Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Cross-Platform Consistency: a Threat to Social Media Innovation?

In a report published today, Econsultancy argued that Instragram seemed to be taking Snapchat visitors.  While the assertion that Instagram Stories is taking share from Snapchat has some basis – 150 million daily user increase on Instagram and approximately the same number of daily user decrease on Snapchat – I don’t believe the two are directly correlated.  The increasing popularity of Instagram Stories happened around the same time as Snapchat changed its user interface.

Econsultancy also cited a report that 74% of companies plan to use Instagram this year.  They increasingly favor it over Instagram, which makes sense as brands seek to create enduring content vs. transitory experiences.  The decline in popularity of Snapchat is likely due more to the way they have innovated on their platform to match the FB user experience.

Which brings to mind a good question about marketing in the digital age: does the established behavior pattern of users on one platform mean other platforms are better served to match it?  How much can platforms innovate without risking user attrition?  Digital marketing requires such an investment in content development specific for a platform that companies don’t like their audiences shrinking or moving off a platform after they’ve invested in it.

Yet, platforms have to innovate to remain fresh and relative to their target customers.  eMarketer projected last year that digital ad spend would be higher in 2017 than TV broadcast ad spend.  As more and more marketers move their ad spend to digital, I can see a growing pressure to inform advertisers before significant user experience upgrades are made.

In my mind this threatens the natural fluidity and excitement of social media.  The fact that FB hasn’t changed in several years is actually a detriment for its clout as a tech platform, even as it increases its loyalty for users who seek a consistent experience.  Continuing to innovate and add user value is critical to the social media experience and the platforms that facilitate it.  I hope the decline in users on sites that update their experience, like Snapchat, are seen for what they are -- temporary disruptions.  I wouldn’t want the need for advertiser delivery to pressure platforms to remain so consistent they become stale.

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