
Let’s look at TikTok.
TikTok offers abbreviated content. This is where it thrives, with brief sketch-like videos, sped-up edits, dances, stunts, and more. The emphasis being on short.
No one goes to TikTok to consume long-form content. That’s what YouTube is for, after all.
TikTok allowed its users to post clips that were up to 15 seconds long in its early days. The time then increased to one minute, then to three, and it has now increased to 10 full minutes.
Has anyone requested ten minute videos on TikTok? Whether it’s a yes or a no, users will now have to navigate the app and its new feature.
It’s a well-known gag that you can spend seven hours browsing the app while watching ten-second clips and not realize how long it’s been.
However, if you still want to spend your time on TikTok watching short-form content today, you’ll have to endure the long videos sprinkled across your page.
If you come across a TikTok that catches your eye and you think it lasts one minute, but ends up lasting nine minutes, will you keep watching? Will you endure or quit the app after feeling cheated watching such a long video?
If the changes are for users, how exactly does this implementation benefit TikTok users? Users who are used to (and prefer) short clips rather than long ones?
Our Favorite Social Media Apps Change Hearts
Building on the previous point, a new question arises: are the newly implemented features changing the nature of your favorite apps?
While TikTok is implementing long-form content on its platform, YouTube and Instagram, after seeing the massive success of short-form videos, are scrambling to implement such features to steal some of TikTok’s audience.
If you go to TikTok to consume short clips and to YouTube for long ones, and they implement the opposite of what they’re known for, do they change so much that they completely change their primary purpose?
All you need is one app that does it all, or do you?
Social media apps started out as intuitive, easy to navigate platforms that offered a few useful things that made you stick with them and use them. Every app today should be a jack-of-all-trades. At least that’s what the companies behind them think.
Apps seem to think they should offer everything, every feature found elsewhere. And why? Well, because users want a single app that merges all the others, of course!
An app that lets you post long-form YouTube-like and TikTok-like content, written posts like Twitter and Facebook, pictures like on Instagram, and disappearing Snapchat-like content.
But is it really true? Anyone want an all-in-one social media app?
Also, if such a beast existed, would you remove all other social media apps and leave one app to rule them all? Or would you have seven social media apps that essentially do the same thing?
It’s safe to say that we’ve reached a point where there are simply too many features available under one social media app. All apps bounce off each other and copy their most important features, but to what end?
It’s not because users ask for it, and if anything, unsolicited changes are more likely to alienate users than attract them.
Different trip, same destination?
When apps copy their functionality, they become the same thing under a different name. But for whose benefit?
Twitter has introduced a feature called Twitter Spaces which enables live audio conversations. The Spaces feature is believed to be a response to apps such as Clubhouse and Spotify Greenroom.
But Twitter users didn’t ask for that. Instead, they’ve spent years asking for an edit button for tweets and haven’t gotten one yet.
When social media apps introduce “new” features that are, in effect, a copy of another platform’s successful features, they don’t do so to benefit the users they already have.
It is simply an attempt to attract new ones. There’s little care for the app’s established core audience, and that’s a tragedy in itself.
Twitter Spaces is a recent emergence on the social media scene. But does he still have the upper hand over Clubhouse?
About the Author