Frankenstein's (social media) monster: what does the perfect platform look like?
Social media might be ubiquitous, but it's also become homogenous. With platforms 'borrowing' features and cannibalising experiences everything is starting to look the same and Christina Miller, Head of Social Media at VMLY&R, says that users are being short-changed.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been a pillar of classical literature for over two centuries. The monster, cobbled together with discarded limbs, was the result of Dr Frankenstein’s obsession with using the old to create something new - learning how to “renew life.”
The results were far from perfect. Frankenstein’s Monster was, as his name suggests, fairly grotesque. It was an unsustainable model, benefiting neither his companions nor his creator - much like most social media platforms today.
Whilst the pioneers of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, were heralded for their originality, today’s landscape feels bloated.
Social media has transformed human interaction. It accounted for 38% of the world’s total daily online time in Q3 2022, up from 34.9% in 2020. But, whilst the pioneers of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, were heralded for their originality, today’s landscape feels bloated.
More apps are vying for our attention - and screen time - than ever before. Increased competition has caused innovation to give way to social media cannibalism. Platforms are stitching new features together and zapping them into life and, in doing so, they’ve forgotten what’s really important - premium user experience (UX).
Above: More apps are vying for our attention - and screen time - than ever before with increased competition meaning innovation has given way to social media cannibalism.
If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge… no one
A 2022 survey found that the majority of social media platforms saw their consumer satisfaction scores fall versus the previous year. Consumers are tired of features being reused and recycled with little consideration for their wants and needs. The leading social players have integrated their competitors’ unique selling points (USPs) into their own platforms in a bid to drive sign-ups. Snapchat pioneered ‘Stories’ - yet the feature has spread to the likes of Instagram, Facebook and even LinkedIn.
Consumers are tired of features being reused and recycled with little consideration for their wants and needs.
Tailored interactions are the order of the day. Two-thirds of consumers expect companies to understand their unique expectations. Social consumers want the world - but not all at once. The best social platforms are able to provide experiences based on what the user wants at that specific moment.
Instagram has already stumbled at this hurdle. The app’s algorithm changes in 2022 - which included full-screen video and greater emphasis on sponsored posts - was met with significant backlash. The ensuing ‘Make Instagram normal’ campaign prompted the changes to be reverted.
While in Asia, 'Super Apps' now combine every experience under one roof, so convenience is prioritised over experience. This is fine if consumers are going into a platform with a mindset of knowing everything is in one place but, as many platforms popular in western countries haven’t been set up like this (yet), the expectations in the West versus the East are inherently different.
Above: The social media app BeReal has become popular because it provides genuine experiences [Photo by Ottr Dan on Unsplash]
Beware; for I am original, and therefore powerful
Consumers crave genuine experiences. BeReal’s popularity stems from providing an authentic snapshot into friends’ daily lives - the things not considered ‘Story-worthy’. It's a mundane concept on the face of it but, the fact that day-to-day life wasn’t widely shared previously, makes it interesting.
Pinterest often flies under the social radar. But its ‘Shuffles’ app allows users to save posts in order to create a unique mood board. It’s almost like having a social browser - you can easily see your search history, and never have to worry about an accidental refresh and losing that inspirational post.
Social media shouldn’t feel like various dismembered features villainously fused together with lightning.
TikTok didn’t cover itself in glory with its BeReal knock-off. However, its ‘For You’ and ‘Following’ feeds caters to consumers’ desire for segmented, personalised experiences. Filtering the platform allows users to browse content according to their mindset - be it discovering new things or seeing the content of their friends.
Learn from me
Being original is better than being omnipotent. Dr Frankenstein wanted to play god but, ultimately, abandoned his creation due to its horrific experience. If Zuckerberg, Musk and their cohorts took a moment to really look at their social platforms, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they did the same.
If all you do is look at your competitors then, sooner rather than later, you’ll look like them. Social media shouldn’t feel like various dismembered features villainously fused together with lightning. Social media lives and dies with its user experience. This is the difference between “it’s alive” and “unsubscribe”.