TikTok, Clubhouse, Snapchat, Discord…and several others are leading the charge as a new wave of social media platforms.
The fundamental idea underneath the entire social media industry is maximizing engagement. The need for personalized communication and socialization is never going to run out. With technology changing the face of the digital world, it opens up new opportunities for a range of new platforms in the way they facilitate socialization.
With everyone cooped up during the pandemic, we saw a new wave of social media platforms gaining fame. Most of these were helped along by various factors – from the scrutiny faced by the popular social media giants and the rising concerns for privacy to the users craving novel ways of connecting and interacting with their social circles. The new platforms have managed to cash in on these niche demands by successfully harnessing new technologies and advances innovatively, and offering experiences that are different from the reigning giants.
Creating its own unique niche
Engagement is continuously evolving as the technology supplicating it does. While some platforms like Twitter have stayed true to their original concept, some like Facebook have notoriously adopted socializing trends such as incorporating live videos and the 24-hour stories first made popular by Snapchat.
However, what the nascent platforms have going for them is novelty. Discord, the text and audio based platform, and Houseparty, a video chatting app where people can join live chats where they know at least one person, both became popular during the global lockdown. Apps like the video-based TikTok and audio-only Clubhouse were also propelled to popularity during the pandemic.
Every platform has its own unique niche where they perform the best. However, the nature of the internet is dynamic and what’s popular today can easily run its course tomorrow. The only way for these platforms to prevail is to continue capturing attention and continue delivering the experiences that make them stand out.
Social media primarily deals in interactions. There are two sides to it: people either go where their social circles and their favourite influencers majorly are or as reports suggest, they go to the cool and trendy platforms where their families aren’t.
As mentioned before, digital privacy has become a pressing concern in the current times. Demographically speaking, the younger generation is prone to avoiding the platforms that their parents are active on, preferring nascent platforms that aren’t bereft with political feeds, targeted advertisements, or unnecessary visuals that they didn’t consentually sign up for.
To ban or not to ban
In a digitally backed world, social media platforms are the most convenient places for people to magnify their voices and make their opinions heard. As the facilitators, it becomes the understood responsibility of the platforms to moderate offensive and inappropriate content. However, over the years the division between what is appropriate has blurred – from questions raised about curbing free speech, promoting or influencing political propaganda, and the widely spread misinformation.
The policies laid down by the Indian Government require social media companies to unpublish content that is deemed harmful or inappropriate for the sovereignty of the country if presented with a court order or a notice from a relevant government agency. Additionally, the rules require the ‘significant social media intermediaries’ – the threshold of which is yet to be defined – to recognise the ‘first originator’ of any circulating offensive content. The rules also require there to be nationally-located personnel appointed as a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person and a resident grievance officer.
There have been questions raised for what it means for free speech and privacy that is speculated to be breached in order to identify the first originator for ‘mischievous content’. However, with misinformation having the power to potentially cost lives, it is equally true that there is a need for cyber policies that govern user behaviour on social media in an ethical and, where our country is concerned, in a democratic manner.
Road to an exciting future
Social Media has been already seeing many exciting advances and integrations. The most recent one being the integration of eCommerce within social apps and the usage of AR for try-on experiences.
Another exciting notion is blockchain-based social media which can allow privacy of information, permanent saving of their content, ensure freedom of speech and the facility to allow users to monetize their personal information with their consent.
Research also predicts the rise of vertical-specific social platforms for sports, finance, education, healthcare, etc. turning the world into a massively connected single community.
(The author is Founder & CEO, NeoSOFT Technologies and the views expressed in this article are his own)