November 4, 2014
There has been a trend of late among the leading social media platforms that I find to be concerning: Copycatting.
Twitter, perhaps the worst offender, has recently redesigned its user profile pages in a way that is unmistakably Facebook-esque. There are also rumors it may do away with the @-mention, and that a new timeline-like feature is on its way. LinkedIn, too, has implemented a newsfeed, as well as a “people you may know” offering similar to Facebook’s. And Pinterest has just launched a private chat functionality that is reminiscent of both Twitter and Facebook’s messaging features.
As more and more features become common across platforms, the question begs, why do we need all of them? The same functionalities are being shared across platforms to make them more intuitive; virtually everyone in the developed world has (or has had) Facebook, so the more Facebook-like a platform is, the easier it will be for a new adopter to figure it out — or at least that’s the logic presented in the business plan.
Yet these platforms do not realize that by all offering the same functionalities, they sacrifice their own relevance. No one needs three additional Facebook look-alikes, because they already have a Facebook. Sure, they will be able to figure out these look-alikes without any effort, but will they actually use them for much longer than the initial burst of activity upon creating a profile? My guess is no.
In the long run, this strategy will likely earn more users for social media platforms, but these users will be less active and less engaged as time goes on because they will focus their energy on one single platform. There is no need to use all platforms because, more and more, they essentially do the same thing.
So my plea to the social media powers-that-be is this: don’t sacrifice originality for market share. These platforms were conceived in moments of ingenuity, but now in an effort to grow their user base, they are losing that spark that made them so appealing to begin with.
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