The social media graveyard: a ghostly evaluation by resident digital PR expert
Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
Our digital PR expert reflects on the social media platforms that have sadly perished and wonders who is up next for the chop
SOCIAL PLATFORMS rise and fall. Some stick. Some become goliaths of the digital-sphere and demand behemoth numbers to their site. Others… make costly decisions or bad judgement calls. One thing is certain though, the internet never forgets.
Compared to what they once were in their prime, a lot of our favourite ex-platforms actually still exist in some form of capacity, lurking, not quite dead on the back-burner of our IP addresses. They haunt the internet forever, serving one purpose: to act as a stark reminder to those currently on top at this time, in this business, that nothing lasts forever.
Let’s gather around the séance table, light a candle, and contact these #neverforgotten social media platforms.
Once heralded as the biggest social network site between 2004 – 2010, MySpace was the go-to place of social media. In its heyday it even recorded more web visitors than Google in the United States in 2006.
Many suggested the platforms major success stemmed from the massive influence it held over music and pop culture, as well as gaming.
Things were going great at MySpace – they recorded huge traffic numbers and fed great content to their users to keep them engaged.
Well, what went wrong then? Answer, Facebook.
Facebook was first born into our lives in 2006. Two short years later the new platform was then made available to everyone with an email address aged 13 and over. Teens fled MySpace and rushed to sign up to the latest craze, leaving MySpace dead in their tracks.
To be fair, however, it wasn’t just Facebook that can be held responsible for MySpace’s undoubted demise; smaller competitors, such as Twitter, were beginning to beat MySpace when it came to adding new features regularly.
Others blamed the $900 million three-year advertising deal with Google – although it brought revenue in for the company, users felt handicapped as the experience began to frustrate them as their screens were saturated with adverts.
16 years later and MySpace is still there. It’s been bought and sold-off several times, undergone countless rebrands, but it simply refuses to perish. Nowadays, and a slight branding rejig later, myspace.com is unrecognisable from the social networking site that it once was. If you visit the site it does look and feel like a media publisher, rather than a social network – this might not be regarded as a huge surprise as the parent company is Time Inc, an American worldwide mass media corporation.
What is surprising is the traffic it still brings in – the site confirmed that it was bringing in nearly 50 million visitors a month as recently as 2016.
But why did MySpace effectively pass away?
- Refusal to innovate with competitors
- Sold their soul to advertisers and ruined the user experience
- A new platform appealed to their demographic and they immediately jumped ship
Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to revamping your content. Avoiding dated, bland content can be a real task, especially when what you are trying to say isn’t considered ‘sexy.’ However, there is a lot of inspiration to be drawn from cultural phenomenons that have reinvented themselves. One of these is the good old-fashioned comic book…
Originally launched in 2005, BEBO will still serve millennials (and this digital PR consultant) with fond memories of what was effectively their first social network experience.
Although MySpace was huge at this point (mainly in the U.S.), BEBO overtook MySpace in the UK in terms of popularity, registering over 10.7 million users.
Users will remember adding all their friends and composing interesting, if not cringy, sonnets in their bios. Something even the devil himself wouldn’t appreciate.
Another great feature was the interaction you could have with friends by posting on their walls or choose your loves of the day. Ahh, memories.
However, in 2008 it all went south. Whilst popularity for Facebook and Twitter was beginning to increase, BEBO was then acquired by a somewhat financially struggling AOL for $850 million with many deeming it as ‘’one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era’’ – try saying that without thinking about Mr Trump.
Skip forward two years and AOL announced that they would either be selling or shutting down BEBO. AOL were in an even worse financial state than they were in 2008 and simply couldn’t afford to reinvigorate the social media site.
Tiptoe one year forward and, in 2011, BEBO filed for bankruptcy and its original owners repurchased the site for $1 million. Not bad considering they pocketed $850 million for the site three years earlier – this was a deal even Delboy Trotter would be impressed with.
The owners planned to reinvent it and they did just that! From social platform to messenger app BEBO blab, to streaming platform, to where we are today – a multi-feature Twitch-like streaming site with around 45,000 visitors.
Why is original BEBO in the afterlife?
- Increasing competitor pressure
- Corporation investment gone horribly wrong
Love Island is a modern-day Tinder-in-real-life approach to dating. Hosted by British television and radio presenter Caroline Flack, singletons make their way to a luxury paradise in the hope of finding love (and a tan). The aim of the game is to stay coupled up, but what can your business learn from the hit TV show?
Vine was founded in 2012 and was almost immediately acquired by Twitter just before its official launch in 2013. Vine proved popular because it filled a gap in the market by appealing to the demand for short, snappy, funny videos.
By December 2015, Vine had around 200 million active users, but in October 2016 Twitter disabled uploads and the mobile app was discontinued. Old vines are still available to watch online on Vine’s desktop version, but it just acts as a library as nobody is able to add any more content to it.
This situation might be viewed as bizarre because Vine was originally popular when it was first launched, and the partnership with Twitter’s short form content option made sense, right?
Put simply, the founder quit to pursue a new start-up and Twitter failed to comprehend the significance of a rise of video demand leading it to severely underestimate the power of its acquisition. In 2016 Twitter itself was clinging on to life, so to speak, as the company wasn’t turning a profit and failing to innovate – so liaising with the video partner might not have been high on the agenda. Shortly afterwards, Instagram launched 15-second videos, signalling early fatality wounds for Vine, but it was essentially Snapchat’s 10-second, equally comedic video format which was the final nail in the coffin.
Why did Vine hit the dust?
- It wasn’t a top priority to update
- People stopped caring
- A competitor pushed it over the edge
Unlike Facebook, Twitch is wholly dedicated to allowing viewers to watch and stream video broadcasts. Users of the site can even earn money through the Twitch partner programme that provides streamers with perks such as paid subscriptions and ad placements. Have you heard of the largest online video platform?
Vero has been around for nearly three years now, but it’s underlying popularity came in March 2018. For those first three years Vero had fewer than 150,000 downloads but in the space of a week that number increased to nearly 3 million.
Let’s explain why…
Vero is a social media app that prides itself on trying to take on primarily Instagram and Facebook, as it’s main USP is its ad-free and chronologically organised feeds – different to Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm-driven feeds.
Users were becoming frustrated with Instagram’s algorithms, so much so that they finally decided to jump ship and, effectively, see what Vero had to offer.
At the start of March nobody had even heard of Vero – it didn’t even rank in the App Store’s top 1,500 apps – fast forward one week and it became the most popular app in the entire store.
It became so popular that, frustratingly so, Vero’s servers couldn’t deal with traffic and they became overloaded, rendering many users unable to post or even sign up for an account.
Created by billionaire businessman Ayman Hariri, son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Vero prides itself as a ‘’social network that lets you be yourself.’’
The app lets you share text and URLs, as well as recommendations for books, TV shows and movies. But perhaps the biggest differentiator from the current social media networks, besides the chronological feed, is the emphasise it provides on its privacy policies. Vero states that it only collects a minimal amount of data about its users and doesn’t provide any data to third parties.
This means, of course, that the app doesn’t make any money – at least, it didn’t. Vero states that it will eventually rely on subscriptions for sign-ups, but the reason it climbed so far in the App Store is down to offering the first 1 million subscribers a free sign-up. That is also including this digital PR consultant as one of those.
The experience? Peculiar, an emphasis on music, branding and not very engaging. Hard to navigate and well, most importantly, nobody else was really there…
The phase seems to have now passed and a permanent decline is ensuing. Vero announced that they would halt the paid subscriptions fees until further notice but Vero’s passing has well and truly begun. This is a phase that lasted around a week. Spooky how these things come and go so fast.
Why did Vero fall nine feet under?
- Servers couldn’t cope with demand when they really needed to
- Not enough content on servers to truly capture and retain consumers interest
- Scrutiny over the owner
- It was a little…boring
Can we all please put our hands together and have a moment of silence for our fallen social media platforms. You may be gone, but never forgotten.
It’s a tough cauldron to conquer but in order for social media platforms to survive it has to be a perfect mix of consistently innovating, listening to your user base, having an actual business model in place (so you can make revenue) and being prepared to fight tooth and nail with your competitors for that all-important user screen time.
These passings should work as word of warning for everyone. Nothing lasts forever, and no one and nothing is truly safe in the treacherous social media landscape. Don’t fall for the social grim reapers scythe.
Who’s next for the chop? Only time will tell.
Is your business on social media, the real cornerstone of digital PR? In the year 2018 it’s criminal if your business isn’t even on one social media platform!
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